I took along a Polaroid printer when I traveled to Cuba earlier this year. It enabled me to make prints of my iPhone photos via Bluetooth. I gave the prints to people I had photographed with my iPhone after I had photographed them with my Fuji X-T1. The printer is small (2.91″ x 4.72″) and lightweight (0.41 lb.), important since I travel as light as I can when visiting a country such as Cuba.
Prior to traveling with the Polaroid printer I used a Fujifilm Instax Mini, an instant film camera. The quality of the images was “okay,” and the recipients of the prints were thrilled and excited. However I was very sad giving away some good photos and coming home with no copies.
Fast forward to my recent trip to Cuba. Before leaving I decided to sell the Instax and to buy a small printer. I experimented with a Fuji printer and the Polaroid. I bought the Polaroid because I liked the color and image quality better. Of course the Polaroid prints are small and never as good as a print from my Epson printer, but they are lots of fun to make and hand out.
A downside to my Polaroid printer is that it takes a few minutes for the print to come out. Sometimes waiting can be a hassle if your traveling companions want to move on. But sometimes it provides the opportunity to develop a relationship with the person whose photograph you just took. For me, building relationships is key to making new friends while traveling and for photographing people (if you aren’t shooting candids). I love seeing the smiles on peoples faces as they watch the photo emerge from the printer. Many times it is an icebreaker and the person whose picture I just took is open to more photographs, with my “real” camera.
This happened in Vinales, Cuba. I had walked down a small, muddy path to meet a farmer and his extended family living in a little wooden house. I didn’t know what to expect. Either did they. I was with someone who spoke Spanish, Jim Cline, whose tour group I had come to Cuba with. He helped with conversation. I took some pictures with my Fuji X-T1. I then took out my phone and snapped some shots. The farmer and his wife patiently waited for the print, eyes wide. I could feel it….the ice was broken. I put away the iPhone and took out the Fuji. Teasing the husband to give the wife a kiss, I started shooting as they played along. They were having fun and got into the moment.
The best part of traveling with the printer is that I come home with the images. I do not give them away as I did with the Instax camera. All photos in this post, except for “the kiss”, are from my iPhone. As you can see my iPhone images rival the images from a “real” camera.
I have never completed a course or read a book on iPhone photography. I take my photographs just like I do with my Fuji. I consider the direction and quality of the light, integrate elements of design, and seek out uncluttered backgrounds. I focus on the subject, and adjust exposure as necessary, using the flash and HDR settings.
One more thought on photographing people. I usually shoot continuously, taking a short burst of images, even with my iPhone. My experience is that people who know they are being photographed are more natural towards the end of the burst–they are use to me clicking and think less of posing themselves. A staged smile only lasts so long.
Of course you don’t need to limit yourself to prints of people. You can give away photos of anything that might interest the recipient, like their prize roses in their back yard or the front door of their business. Remember, you are not just taking a photograph. You are creating a memory with a new friend.