Be honest, when was the last time you printed some photos? I guess it was quite a while ago, but who knows, maybe you do so every now and then... But when was the last time you made a proper album out of them? I’m sure that was ages ago for most people, or for the younger generation maybe never. Printing photos is something that went out of fashion in the digital world and I feel like that’s a shame. So here is a little rambling about film cameras and printing photos!
Everyone essentially has digital cameras in their pockets all the time (yes, I’m talking about your smartphone) which makes taking photos such an easy and trivial thing. Even if you use a DSLR like me, you end up taking thousands and thousands of photos. Long gone are the days when a roll of film had 36 shots and you only found out later whether they turned out nice. We just go click-click-click… The freedom to take many photos without the associated cost of film and film development is awesome, but it also makes us appreciate photos a lot less.
I got my Canon 5D Mark II quite a few years ago and I took well over 100 000 photos with it by this point. With a film camera I don’t even want to calculate exactly how much that would have cost, but that’s the equivalent of over 2700 rolls of film. But if I was shooting one of my film cameras – which I actually own a few of, I just rarely use them – I certainly wouldn’t have taken that many photos. Digital cameras allow me to take many shots and experiment a lot without costing me anything.
But let’s return a bit to film cameras. A few years ago, I was quite enthusiastic about film photography and I shot a bunch of film stuff. What film taught me was to think a lot more about each shot I was about to take. The old cameras and having so few shots in a roll makes me slow down. Granted, I also missed a bunch of shots while messing around with ‘70s Soviet cameras, trying to get them to focus correctly, set everything manually and guesstimate how much the light meter was off in any given moment. But interestingly, out of 36 shots on a roll of film there were way more interesting shots than out of any given 36 shot sequence on my digital camera. The other interesting thing I noticed as I shot film, that even when I was shooting digital, I took less photos, but there were just as many good shots among them. Say previously I’d shoot 400 photos in a photoshoot, but after shooting film, I started shooting only 250, but there were the same amount of ‘keepers’. I was thinking more before taking each photo!
I think there is somewhat of a similar phenomenon when it comes to looking at our photos: we have so many of them that the good ones get lost in the ocean of images! Getting prints is a bit like shooting film in the sense that it’s a bit old-school and it makes you appreciate your memories more. But first a side note: I am currently not shooting film for a variety of reasons. First is that while moving around (first the UK, now Spain), I wanted to minimize kit, so all my film gear is in Hungary, second is cost, and third is a peculiar one. Because I wear glasses, it’s pretty hard for me to focus with the film cameras I have, so I end up with a lot of out of focus pictures, which is annoying. Once I have some extra cash lying around, I’ll get myself a nice Nikon F3HP which is designed for people with glasses, so it has a giant viewfinder!
We end up shooting thousands and thousands of photos each year and most of them end up sitting on our phone, our hard drive, or maybe they go on social media. Either way, they have a very short time that they are enjoyed in. After that, just sitting in folders forever. While I do sometimes go through my old photos, it is usually for some purpose: choosing photos for my website, looking for images to illustrate blogposts, etc. But in the last few years I rediscovered printing as a way to help me appreciate photos more.
First, for the last few years wherever I lived, I created these huge photo collages on the wall. I took little clips and attached about 70-80 photos together to create a big ‘curtain’ of photos. These are photos from travels, photos of Aisling, my family and friends. They all have to have a sentimental value to be included. After all, these photos are memories, not just pretty things! Every now and then, I’ll print new photos and change it up a bit. For a while I had a black and white theme, with shots from around Cambridge and I later gave those prints to friends who now have their favorites up in their college rooms.
This very much ties into the second way I use prints: as gifts. I love giving people personalized gifts and what better than to just make a print and turn it into a postcard or thank you card? I usually do this when I’m not happy with the selection of postcards available in the places I travel to, if I’m up in the mountains where there are no postcards, or I just feel like experimenting.
Finally, I love making albums. It is not something that I do very often, but I love the process of going through old photos, selecting what to print, getting a nice album (I usually just use spiral sketchbooks with super thick paper), putting in the photos with double-sided tape and writing down random thoughts. I’ve made albums like this for Aisling and for Dad for his 50th birthday. They just make for such good trips down memory lane: once for me as I select the photos and make it, and once for them, as they flip through it the first time.
Top tip: make an album for a loved one! Tears of joy are almost guaranteed as they first look through it… I still don’t feel like I print enough of my photos, but I move around too frequently to amass huge album collections or just stacks of prints. Still, I do make a point of printing some of my best and most meaningful photos every now and then. I think it is something that makes me appreciate my photos more and look at them more often. They also make for great gifts!
Do you ever print your photos or make albums?