I’ve printed a number of my photographs, over the years. Anything from small 4x6s, 8x10s, large 13x19s from my own printer, all the way up to 20 x 30 inch prints. In all this time, I’ve never been truly satisfied. The larger prints from my Canon Pro 100 and even larger ones from superior printers looked good, until I compare them to my monitor. The physical output always looked a bit dark and dull.
While the physical prints have their place, they ultimately have one big disadvantage — they lack backlighting. Computer LCD displays are backlit by LEDs which make them very vibrant. Physical prints need to be displayed in good lighting for the optimum viewing, however, even in these conditions, my prints lack the punch I wanted.
For the first time, I actually have prints that are superior to my computer screen when displayed in proper lighting. They are metal prints that I made at shinyprints.com. There’s a richness, a saturation and depth from these metal prints that blows away the ones that I’ve made on paper. The difference is stark.
I’ve stared at my metal landscape for longer than I should have, going downstairs multiple times to look at it again and again. Unexpectedly, it’s giving me a level of visual delight that I never thought possible.
Before I get into the review, I’ll mention that the folks at Shiny Prints contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a review of their services. In exchange for a honest review, which they have no editorial control over, they’ll allow me to make a metal print. I ended up making two prints of the same scene for free. One at 32 inches by 48 inches and other at 16 inches by 24 inches.
I decided on the image above as my reference. It’s from The Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, Nevada which I shot nearly three years ago on my spring break family vacation to Las Vegas. The photo worked well for a few reasons. First, it’s a colorful scene that I really like. Second, it’s a high-resolution 35MP image that I created with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s high res shot feature. Finally, I have a large paper print version of this image that I can make direct comparisons.
Image and Build Quality
I shot the image in sRGB and used a pure sRGB workflow, though I no longer color calibrate my monitor. You can tell that the output from both the paper and metal prints are deeper and more saturated than the onscreen version.
I have a 16×24 inch print on luster paper from a top of the line Canon Pro 2000 printer, which is perfect for a direct comparison to the 16×24 inch metal print from Shiny Prints. On this photo, shot under halogen lighting, the colors are very similar but with an obvious texture difference. The paper version shows more fine detail and looks sharper. The metal print is more saturated and contrasty. As a result, the paper print looks more like a photograph while the slightly softer metal looks more like a painting and somewhat more artistic. What you lose in sharp precision is more than offset by a sense of richness with the metal.
Your preference will depend on the photographic subject and individual taste, I suspect. For traditional black and white street photographs, for example, I prefer the paper print. However, for these colorful landscapes, I overwhelmingly pick the metal.
I have a guest room with a small gallery area brightly lit with multiple LED spot lights. In this lighting, I can tell that there is more of color difference between the paper print on the left and the metal on the right. Though I struggled to accurately capture, in photographs, what I see in person. The actual color and richness difference is larger than what’s shown here.
Under these spot lights, this is where the metal print really impressed. The colors were more vibrant and lively. This paper print, like I’ve experienced in other paper prints, is rather dull. It’s certainly decent but pales in comparison to metal, especially when viewed off axis.
So how does Shiny Prints’ image quality compare with metal prints from other vendors? That’s something I can’t answer empirically since I didn’t order identical prints from different places. I made a 20×30 metal print a while ago and it doesn’t seem to pop like this one. But in all fairness, since that print is of an entirely different scene, it’s not a true comparison.
Shiny Prints indicates that they use the latest F series Dye Sublimation printers from Epson and they specialize just in metal prints. I’ve looked at other vendors printing metal, they don’t mention their printer, metal substrate or process used to make the prints.
Both the large and small prints from Shiny Prints are perfectly printed and look identical. I see no blemishes or imperfections. There’s an aluminum frame behind the large 32×48” that appears solid and would make the print float about one inch from the wall. I was pleased that they included a sizable metal mounting strip for the wall with three screw holes. They’ve even included the screws and a small bubble level for a complete package.
Since Shiny Prints only makes metal prints, the website is exceedingly straight forward. There’s pricing, FAQs, and descriptions about the finishes and mounting options. You basically select the size you want, upload your image and checkout. As shown above, there’s a tool that allows you to change a few features and adjust your crop. A nice touch is the DPI (dots per inch) value and a quality indicator of the final product. It’s a good way to ensure you have a photo with a high enough resolution. You can also select your mount which is included in the price.
