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.



4 thoughts on “A photograph needs to be real: The beauty of the Fuji Instax Printer

  1. andykidd says:

    Food for thought. I met a Fuji rep who insists printing the image is necessary A) to filter the rubbish out and B) to safely store these best images – as digital storage is not going to last. Also – your point about the image “speaking to you”. Cheers Andy

    • Ian says:

      The long term storage issue is a very real thing Andy, but what really speaks to me is the part about filtering. It is so easy to store endless GB of pictures on a hard drive. It is, however, a much more difficult thing to edit down to a favourite list and print them. I’m sure that would be a worthwhile process for all of us to go through.

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