I’m going to be honest with you. I have never understood the appeal of the FujiFilm Instax Mini film and cameras. Yeah, they’re cute and all but I wrote them off as a hipster craze. As proven time and time again in my life, I’m a moron who can miss the point.
On my recent trip to Marrakech, Morocco I was asked if I wanted to take the new Neo Classic Instax Mini 90 camera along for the ride. Full disclosure, I was in Morocco to shoot for Fuji with their new XT1 camera. Instax is a completely different division from the digital camera side of Fuji that I have worked with. This is not a paid endorsement or anything like that. This is a completely independent take on something that happens to fall under the FujiFilm name. My job was to shoot with the XT1. The Instax was sort of an after thought that I could take or leave. Cool? Cool.
Within thirty minutes of being on the streets in Marrakech I found that photographing people was going to require something of me that I don’t deal with often. That requirement was money. No matter which street I went down, which corner I turned, which shop I walked into — Money talks. Photographers walk. My local guide informed me that this was going to be the case for the entire trip. The cost? 20 to 40 Dirhams would be sufficient in most cases. That’s basically $3 to $5 whenever I began to interact with someone. I was going to be broke by the end of day one.
Now then, let’s get this discussion out in the open right away. To pay for photos or not. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the issue. Some photographers refuse to pay anyone to get a photograph. It’s damn near a morality issue for them. Other photographers don’t mind spending a few dollars to shoot a portrait of someone. Me? I don’t mind giving a few dollars here and there. Here’s how I see it: I’m an outsider. I’m a voyeur. I come out of nowhere and ask for someone to give me something of themselves. They are giving me access. They are giving me time. They are giving of themselves and I’m supposed to take some moral high ground and say that isn’t worth something? If I value the photographs I am making how can I look at my subjects and say I don’t value them?
Again, I’m an outsider. I have no reason to be in some of the places where I end up except to shoot pictures and experience something new to me. If I break it down and get honest, I’m darting through back alleys for completely selfish reasons. The people I meet have no reason to trust me. They really have more reasons to NOT trust me. They have no reason to give me access to their lives. They are living their day to day and I come bounding in with a camera and want something of them and then to not give something in return? See the end of this post for some links to great posts on this subject.
I don’t have a picture unless I either steal it (which I do on the streets quite a bit) or someone gives me access and gives me their time. Time and access is worth something. I’m ok with that. I’m not into shooting landscapes and buildings. Even if I was I’d probably be paying to get access in the form of admission prices and tickets to a park. Amirite?
In Marrakech I was dropping bills like Snoop Dogg at a strip club then I remembered that I had the Instax Neo Classic with me. I wanted to share my photography with the people I met but many didn’t have an email address or Facebook page. Hey! I could shoot a little Instax photo for them and give them that! Brilliant huh? I’m so smart! I started shooting Instax pictures and a new level of trust, interest, and access was now mine for a simple instant photograph.
I’d walk down an alley, meet someone, and ask to take their picture. I was told no nine out of ten times. Then I’d ask if I could take a picture for them. Eyebrows would sort of raise and I think out of curiosity many would then say yes. I’d snap a photo with the Instax and we’d stand there together watching the image magically appear. Then others would start to congregate and a lot of laughter and chatter in multiple languages would start. Then… everyone wanted an Instax. I was in like Flynn. For the price of a few Instax photos I was not just another tourist being a voyeur. I was sharing the very thing that I love so much with the subjects I wanted to meet and photograph. Everyone was happy.
Then something happened. I fell in love with these tiny ass photos. They really are beautiful little prints. I’d watch the image come up and then say… I want one of those too! I’d take two shots at times. One for them and one for me. Son of a gun. There’s a reason people love these little cameras and prints! Let me share how I kept them protected during my travels.
The film comes in a little plastic cartridge that you simply drop into the camera. I kept the box the film came in and all of the plastic cartridges. When I finished a pack of film I’d break off the little plastic tab and remove the light tight protective strip on the edge where the film pops out.
The tab is easy enough to break by applying a small amount of pressure with your thumb. The strip is easy to remove as well by pushing it in with your finger nail until a corner pops out. Grab that corner of the strip and simply pull it off the cartridge. Once that is done you can now slide prints back into the cartridge for storage. I slide them in with the thicker white border going in first. The reason I do this is so when I want to slide the print back out I can push on that part of the print without getting finger prints on the image itself. Once you fill a cartridge you can then slide that back into the original box and your prints are safe and secure.
For the first image above I used the “party mode” or whatever it’s called. It’s basically a slow sync with the on camera flash. I found I preferred having the camera set to -1 darker most of the time.
It is safe to say that I’m a new bandwagon jumper for Instax Mini cameras. Of course I love the looks of the Neo Classic ($153.17 on Amazon) due to it favoring the Fuji X cameras I have come to love. The camera is very lightweight and fit just fine in my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 camera bag (Amazon for $143 or at MPEX for $137). I’m planning my trip for Cuba next month and I’m going to be ordering quite a few five packs of Instax film. You can get a five pack (50 images total) for $36.31 on Amazon right now.
Fuji has recently announced the Instax Share SP-1 WIFI printer (Available June 1). It hasn’t been released in the States yet so I haven’t had a chance to try one of those out although I did see it at CES earlier this year. Right now those printers only connect to iOS and Android. I hear they will soon be able to connect directly to a WIFI Fuji X camera. That will be amazeballs. Check out Matt Brandon’s recent review of the SP-1 printer and thoughts on sharing photos with subjects over on Digital Trekker. I’d also love for you to read Fernando Gros’ post Taking Photos or Sharing Them and then read his great post Stealth Photography and Other Urban Problems.
Are you into the Instax cameras? What has been your experience with them?
PS – The XT1 full review is in the works now that I’m home. Stay tuned! I’ll also be talking about the 10-24mm f4, the 56mm f1.2, and the 27mm f2.8 pancake lenses.