Ordering from BWC Photo through Photoshelter

[Updated June 8, 2011; see comments at the bottom]

I recently switched my website hosting to Photoshelter, a hosting company targeted at photographers.  Photoshelter supports direct image sales on their hosted sites though a number of print vendors, and I’m now using BWC Photo Imaging to supply my prints. This means that when someone wants a print of mine (editor’s note: shouldn’t that be a very big “if”, not “when”?) they can peruse the options online, order what they want directly from my website, pay via PayPal or credit card, and have the print shipped directly to them from the printer1.

To test out the service I ordered a wide variety of prints, ranging in size from 4×6″ through 12×18″, along with a photo mug.  Ordering was easy (click “buy” on the image’s page, choose size, choose cropping, lather, rinse, repeat), though there was an unspecified problem with my order after I placed it that held it up for a few days.  I never found out what the problem was, but Photoshelter’s support looked into it quickly, and a week and a half after I placed the order it arrived on my doorstep.

Everything came in a large outer box, and while the padding in the box was reused paper envelopes, they were surdy enough to keep everything in place. The two inner boxes were shrinkwrapped together, helping hold them in place.

The items came in three different containers: one for the mug, a roll for large prints, and a flat box for smaller prints.

BWC double boxed everything in the order; this picture shows the inner boxes. Prints 10×15″ and larger were rolled up in the photo tube, with a protective layer of paper. Prints smaller than 10×15″ were packaged in the flat box.


The box of smaller prints was exceptionally well packed.

All prints smaller than 10×15″ came packaged flat in a print box. Larger prints were sandwiched between two layers of cardboard in a clear envelope, while smaller prints were put in clear envelopes and taped to the top of the cardboard. The whole package was then shrinkwrapped, and put in a tight-fitting box.


Everything survived the FedEx elephants perfectly; I’m extremely impressed with BWC’s packaging. And the print quality is great; my 30D’s prints look gorgeous even at the somewhat-pushing-it 12×18″ size.

Four prints from BWC Photo Imaging. The top two are 12×18″s (sunset is matte, agave is glossy), the bottom right is a 10×15″ matte, and the bottom left is an 8×12″ matte.


A few things were a bit disappointing, though.  While the black and white printed version of this Amoeba image came out perfectly, the mug printed up fairly soft / low contrast.  The mug looks decent all by itself:

A 15 oz custom photo mug from BWC Photo Imaging, ordered through Photoshelter. The mug has this amoeba grayscale image printed on it.


But when compared to the print, the difference is obvious:

A mug and black and white print of this amoeba grayscale image by BWC Photo Imaging; both were printed from the exact same file. The difference in contrast is startling.


Photoshelter described one product as a “4×8″ greeting card with envelope”, which got me pretty excited, since I’d love to have some custom printed cards to send to folks as thank-you notes. Unfortunately, all these turned out to be were 4×8″ prints on regular photo paper with 4×8″ envelopes included. While the printing was fine, they’re useless as greeting cards because the backs have a serial number printed on them and also have the paper company’s logo splattered across it (it’s just the back of a typical photo paper).  I’ve now removed this printing option from my sales profiles, and Photoshelter has already changed the description of the product.

The “4×8″ greeting card” with envelope (envelope shown here, if you’re curious); the printing is fine, but the back is hardly card-worthy. Photoshelter has since changed the description of this product to “4×8″ print with envelope”.


And, finally, Photoshelter’s shopping cart allows users to select the print size when they place their order. Since all of my images can be ordered at any print size, it’s likely that there will be mismatches between the proportions of a print and the proportions of an image (for example, an image sized to fit perfectly on a 5×7″ print will not fit perfectly on a 4×6″ print).  So, Photoshelter gives purchasers an option: either have the image cropped to fit the paper precisely (cutting off a portion of the image you see online), or have the image printed at its original proportions, leaving white bars around the image; purchasers can even customize the cropping themselves in the Photoshelter cart.  Oddly, though, even though I selected to have a few images printed uncropped (with white bars around them), all of the images I got were cropped.

These three prints came out fine, but they all have been cropped down even though I selected the option in Photoshelter’s cart to print the image at its original proportions, which should have left white space on the sides. The left image is printed as an 8×8″ on BWC’s black and white paper, the top right is a 5×7″, and the bottom right is a 5×10″.


Overall I’m happy with my first Photoshelter-mediated BWC order, and hope I can get the mug printing and cropping issues solved soon.

1 While this should theoretically require no input from me, the problem is that there’s currently no way to specify different sharpening values for each image. So, since I also sell images digitally for use in print works, I upload my images with relatively little sharpening. But for printing, especially matte printing, the images need additional sharpening. So, right now I’ve got Photoshelter set to alert me when an order is placed, at which time I’ll upload a properly-sharpened image to send to the printer.

Update June 8, 2011: Photoshelter’s customer support on this issue has been excellent. They report that they’ve determined what caused the items to not be printed at the original proportions when requested, and they’ve placed a full replacement order for all the items that weren’t cropped correctly. Apologies were profuse, and they’re looking into the mug printing issue as well.

2 thoughts on “Ordering from BWC Photo through Photoshelter

  1. Thanks for the great post Marc. I am also using Photoshelter and was looking to have someone fulfill orders as I start building my gallery. After reading this I’m going to give BWC a try.

  2. Thanks for this post, especially the packaging photos. I’m setting up a photoshelter site and was disappointed they didn’t have my printer of choice as a listed option. I’ve been disappointed with prints from Adorama but had never heard of BWC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *