It’s tough to find the perfect gift. For a lot of us, the “perfect gift” is a balance between something that’s useful and something that’s completely frivolous—something, perhaps, like instant photography tools us. Everyone already has a camera in their smartphone, so no one really needs an instant camera or instant photo printer. At the same time, however, they add a function to your day off that your phone can’t pull off on its own.
While your smartphone connects you to the office, your kid’s daycare, and that one guy from yoga who can’t quite master downward dog, your instant photography tools are something that exist purely for pleasure. They’re a way to capture moments with zero pressure, and are a great way to easily connect with loved ones.
While a new DSLR or another big-ticket item makes an amazing gift, instant photography offers the ability to start saving moments immediately. When you load your batteries into your brand new instant camera, you can have a photo developing in your hands in seconds. Cameras are a big part of the “instant” category, but they’re not the only option available anymore.
The Iconic Instant Analog Camera
If you want to snap shots on the go, I’m convinced that there’s nothing better than a Fujifilm Instax. They’re bright, durable, and easy to spot. Plus, they’re super popular—which means that you can pick up new film in any major drugstore, even while travelling. The Instax Mini’s small size and affordability have led to Fujifilm eclipsing the Polaroid monopoly on instant photos.
Within the Instax line, you’ll find plenty of options to suit yourself or your recipient. Models like the Fujifilm Instax 9 are bubble-shaped and made from a hard-to-drop matte plastic. They’re great for beach trips and other holidays (I’ve taken mine to Jasper, and loved it), and make excellent gifts for teens and college students. The Instax 9 is quite bright, however, which makes it less than ideal for moody goths and minimalist hipsters.
I’ll admit to being both at different points in my life: the former through high school and most of university, and the latter after I switched into an Arts program. My entire closet has slowly shifted from being all black to being all beige—it is not any better of a look on me.
For your colour-averse recipients, consider gifting them something like a Fujifilm Instax Square instead. The unique square prints are a little harder to come by, and the cameras and printers are just more aesthetic. They’re sleek and faux-metallic, in subtle colours.
When to Use Heat-Based Instant Photography
You essentially have two technology options when it comes to instant photography: ZINK technology and traditional film. The Instax line uses analog film, which develops like a Polaroid would. I love it because it’s completely non-digital. Each photo gets a really creamy look with zero pixelation and a natural filtered effect. ZINK paper is a little different. It’s used in cameras like the Polaroid SNAP, and it heats photo paper to shoot out an already-developed photo.
Personally, I think that ZINK photos look more digital. ZINK prints are pixel-based, and their colour feathering can be quite evident. But they have their strengths: namely, their sticky photo backing and low cost. While analog prints from the Fujifilm Instax line look great pinned up on a college bulletin board or strung along a family portrait wall, ZINK prints are amazing for families with young children. It’s easy to print dozens of ZINK photos in a day without worrying as much about cost or time, and kids can have fun sticking them to photo collages or school projects.
Both types of instant cameras are a fun addition to any party, but their differences make it worth choosing whichever one would best suit you, your gift recipient, or your holiday party. I love using take-home prints as event favours, too—they can be more affordable than a full-on photo booth, but they let your guests take their party snaps home with them that night!
Instant photography printers
I’ll admit it: I’m a little neurotic. I like being able to tweak my photos a little bit before printing or posting them, whether that means reviewing prints before they’re developed or adding a light filter to set a better mood. Printers like the Fujifilm Instax SHARE SP-2 and SQUARE SP-3, both of which I reviewed recently for the Best Buy blog, let me do that.
Instant photo printers are without a doubt the gold-standard instant photography gift for the perfectionist in your life. Fujifilm’s versions give you the beautiful finish of instant film without any of the pressure of getting the perfect shot the first time. (With only ten photos per pack, wasting film becomes a real issue!) Printers tend to be slightly pricier than your standard instant camera, but I wholeheartedly love and recommend them.
For use at a party, they can help cut down on the number of tools you have to bring, too. While every table needs an instant camera on-hand if they want to print from it, you’d only need a few printers per party. The printers can rotate their way through the event, and your friends and family can use them to take home their favourite smartphone snaps from the evening.
If quality is the most important thing to you, opt for the Fujifilm SHARE SP-2 or SQ SP-3. But if size is the real issue here? Give your recipient the Canon Ivy (reviewed here), a genius little tool that trades gauzy film for an incredibly small size.
Fun Event Ideas for Instant Photography
Instant printers and cameras are a hit all year long, but they’re a great investment for the packed holiday season. No one ever has enough time between gift-giving and eggnog-making. Instant photo printing takes one more destination off of your to-do list—and you can even print in full size with tools like the HP Sprocket Studio.
Let an instant tool deck out your party, winter wedding, or long weekend slumber party.
Shop instant photography must-haves at Best Buy.