When we bought our first digital camera, I naively assumed that we would print our own photographs. I didn't realise that (a) we would need a rather higher quality printer than we had, and (b) the cost of photo paper is pretty high. Not to mention cartridge refills. Moreoever, one tends to waste a lot of paper and ink just testing it out.
At the time, we were unimpressed with Cyprus photo printing. There are plenty of photo shops, some of them offering very quick services, but they were expensive - much more so than the UK - and, more significantly, not very good quality. We heard rumours that they rarely changed their chemicals.
So I was pleased when I found a place online, based in the UK, where I could upload digital photos, and then order prints. It was called Ofoto. I made quite a few orders from them, up until about 2005. The quality wasn't perfect - but then our first digital camera wasn't that great - and the uploading process was rather painful, but the prices weren't bad. And we didn't want that many prints from our digital camera anyway.
At the time, we still used a camera that took film, as well. I sent my rolls of film off to another company in the UK, called DirectFoto. They were prompt, they didn't charge any extra to deliver to Cyprus, the prices were good, and the prints were excellent.
Then in 2005 we bought a new digital camera, and around the same time I discovered that DirectFoto had a similar system to Ofoto. I could upload my digital prints at full quality to an online album, and order prints online. They would keep the photo albums online, I could 'share' them with relatives who wanted to see what we'd been doing, and there was no cost for doing so. They sent me occasional emails with special offers, and codes for 15 free photos.
The uploading process was a bit complicated and extremely slow, but I didn't mind. It was better than the one at Ofoto. I used DirectFoto several times, usually uploading a few months' worth of photos at a time, and making a big order two or three times per year. The prices were very good, the quality superb.
The last time I ordered at the DirectFoto site was around the end of June.
Last week, I wanted to order some more, mainly of our time in Hong Kong and Malaysia with Daniel. So I sorted through Picasa, exported all the pictures I wanted to print in a separate folder, and went to DirectFoto.
The site had been updated - it looked much more modern and easier to use than it had previously. Except that... I couldn't log in. It didn't recognise my email address at all.
I emailed the support people, and had no reply. Eventually I registered again. Then I hit a new problem. When I wanted to use the online album system - where I previously had hundreds of photos stored - I had to register yet again. And this time it wouldn't allow me to enter Cyprus for my delivery address.
So I emailed their support team again.
Today I had an email back. They said they were sorry, but they could no longer deliver outside the UK.
Although I had not been using Ofoto, every so often I received an email from them. I learned that they changed their name to Kodak Gallery. So I went to the site today. They also had changed their design radically. They also looked modern and efficient. More importantly, I had no problem logging in, despite not having visited them for over two years. To my surprise, they still had the online albums I uploaded way back in 2003 and 2004.
And, although their prices look a little higher than Directfoto, their uploading system is wonderful! It's amazingly quick. It's efficient. It doesn't require Java or special downloads. Best of all, they have no problems delivering to Cyprus.
So I shall be making my orders from Kodak Gallery for the foreseeable future.