I was originally unsure if 150 DPI would be adequate, given my pickiness. The indicator says 150 DPI is between Normal and Good. By contrast, the same file at 16×24 yields a 298 DPI Best rating from the tool. Looking at the actual results, I’m very satisfied with both prints. As I indicated above, even at at 298 DPI, the metal prints are not as detailed as ones printed on paper but still look very good. Because larger prints are typically viewed at a greater distance, the slightly softer 150 DPI print didn’t look any worse than the smaller high-resolution print viewed closer.
The potential downside, particularly for more novice customers is there’s not a lot of photos or videos that shows the mounting options and differences in print surfaces. I’ve visited places like AdoramaPix or Bay Photo that better explains and shows the available options. Bay Photo, in particular, has a tremendous number of customization choices including options for wooden frames which surround the metal prints.
I talked to the COO of Shiny Prints and he indicated that 90% of their customers are professionals that do art shows or sell at galleries — which makes a lot of sense. Unlike the places which also cater to regular consumers, Shiny Prints is geared towards the professional. While I may not exhibit my work at art shows, Shiny Prints’ features and web interface works perfectly for me. I don’t need detailed explanations of metal surface choices and I don’t want heart or oval-shaped prints. They have all the features I need.
I placed my order past midnight early Friday morning, last week. The order was completed and shipped out on the same day. FedEx Home Delivery indicated a Wednesday delivery. This got delayed one day due to our rare Central Texas ice storm which slowed everything down this past Tuesday. So remarkably, factoring the weekend and MLK day on Monday, I still got my giant metal prints in 6 days.
Shiny Prints indicated that they usually ship within 3 business days.
The prints came in a thin crate made mostly of wood with a double layer cardboard top. There were 23 screws holding the top in place. Inside, the prints where covered in plastic and taped to large cardboard sheets to minimize movement within the crate. It took some time but it was fun unpacking everything from the study container. You can see the completely unwrapped print sitting inside the create in the photo at the very top.
I’m sure, short of throwing this thing off the truck, the prints will arrive undamaged. The FedEx notification indicated that packaged weighed a hefty 40 pounds.
Shiny Prints indicates that they have the lowest prices in the market and that they will beat any advertised price. Normally, my large print would cost $298 and the smaller one, $63. I did some comparisons at Bay Photo, AdoramaPix and even Costco and indeed Shiny Prints’ prices were lower in almost every case, especially since they don’t charge extra for the mount.
I also discovered that many places don’t offer super large prints. The 32×48 inch size is not available at Costco or AdoramaPix, for example. In fact, the COO mentioned that they even make the large size prints for other competing companies.
The other, potentially very significant cost, are the shipping charges. My prints cost a hefty $200 to ship by FedEx Home Delivery. I guess that’s understandable given the 40 pound crate and all the associated packaging, but a significant financial consideration, nevertheless. I was told that their FedEx option is the cheapest option they could find. And, for Professionals with a pro account, they give price discounts that somewhat offset the shipping costs. Of course, if you order multiple prints at a time, the per print shipping costs will greatly decrease.
The company is located in South Florida, and there’s an option to do a local pickup.
For smaller prints, places like AdormaPix and Costco have low-cost shipping options. However, I don’t know if their quality of metal prints are comparable. Bay Photo offers large print sizes and I tried three times to price their shipping fees but their website did not work properly. I was not able to compare Bay Photo’s shipping costs to Shiny Prints.
Offers larger print sizes that many other places. Up to 48” x 96”
Specialize in only metal prints
Support for custom shapes
Professional oriented services
Easy to use website
Fast processing and delivery
No special wood framing options
Not as friendly for consumers who are not as knowledgeable about metal printing
Some competitors have lower shipping costs for smaller prints
I had a remarkably good experience with Shiny Prints. The resulting image quality has opened my eyes to what is possible for displaying my photos. So much so that I’m looking around the house for more places to put up photos. These metal prints, particularly the larger one, are the first time I’ve created a physical version of my photos that beats my iMac’s LCD display. Under the right lighting, the color and richness gives an almost 3D quality. That and the print is so large, you get sucked into the scene.
From the easy to understand website, the easy ordering, the fast shipping and beefy packaging, everything is first-rate. While they lack some of the consumery features, their options work well for me and probably many professionals.
By the way, the photo above showcases a new feature that will be added shortly to the Shiny Prints’ website. There’s going to be an online editor to name your print and add your logo, that can be printed on the back for an extra $15. I can see this being a nice professional feature for promotion.
About the only thing that gives me pause is the relatively high shipping costs. But, I love the image quality so much, and because it opens up picture display possibilities that I never realized, I’m hooked.
Please support this blog by clicking on my Amazon Link before buying anything.