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By timestaff
December 24, 2013
Illustration: Ed Nacional

Most Americans made the switch from film to digital cameras years ago, but when it comes to the photos themselves, many of us are still old-school: We want prints.

Three options for making hard copies of your holiday memories:

Best for occasional printers: Mobile apps

What to look for: Many big-box retailers and drugstores now offer free smartphone and tablet apps that allow you to send photos directly from your device to a printing kiosk in a store (most require at least one hour for processing).

The pick: Walgreens’ app connects users to more than 8,000 stores, where you can print images, as well as collages and posters, starting at 29¢ for a four-by-six-inch print. The app lets you edit and apply filters to your snaps, and, unlike most competitors, it can print directly from Facebook and Instagram.

The Walgreens’ app works on Apple and Android tablets and phones, but Windows tablet and BlackBerry users are out of luck.

Best for scrapbookers: Online printing

What to look for: Want to create professional-looking custom photo books or turn your images into personalized holiday cards? Online printing companies offer a variety of ways to package your photos, and often run tempting two-for-one specials. But watch out for steep shipping charges, which are often “only revealed to customers on the last pages” of the checkout process, warns Simon Blanchard, an assistant marketing professor at Georgetown University.

The pick: Snapfish offers low prices and clearly displays shipping charges upfront. The site’s 12-by-12-inch photo books start at $55, plus $8 for delivery — a total of $27 less than a similar product from the competition.

Best for serious photobugs: Photo printers

What to look for: These days you can pay $30 for a super-basic printer to $400-plus for a professional model. The sweet spot, though, says Amy Machado, a senior research analyst with IDC, is the $150 to $200 range. At that price, you should be able to find a quality Wi-Fi-enabled inkjet with a per-page printing cost (paper and ink) of 30¢ to 35¢.

The pick: Epson’s $150 Expression Premium XP-610 is a manageable 15-by-20 inches and can receive photos via Wi-Fi or cellular data from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. At a respectable 13 color pages per minute, this Epson prints more than 40% faster than its popular predecessor, the XP-600.

How to keep photos safe

Your favorite shots are priceless, right? Protect them with these three strategies.

Backup online: Many of the free photo-sharing sites also offer generous storage for your digital images. Yahoo’s Flickr, for instance, got an impressive upgrade earlier this year and now allows users to keep up to one terabyte’s worth of photos on the site (that’s around 500,000 images). If you don’t mind looking at photos at a lower resolution, MyShoebox offers unlimited storage.

Burn a DVD: A single disc typically holds about 1,000 images. Do it yourself, or upload photos to an online photo site such as Shutterfly, which will do the job for you. Expect to pay between $10 and $20 per DVD.

Digitize old prints: Services like ScanDigital, GoPhoto, and DigMyPics will scan hard copies of your old photos for 38¢ to 88¢ each. Have them archived online or stored on a CD, DVD, or flash drive.

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The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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