Photoworks v Costco Print Throwdown

Thanks to a certain SF City College Photoshop course there appears to be a printer comparison going on between the labs in town and Costco.  I have little idea of the point of this exercise.  If it’s a learning experience for the students then I apologize for what I’m about to say.  ‘I’M NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR  EXPERIMENT”  I’d prefer not to spend an hour discussing the minutia of colorspace only to have it thrown back at me in a costco taste test.  Does Costco photo developer clerk come out of his cage and chat about “assigned color profiles.?”  Maybe..

Hey professor, do know how much money in discounts I give every year to students?  How many SF City college brochures I’ve had on my counter, and the countless times that I suggest, “take a class a City College, they’re terrific.”  I really would have been fine with all of this had I had say, a heads up.  Maybe I’ll teach a cooking class and ask the students to by ingredients at the corporate giant Safeway, and then by the same items from the Bi Rite locally owned market.  Let’s ask the grocer at Bi Rite a hundred questions and then go on over to Safeway and get them to grow veggies the same way.   Sorry Kids, I’ll sit this one out.

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7 thoughts on “Photoworks v Costco Print Throwdown

  1. CG says:

    Costco does photofinishing? I had no idea. I avoid them and any other store that erodes the presence of independent businesses in this town like the plague.

  2. alyssa says:


    Maybe next they’ll check out the photo services at walmart? Jeez louise. I friggin’ love Photoworks, there are REAL PEOPLE that work there, they KNOW THEIR SHIT..and they will HELP you, if you need help. I’ve sat, with my elbows on the counter..countless times, getting a mini lesson on processing and film types.. even if costco can turn out a million quality prints a minute..who cares?

  3. Erika Gentry says:

    Hello –

    The class at City College of San Francisco is called Intermediate Photoshop PHOTO60b. The instructors blog, email and contact information may be located at

    Our assignment is listed below. As you it states – the assignment is to find a service bureau to use during the semester, learn how to evaluate and see color and tone, attach a profile and study the translation from monitor display to printing. A list of bay area service providers were provided to the students and this has been an ongoing assignment for the last four years. Many service bureaus have been kind to waive the fee of printing for the target and provide discount coupons in support of our students.

    The assignment and course is professional in its approach and teaching of best print workflow. It in no way intends to “pit” any service bureau against one another. In fact, opinions of the tonal and color outcome of the Photowork CTI target were quite high. Your support of the student learning process and investment in your future consumers is appreciated. It is unfortunate to see a post here suggesting malice and with such a negative tone.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any additional questions.

    Thank you,

    Erika Gentry

    LAB 1: Download the large file CTI target from the class server. Send two identical copies of the CTI target with appropriate embedded output color profiles to two different service bureaus . You may also print one on an inkjet printer using appropriate paper color profiles for your printer.

    Evaluate your two prints side by side in daylight balanced lighting conditions. Write up a comparision using the evaluating CTI target image as a guide to discuss the 25 areas of the image. Present your findings in class on the due date. Use the handouts in the reading section to guide you if you get lost. Follow the CTI TARGET evaluation PDF to generate a written comparison.

    TURN IN: 2 prints from two different service bureaus/printers in a plain envelope with your name, class etc and your evaluation of each in regards to color, tone and sharpness.

    • photoworks says:

      Thanks for writing in such detail. Honestly, we mean no actual malice,we took some liberties with the tone of the post. We generally enjoy working with the students, but this semester has brought too many comments about what the “lab at Costco” does. After a while this gets annoying, and then you get people asking why we charge 6.00 for a print, and well you can see what happens.

      In fairness, I will remove the post. I figured this response was coming soon enough. Again, thanks for the input, apologies on the over the top comments.

  4. KL says:

    I’ve printed with Costco. I’ve printed with Photoworks. I no longer do business with either, but if you were to hold a gun to my head and make me pick one it would be Costco.

    Yes, I initially sneered at Costco too, but then I did some research and looked into their methodologies. I sent some test prints to them and was extremely impressed. I expected Walgreens-quality snapshot prints, but they’re far more sophisticated than that.

    I can download a printer-specific color profile for a Costco printer and soft proof before I print. I can get consistent, repeatable results from Costco, which is something I’ve never been able to achieve from Photoworks. Neither place produces gallery-quality prints, but Costco managed to overcome my personal prejudices against them… and then some.

    I’ve honestly had Costco call me up after a print order and say, “You usually do X, but you haven’t done that this time. Before I print these, I want to doublecheck with you. Did you mean to do X?”

    I’m a huge believer in small businesses, and I’ll almost always choose the local, independent shop over the big business. I’m definitely of the “friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks” mentality, and I haven’t set foot in a Walmart in over a decade. When it comes to photo printing, Costco overcame my biases against them. I’ve moved on, but I would still use them in cases where I needed batches of reasonable-quality prints at a low price.

  5. Skip says:

    I, for one, am glad you have opinions and care about what you do.

  6. photoworks says:

    no, just not approved until now. thanks for the input we’ll keep trying to do better.

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