When Was the Last Time You Printed a Photograph?

If you remember a time before everyone had a mobile phone in their hand, chances are you’ve also got some film negatives somewhere in your home gathering dust.

And I’m also willing to bet that, unless you’ve made a conscious effort, it’s been a good while since you last printed one of your images.

I get it, technology is helping us to view images as ever more transient things.

The things is, while digital camera technology has made us feel safe, believing that our images are safe on our computer, hard drive, USB, cloud, and social media accounts—how often do you really look at them and enjoy them?

The last time I printed a photograph was six days ago, but it doesn’t really count.

I was using an Fujifilm Instax camera so taking the picture and printing it were technically one step. An impromptu purse-sized image for my mother-in-law of her newborn grandson.

But the last time I printed an image from a digital or film camera?

That would be…around two years ago: a collection of snaps I took after a couple of friends tied the knot in a simple registry ceremony in Hong Kong Park, which I made into a photo book. If I had been wondering whether it would be worth the effort, watching her cry as she leafed through the book dispelled any doubts.

Two years ago.

I’ve no shortage of albums featuring family, friends, Hong Kong, Asian holidays and special moments, all quite carefully filed in folders on my computer and my hard drive, all destined never to be printed and displayed.

Most people reading this are no doubt more proactive than me, but I daresay there will be a good few who haven’t printed their images in a long time.

So in 2016, I am going to start printing my images, a quick Google search reveals there are three printing shops within a short distance of my house, which negates any argument of impracticality.

And with online options and affordable home printers, there really is no excuse.

And I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Photographer and blogger Missy Mwac has the right idea:

fpufguhqq5fpmmh4jtrf.jpgThis article originally began with the intent to let everyone know about the FilmToaster, an invention of 78-year-old photographer Cecil Williams and has gone on quite a tangent…

When Williams discovered that a significant number in his collection of over half a million film negatives was at risk of being lost to old age, he spent six years building a machine capable of quickly and easily scanning high quality digital copies from negatives of all different sizes.


He said, “I was alarmed at the rate of the decline. This happens just like cancer. It spreads.”

Once damaged, the negatives need to be thrown away due to fire risk.

“Our heritage, our history, our legacy, our culture lies in someone taking the responsibility to save archives like my collection.”

The FilmToaster photographs the negatives in less than 5 or 6 seconds, preserving and converting the negative into digital format in less time and with higher resolution than a flatbed scanner.

“Once your negative is digital, then you can put it on the computer. You can add metadata to it. You can use digital asset management software to further identify when it was or who it was in the picture.”

The product was debuted at the New York Photo Expo in October and, so far, Williams has sold 63 units and is looking to museums and archiving house as ideal customers.

With an introductory price tag of $1,699 (regular price $2,399) it may be out of the reach of many, but may be bought as an investment for communities, especially considering the fact it does not require electricity to function, meaning it will not find itself obsolute in 15 years.

Williams, 78, says it has become difficult to stay ahead in the photo and digital technology world because everyone thinks they’re a photographer, ”

However, I would call myself a real photographer. I go beyond what a lot of the instant picture-taking does today through cellphones and digital cameras.
I think I stay ahead by doing things other people cannot do.”

So whether you’re preserving your film collection for future generations or printing the places and faces as you see them now, make it a thing for today, not tomorrow.