It's true: as of February 14, 2021, Costco has closed the photo departments in all local warehouses. Cue the tears.
That means there is no longer a photo counter in your local Costco - there is no way to make orders, print photos, or pick up products in-store. I'm seriously bummed about this!
Update: As of early 2023, Costco has permanently closed all photo services. Some of this article is now out of date.
That being said, Costco WILL still let you print photos on their website and have them shipped to you. I'm just sad about the same-day pickup disappearing - it was so convenient to upload at home and then grab them with my rotisserie chicken, TP, and bulk snacks. Basically, it means we will all have to plan ahead and pay shipping costs.
Why did Costco close their photo centers?
Costco hasn't explicitly stated why they made this decision. But it's pretty obvious that they run a strategic business and want to keep costs low.
My guess is the ROI for that space just wasn't high enough to warrant keeping more than 800 local centers open. By centralizing that service, they can both use the space in store more strategically and also use the printers they have more effectively.
Some of their other services are being discontinued as well, including:
- ink refills
- passport photos
- photo restoration
- video transfers, from home movie to digital
- the free ship-to-store option (perhaps the most underrated of them all)
Here are three options now that Costco Photo Centers are gone:
Option 1: Costco Will Still Print Your Photos and Ship Them.
Edited to add: You can no longer print online from Costco itself.
Costco has collaborated with Shutterfly for printing services. Go to this link to connect your Costco Membership number to your Shutterfly Account. Doing this gives you access to a 51% discount on all products.
It's frustrating that you'll have to pay for shipping now, especially for a product that you used to be able to pick up while you were on a snack run.
While you'll have to plan ahead now so you can ensure there's enough time for your prints to be produced and shipped to you, not much has changed beyond that.
Those products will all still be their usual low prices, and they will retain their great Costco quality. They will also still carry all of the products they did when the photo centers were open.
Costco has clarified that they will continue to offer holiday cards, calendars, and photo books through the Costco Photo Center website, along with other products.
Just remember that you'll have to plan ahead to factor in shipping time, and now you'll have to pay a shipping cost.
Also - if you edit your photos, you should turn off the auto-correct! It's likely undoing many of your exposure edits. Read this post for instructions how to turn it off one time or forever.
Shipping Estimates for Costco Prints and Products
Which brings us to... how much does it cost to ship photos to your home? I know we all LOVE free shipping, but with something as cheap as photos, it makes more sense for Costco to charge a small, flat amount for their printed products.
Here are the prices for Costco's Standard Shipping.
Their standard shipping can take up to 7 days, but if you need your product more quickly, most products are also eligible for 2-day shipping. Take note that 2-day shipping is on top of their production time, so it actually take 4 days to get to you.
Shipping cost for small prints: Costco offers free shipping to your home for all of their small prints (4x6, 5x5, 5x7, 8x8, 8x10, 8x12, and wallet print) if you're just doing the standard shipping. If you need overnight or 2-day, you will have to pay more.
Shipping Cost for larger prints: For Photos sized 11x14, 12x12, 12x18, 16x20, and 20x30, Costco charges $4 for standard shipping.
Shipping Cost for photo cards: The first set of 50 photo cards ships to you for $5.99, and then it's another 99 cents for each additional set of 25.
Canvases, acrylic prints, metal prints, and blankets: it's $5.99 for the first one and $3.99/each for any additional product.
Calendars, photo books, photo plaques, and mugs ship for only $5.99 each and 99 cents for any extras.
Option 2: Print Online for Great Quality
Not feeling loyal to Costco? that's fine. There are tons of other websites that offer high-quality photo printing for wall prints, photo books, other products.
If price is your main concern, go straight to this post for the cheapest places to print photos.
Here are some of my favorite options for prints and other products:
Mpix - This is a really popular website for online printing with tons of amazing reviews. It's the consumer side to a pro lab, so they know their stuff! Mpix has incredible print quality, and lots of photographers use them. Their prints start at 24 cents each, so they are affordable, and they have tons of sizes and finishes available.
Mixbook: This is one of my favorite consumer printers for photo products. In addition to regular prints, they have amazing photo books with lay-flat pages.
Shutterfly - I'm pretty sure everyone knows about Shutterfly! They offer tons of products beyond just photo prints - like photo books, calendars, cards, and other home decor items. They also offer free prints if you order through the app, which is awesome!
Amazon Prime Photos - another perk of Amazon Prime. 🙂 Amazon can make prints or books, and they ship for free (!) for Prime members.
Artifact Uprising: If you're looking for heirloom-quality products, this is a high-end print shop. They have gorgeous prints and wedding-quality lay-flat albums, with a very classy/bohemian aesthetic.
Chatbooks: If you're looking for quick & simple photobooks, this is your place! Easily upload from your phone, computer, or social media. Import captions or leave them off. Softcover or hardcover, two different sizes. Tons more info about Chatbooks here.
Snapfish - One of your cheapest options is Snapfish. They offer both glossy and matte finishes for most of their print sizes, and you can ship straight to your home.
Where Can I Get 1 Hour Photos? Places to Print Your Photos Locally
Several other big box stores can do "1-hour prints" and many of them have dirt-cheap prices. Some of them even offer occasion coupons for free 8x10 prints!
However, as a photographer and educator, I have to tell you that these 1-hour printers are not top quality. In fact, 1-hour print shops are some of the lowest quality I've encountered.
Remember that the employees working the photo printing machines have little to no specialized training as photographers or technicians. They probably can't troubleshoot white balance issues with you, confirm the color space of your images, check the black levels of the machine, etc.
And if those terms are foreign to you, that's even more of a reason why you want a GOOD photo printer to be helping you, because it's their job to know the lingo and the technicalities that make your prints look awesome.
