One of the best cameras is the one you have with you — and for most of us, that camera is your smartphone. But unless you're meticulously sharing and backing up your photos online, most of them are probably languishing in your smartphone’s digital archives.
Free your photos from the shackles of your smartphone with services and hardware that make it easy to print your photos professionally (for shipping directly to you), on the go or at home. We’ve rounded up our favorite, easy ways to print photos from your smartphone.
Order professional prints with an app
Photo services let you order prints from your smartphone for delivery to your home within a couple of days. Send photos from your smartphone to one of our favorite print services to get lab-quality prints without leaving the house or shelling out for your own printer.
This sleek, intuitive app takes care of printing pictures as well as photo books, greeting cards and other photo products from your phone camera or Instagram account. Ordering prints is a simple matter of choosing exactly the size of photo you want, from a set of photo strips to a 54-image poster, and then picking the best of your snaps.
You can print photos in several unusual sizes, including 4" x 4" squares, 2" x 2" mini-squares and business-card-sized prints, as well as standard formats including 4" x 6" and 8" x 10" prints and 20" x 30" posters (probably best for owners of uber-high-megapixel phones like the iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung Galaxy S6). Send prints anywhere in the world. (Last-minute long-distance present, anyone?)
The app makes it easy to order unique frames and displays, including a reclaimed Santa Cruz block frame or multi-picture wooden and concrete displays.
Prints: $12 for 24 square prints; $15 for 24 4" x 6" prints; $10 for a set of nine photo strips (36 pictures); more prices at Social Print Studio
Shipping: $6 by FedEx and DHL; $12 international shipping; free shipping for U.S. orders over $50
Speed: 3-10 working days
Editing capabilities: None aside from cropping or shifting pictures to fit inside the print size
Best for: Interesting frames and unique prints (the mini-squares and 4" x 4" squares are particularly cute for Instagram images)
FreePrints is an offshoot of online photo printing shop Photo Affections, which perhaps explains why it can offer 1,000 free 4" x 6" prints per year. This streamlined app is an easy way to print photos from your phone camera as well as Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Photos and Google Drive. One click from the home interface takes you to a photo selection page for uploading and ordering prints, which can arrive as quickly as within two days.
You can order square prints for Instagram shots as well as 5" x 7", 8" x 10" and larger prints at an additional cost. If you use an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 7 or 7 Plus, pay for orders instantly using Apple Pay. Photos are printed on lab-quality paper from Kodak and Fujifilm, with an matte finish.
Prints: Free for 4" x 6" prints (up to 85 per month or 1,000 per year); from $0.49 each for 5" x 5" prints
Shipping: $1.99 to $9.99; $1.00 more for two-day shipping; free shipping the first time you use the app
Speed: Four to six days; two working days for express shipping
Editing capabilities: Minimal; cropping, black-and-white filter
Best for: Low-cost, high-quality prints from a variety of sources
Last year Shutterfly started offering free unlimited 4" x 4" and 4" x 6" prints (you pay for shipping) for its Shutterfly app users, in addition to free unlimited storage. Go to store, prints and select the size of the prints you'd like. You can choose from photos on your phone, Shutterfly, Facebook or Instagram. Selecting multiple images is as easy as swiping across them.
In addition to the free prints, you can also order 5" x 7", 8" x 10" , 11" x 14", 12" x 12" and 20" x 30" at an additional cost.
Prints: Free for 4" x 4" and 4" x 6", from $0.99 each for 5" x 7"
Shipping: starting at $1.79 for economy shipping, starting at $19.99 for rush shipping
Speed: five to ten days; two working days for express shipping
Editing capabilities: cropping; rotating
Best for: free, high-quality prints
Print on the go with a portable smartphone printer
Pull out one of these printers during your next vacation and instantly print anyone's smartphone photos for hard-copy keepsakes.
This tiny printer connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone, with an app for selecting and printing photos to a pack of 2" x 3" stickers using ZINK photo paper.
The app lets you you add borders, stickers, filters and more, so you can personalize your photos. Use the prints as ordinary photos, or peel off the backs to stick them to just about anything.
The Sprocket has a rechargeable battery that lasts for about 50 prints per charge. The app lets you add borders, stickers, filters, text and more, so you can personalize your photos beyond scribbling a caption.
Price: $129.99 from Amazon
Prints: $9.98 for 20 sheets at Amazon
Speed: About 40 seconds per print
Editing capabilities: filters, borders, frames, text, cropping, auto fix
Best for: Printing photos on the go
Print at Home with a desktop printer
Printing your photos at home can not only work out cheaper, but far more convenient. If you're looking for pro-quality home prints, dedicated photo printers can handle ultra-high resolutions and fine color detail, while standard models still offer decent picture quality at an affordable price.
Canon Pixma TS9020
The Pixma TS9020 sports a six-ink system, including an individual grey ink for extra-fine color and gradation in black-and-white prints. It connects over Wi-Fi as well as Google Cloud Print and Apple AirPrint, making it easy for any device to link up and print. The compact all-in-one printer sports a 5-inch touchscreen for easy navigation.
The printer uses an Android/iOS app to select photos from a smartphone or tablet for batch printing.
Price: $189.99 from Amazon
Prints: From $12 for 100 sheets of 4" x 6" glossy paper; $88.97 for a set of six ink cartridges ($48.99 for Black,Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, $19.99 for Pigment Black $19.99 for Gray) ($0.48 or less per print)
Speed: About 21 seconds per 4" x 6" photo
Editing capabilities: None
Best for: Professional-quality home photos
HP Envy 5540
If you simply want to print photos for personalized cards or family albums, a multifunction inkjet printer like the Envy 5660 produces good clarity and color, especially with smaller prints. It can connect to any smartphone over Wi-Fi via the HP app, while Apple AirPrint support lets you print directly from iPhones without an app.
Photos can be printed in sizes up to A4, with a dedicated paper tray for 4" x 6" prints. If you regularly print photos, buy the Envy 5660 with an HP Instant Ink subscription plan that gets you 50 prints per month for $2.99, with HP connecting to your printer to send new cartridges when you're running low.
Price: $72.55 from Amazon
Speed: About 45 seconds per 4" x 6" photo
Best for: Affordable home photo printing
What’s your favorite way to print photos from your smartphone? Let us know in the comments, and tell us if we've missed your go-to.
Updated on 1/25/2017 with pricing and print options.
[printer with smartphone image via Shutterstock, PrintStudio/Techlicious, FreePrints/Techlicious, Shutterfly/Techlicious, HP, Canon]