A photograph needs to be real: The beauty of the Fuji Instax Printer


I’d like to deviate from my normal blog posts that highlight recent photoshoots and talk for a bit about the value of a printed photograph.

I started in photography around 2007, a product of the digital era.  I’ve never taken a roll into a camera shop, I’ve never developed film myself.  Digital photography was a natural extension of my love of Apple computers, web design, etc.  I love the process of creating a photograph, importing it into Lightroom, editing it, and making it true to my vision.

Recently, however, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been missing something.  A photograph isn’t just a series of digital 1s and 0s.  It is something real.  It is tangible.

There is a restaurant my wife and I go to occasionally when we want to enjoy a quality meal.  When you walk in the door there is a large portrait of a blues musician from another era.  The eyes are piercing, and every time I see it I find myself lost in the photograph.  One of my favourite expressions is “a portrait should tell a story about the subject”, and this photograph does that every.  damn.  time.    Although my wife has printed a few of my images and they hang on various walls around the house, I am yet to print many of the 10,000 images sitting on my hard drive.

As a lover of Fuji’s X camera series I follow their product development, and recently they  launched an Instax printer (the Fujifilm Instax SP-1) that is portable and can print wirelessly straight from your camera or phone:


(Photo from Fujifilm.ca)

Think small polaroids.  The image quality isn’t what we would consider “high quality” by today’s digital standards, but anyone who focuses on that is missing the mark.

I should add that while this article was inspired by the Fuji Instax printer, it really is about holding a photograph in your hands.

My first exposure to the Fuji Instax printer came via one of my favourite photographers, a gentleman named Zack Arias.  He is a prolific photographer, educator, and blogger who isn’t afraid to share his opinions and stories.  Zack wrote about an experience using the Instax printer on the street:


 If you aren’t a gear nerd ignore the technical stuff in the article, that isn’t really what this is about anyway.  It’s about the moments.   It’s about having a memory that doesn’t just live on a hard drive, on an iPhone, in an instagram account.

Watch this six minute video.  Heck, if you’re in a rush just watch from around 4:05.  Watch the reaction of the bride and groom when they get the pictures in their hands during their wedding reception:

Ok, it’s a promotional product video.  I get that.  Watch the reactions and the emotions though.  That’s what counts.

You see the same reaction when Bert Stephani used the Instax printer while shooting street portraits in his Fuji X100T review.  You can see it in this video here starting around 13:52:

Watch the look on those children’s faces when the photographs develop.  They get to hold them in their hands and look at them as often as they want.  Those photographs will exist even after their iPad runs out of battery power.

Will I get a Fuji Instax Printer?  I’ll admit it, I want one badly.  Part of it is that I am a boy, and we love our toys.  The other part though is that I am an artist, and artists both create and share.

Realistically, would I use it that often?  I’m not sure if I would, or if that money should go toward other gear.

What that little Fuji Instax printer has done at the least though is to inspire me to make my favourite photographs real.  They deserve a better place than the spot they currently occupy on my hard drive.

See that photo at the top of this blog post?  That is my all time favourite photograph of my daughter.  I need to print that.

I spend a lot of time making large panoramas like this one:


I need to print that too.  Large.  For the wall.

I am an occasional contributor to a website that focuses on mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X series.  The website is called:


Recently, on Twitter, we had a discussion that centred around the point that gear can inspire you.  It’s true.  I totally want a Fuji Instax printer.  I may or may not get one in the future, but that little printer has reminded me of the true value of a photograph.  A real photograph, not just a copy of a photo that lives on my phone.

That is all kinds of awesome.



Shooting portraits on a sunny winter day!

DSCF3963(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/1.6 – Click to view larger)

There are photoshoots that are carefully planned:   Discussions.  Pre-shoot planning sessions.  Studio bookings.  Wardrobe.  Hair and make up.

Then there are those days where you call up a friend and say “it looks gorgeous tomorrow, want to  shoot?”  That pretty much describes every shoot I have done with my friend Saige, a brilliant and beautiful local actress in the Vancouver area.

When the day of the shoot arrived it was bright and sunny, literally t-shirt weather in Vancouver in January.  Fabulous!    For a quick and impromptu location we chose Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, specifically an area of the park that has several old heritage buildings (barns, an old schoolhouse, etc).

I travelled exceptionally light in terms of gear, bringing only my Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2 lens (an amazing lens for portraiture work) and my Fuji X100s with it’s 23mm lens if I wanted something a little bit wider.  I planned on shooting mostly natural light, but threw in a small flash and some modifiers just in case I wanted to add a little fill.  All of this fit into a small Think Tank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag.  No big gear.  No backpacks.  No packing around large lights.

I love my Fuji kit.

With both of us being creative types it was almost inevitable that we would start the shoot a little later than we planned, which meant the sun was high overhead when we started.  The quick and easy solution was to find the shady side of the barns and work from there, adding in a little fill flash as needed:

DSCF3952(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/2 – Click to view larger)

DSCF3920(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/2.2 – Click to view larger)

From there we moved to another barn to get a different look.  This barn was red, with white trim around the windows, so Saige chose a white top to compliment the colours.  Due to space I switched out to the wider lens on the Fuji X100s, but used the 35mm teleconverter to get a little bit more of a pleasing perspective for portraiture:

DSCF5134(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

DSCF5122(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

In another part of this park there is this amazing bench, under the shade of this amazing tree, in this amazing field (I’m starting to channel Bob Ross apparently).  We tried several looks there but by now it was noon, the sun was high, and the light was not working in our favour.

You win some, you lose some.  😦

I did, however, get one of my favourite shots:

DSCF3963(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/1.6 – Click to view larger)

A few things came together in this photo:  Saige  is beautiful.  Shade from the tree provided  diffused light on her face, and the incredibly shallow depth of field of the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 lens shot at f/1.6 gave a beautiful out of focus background which really made her pop.  Love it!

Finally, we spotted this great field full of tall grass on our way back to the parking lot.  We wandered into the field and a series of events occurred  that soon had us laughing (stepping in hidden puddles of water, getting poked in inappropriate places by the grass, etc).  This made it very easy to capture some more great portraits of Saige:

DSCF5166(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

This was a great way to spend a sunny winter day.  The sky was beautiful, it was warm, and I got to spend time creating images with a friend.

The recent trimming down of gear in my camera bag (and my shift to working with small Fuji cameras) has shifted my focus away from the technical aspect of my photography and put it more on capturing who my subject really is.   Each shoot takes me one step closer to who I want to be as a photographer, which is a great thing.