So, I can't vouch for the quality of any of these options, but these are local stores that still have 1-hour printing options if you need quick results.
Supporting Your Local, Small Businesses
The one bright things about Costco closing their in-store services is that this is an opportunity for you to find a local photography printer to support.
As a small business owner myself, I promise that your dollars mean so much more to a local business owner than any large store like Walmart, who wouldn't even blink if you started or stopped printing photos with them.
If you just google printing places nearby, your top options will probably be Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS depending on where you are. So if you're looking for an independent printing shop, you'll have to do a bit more digging.
My recommendation is to google "local photo printer + your city name" to get better results. Adding the location should help you find some "mom and pop" shops that specialize in photo printing.
You can also check your local Facebook pages and ask if anyone knows about good local options for printing. Small shops don't always have the best web presence, so word of mouth and Facebook recommendation tools might be a better way to find stores near you.
Obviously, not all locations have this option. But I would always recommend supporting small businesses and locally-owned where you can!
It's really sad that Costco is closing their local photo centers, but there are still options for you! So, whether you decide to order prints online through Costco and pay for shipping, or you want to go to a local print shop that offers 1-hour printing - there are alternatives!
But, no matter how great some of the options are, I'll still mourn the loss of local Costco Photo Centers for a little while.
Goodbye, cheap photos with a side of bulk chocolate... you've been good to us.
Does anyone know where i can get a photo CD of the prints that I am having done? I used to get my prints and a photo CD at Costco and it seems i am the only one left on the planet to do this! Costco does not offer this any longer.
Monica Frost says
I believe CVS photo centers in store have that option, to have a CD created with your photos.
Before they took away all the photo centers in the stores I was talking to a photo center person on the phone and they said that the photographs that were ordered online and shipped to your home or made on a different type of machine and aware of Laura quality than the machines they had in the store itself . I was going to experiment by ordering the same prints and a 20 x 30 online and ordering one at my local store but I never got around to doing it because I didn’t know there was a rush and that they were going to be closing the photo centers. Do you think there’s any truth to this?
I have used Costco photo printing for years. I have always been impressed with the quality. I just had my first print order delivered to my home since they closed. It was my daughter's wedding. The professional photographed prints look terrible. The colors are washed out, the images are not crisp and clean. They look like I printed a screenshot instead of a profession photo download. Anyone else noticing this decline in quality? I'm not sure where to go now for prints. Suggestions for high quality with reasonable price? Very disappointing.
Does anyone know who printed their Canvas'. I was using them professionally and loved the product but don't know the source to continue with the same product? I need to speak directly with the printer regarding certain products or I'd just order on-line.
Angie Wolney says
Costco is missing a real chance to connect with their customers by providing a needed service. I printed thousands of pictures every year. I made books for all of my children's classmates and teachers, I printed posters for memorials and reunions. I take hundreds of pictures every month and archived them at Costco and printed my favorites. I live in a rural area and don't have the internet to do any of this from home. I am beyond upset. They are losing a lot of business from me. But beyond that, they are loosing their biggest real connection with their customers. The photo counter was the one place that made them special and something more personal and just not another monster sized company. I know I am not the only one without good or sufficient internet to be able to upload images from home. I know less tech savvy senior citizens are also totally forgotten in this new business plan. I wish Costco seemed to care.
Michael S says
Angie - I’m really sorry to hear that - I can tell how meaningful the service was for you. I hope you are able to find an alternative that works for you.
It is very sad that Costco closed their in-store print facilities. It reminds me of “video killed the radio star” with most people now opting for online sharing instead of printing. It is difficult for most of us. I’ve been a photographer for about 40 years and remember having to get every shot correct because you wouldn’t know how it would turn out until you sent the roll of film to the developer and waited 10-14 days for the returned prints and negatives. I do appreciate the added benefit of digital photography, the ability to edit the photo and the fact family photos will now never get lost or fade in color. Sure, looking at an actual photo album is nice, but having to not worry about ripping, fingerprinting, misplaced/lost, or fading photos is even better. That said, “digital killed the paper album.”
There’s adoramapix (haven’t used since they changed names to printique), Bay Photo on the higher end (if you want best quality), and one I may try soon, Miller’s.
I think Option 2: Print Online for Great Quality is the best, I do it from MeMate Gifts Website
Jennifer Reid Barrett says
I have lost all mu digital photos from my external hard drive (cue the tears!!). But!! I had uploaded all my photos form 2010 onwards to my Costco Photo account. I'm wondering if it's possible to retrieve my digital files in the form of a CD , USB, or digital files from Costco?
C. Overton says
Big mistake, I now make 50% less trips to COSTCO with loss of the photo pick up service
You could have raised the price of the rotisserie chickens by .25 cents each and at lease kept the photo pick up service at the warehouses. Like most big box stores , smaller portions , higher prices , Your image of the "darling" of large corporations is sliding downward.
It's time to give more support to the small Mom & Pop stores, having to drive the extra miles to a COSTCO and pay higher gas prices to get there , even if COSTCO gas is less.
Having said all that, I will still occasionally stop by if I'm the area.
Chad Thurman says
Costco photo is now closed. They have merged with Shutterfly. The site is horrible, unresponsive and the prices are doubled what Costco was. Have you researched any other places with prices comparable to a Costco?
You're right - I'd forgotten to update this page with the news about Costco permanently closing and switching to Shutterfly. Costco members were advised to go to this site ( https://accounts.shutterfly.com/welcomeCostco ) and link their Costco membership number to access 51% off Shutterfly prices.
Yes, I have researched, and no, there's nothing comparable to the price/quality Costco was offering. That said, here's my link for what the cheapest options are: https://snaphappymom.com/cheapest-place-to-print-photos/