Everybody is bashing Costco because their prints are cheap. I use Costco, not by choice but by necessity. I have a custom lab, but anything as next day service is very expensive and same day service, we are not talking 1 hour service here, cost an arm and a leg ($39 for one 5” by 7”.) I could print my own but I can never get it right on the first or the second print. There’s always a tweak here and a tweak there, I want/need to change the print one more time…

I use Costco for most of my proofs, to show the customer before the final prints, even for myself to see if the concept will work. Costco promise next day, noon service. On weekdays, for Internet uploads, I get a 2 hours turn around time, and on weekends, depending on how busy they are, it can be up to 4 hours turn around time. Many custom labs prints make be better prints than Costco’s, but many labs do not. This is not about custom prints, it’s about getting very good machine prints without having to send them out half-way across the earth and pay for the humongous shipping charges.

Costco uses mostly Noritsu 3400 or 3700 series printers and some Fuji Frontier printers. Costco mostly uses Fuji Crystal paper which is rated for 60 years archival. Costco also uses Epson 7800 with 8-color Epson UltraChrome K3TM inks for their poster size prints.

The problem with Costco, is that you must know what you are doing or you will be sorely disappointed. The first step is to get the right printer profile. They are available at: http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/. The profile is specific to each store. Select your location and download the right one. Some stores have multiple printers with different profiles. You must match the right printer profile. The profiles are dated and usually updated every 6 month. So, do your homework.

The print size determines which printer your images will be printed on. Only 16 by 20 and larger prints use the Epson printers, except for the panoramic 12 by 36. Get the Epson Satin paper profiles for images printed on “lustre” paper for the Epson 7800. All the other print sizes should use either the Noritsu or Fuji Frontier printer profiles.

You will need to install the profiles (I’m not a Mac expert) in the correct location for your OS:

OS Location
Mac OS X /Library/ColorSync/Profiles (for all users)
Mac OS X User/Library/ColorSync/Profiles (for current user only)
Windows XP C:\Windows\System32\Spool\Drivers\Color
Windows 7 Right-click on the ICC profile and select “Install Profile”

Then when printing:

Print to JPEG and Select the right printer profile in Lightroom

Print to JPEG and select the right printer profile in Lightroom

Select the JPEG output, and your Costco printing profile, if it’s not, then press on the up/down arrow of the profile and enable your Costco profile to select it:

Enable the Costco printer profile in the operating for Lightroom

Enable the Costco printer profile in the operating for Lightroom

and

Select the Costco printer profile in Lightroom

Select the Costco printer profile in Lightroom

Then, after uploading the photos on Costco’s website, you will need to make sure that in “Auto-Correct Options”, you select the: “Do not adjust the colour and brightness of my images”. Then, off you go to the races.

But my print doesn’t match! Yes, it’s not supposed to match. What? What about calibration and the rest?

  1. It’s never possible to exactly match the screen to the print. Never, even for calibrated profiles of screen, printers… It’s possible to get close but never an exact match because the screen is “luminescent light” while the print is “reflected light.” However calibration helps you getting into the ball-park.
  2. Most screen as set as “too bright.” Depending on your lighting, the brightness should be set as middle or lower.