My Favorite New Photography Tool When I Travel

My Favorite New Photography Tool When I Travel

I have had the privilege of traveling all over the world as a photographer and love shooting photos of locals. They always light up seeing the images of themselves. However, I realized that while they loved seeing the images on the back of my camera, I was missing something important. Many of these people, especially those in third world countries, don't even have a single printed image of themselves. I found a way to change all that.

Having been to Paraguay in the past I knew that very few people, especially those outside the city, have any printed images of themselves. Not only is it an expense that many don't have the money for, but there are only a handful of places that even print images. As my wife and I planned our trip to visit the country with suitcases stuffed with charitable items I could not stop thinking about how I would love to find a way to print beautiful images for people anywhere, anytime as I traveled throughout the country. Fortunately I found a solution that worked incredibly.


I purchased a Canon SELPHY CP900 Color Photo Printer from Amazon. This amazing little printer is portable and light weight. It fit perfectly into my Think Tank Airport International V 2.0 Bag while I traveled and my Dakine Mission Camera Backpack when we visited the more rural areas of the country. In addition to the printer, I also purchased the battery and CP200 Battery Charger. Unfortunately the battery and battery charger are not cheap. The charger alone is about as expensive as the printer and hopefully Canon will be able to change that or a third party can come up with a better solution soon. But with the battery you are able to print in the most rural of areas which is a nice convenience.

My two boys in the middle surrounded by their new friends.

Another thing that I loved about this printer is the ink/paper combination (Canon KP-108IN Color Ink Paper Set 3115B001) that you buy for it. The paper is great quality and even waterproof. When it comes out of the printer it is completely dry and ready to be handled. The paper and ink both come in the same box - each box contains enough for 108 prints and it costs about $0.35 a print. What is nice is that the ink is designed to be enough to print 36 images and once it runs out you just pop out the cassette and slide a new one in. When I left for Paraguay I brought enough with me to print over 700 images. It was a bit much though, and in the future I will probably bring just a couple boxes with me (216 prints). As a side note, each time I went through security my bags full of paper and ink were flagged and inspected. One TSA agent explained to me that one of the most common ways of hiding contraband these days is in ink cartridges. It was never a big deal though and all of them were excited to hear about my project of making prints for those less fortunate. Also the Xray machines never ruined the paper in case you were wondering if it would.

If you opt to travel without the battery you can still use the printer easily in foreign countries. The plug in charger that comes with it accepts electrical inputs from 100V to 240V so it can be plugged directly into the wall. You might just need a small inexpensive fitting adapter in case the place you are visiting doesn't have a compatible outlet but those are cheap and can be picked up at just about any shopping center.


One last thing to keep in mind with the printer is it does accept SD cards directly. This was extremely useful when I used it in conjunction with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III as I was able to shoot photos on both the Compact Flash card in RAW and medium size JPEGs on the SD Card at the same time. Once I finished shooting some photos I would just pop the card out, insert it into the printer and from the display screen pick a few to print. It takes about 45 seconds per print and as I mentioned previously once it comes out it can be handled immediately without any need for it to dry. This is important as you'll notice that the kids are so excited to see the prints they want to handle them immediately. If your camera does not allow you to shoot onto SD cards you will want to bring your laptop with you so you can download the cards and send them to print from the computer. It was nice though for me to be able to leave the laptop packed away and work with the SD cards directly.

The first shot here shows my daughter passing out the printed photos to the line of children.

While I have been to Paraguay a few different times in the past, this journey with the printer was definitely the most rewarding. Part of our adventure took us 6 hours from the city to a village of Nivacle indians where about 400 people lived. There I had the incredible privilege of taking and printing hundreds of photos for the kids, families and couples there. The people there were beyond elated to have the images and my wife, kids and I felt so much joy being able to leave something behind with them that would be cherished throughout their life. I wanted to mention as well that when we first arrived the people were quite hesitant to even approach us but once I broke out the boxes of Ring Pops the kids came running. While most in the community spoke the traditional Nivacle language we found a few that were able to speak with us in Spanish and they translated for everyone. Most of our communication though was just smiles, laughing, and using the international "all is good" symbol of thumbs up.


I will continue bringing my Canon SELPHY CP900 Printer with me every time I travel and hopefully this article will inspire some of you to do the same. Let's get printed images into the hands of as many people as we can so they can see how beautiful they are and their family and friends can remember them even after they have lived their life. Often pictures of ourselves are the most valued items we leave behind after we pass away.

Lastly, please understand this is not an advertisement for the Canon. They did not ask me to write this. I bought the printer and supplies with my own money. Nothing was provided by them to me. I am simply sharing my experience here as I hope others will be inspired by it and be able to do the same when they travel.

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Will S's picture

This is a great idea, taking the time not just to whizz by with photo trophies for facebook but actually valuing the people you're looking at through the lens finder. SELPHY, polaroid, instant camera, it's about being a little less selfish as a photog. Good work.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thanks William. I love the phrase you used, "photo trophies for facebook." That is exactly what I wanted to avoid as well. I really wanted to use my time there to edify those in the community and in the end my wife, kids and I came away with an experience we'll never forget.

Todd Douglas's picture

Agree with William and love the idea! Great write up! Might have to borrow this idea...

Matt Kennedy's picture

I love everything about this Trevor! Great job brotha!

Reece Miller's picture

I think we just found a new use for our selphy :) Awesome hearing about your adventure!

Burt Johnson's picture

I visited Ecuador for 3 months last year. There is a European version of this printer that is used down there. I saw two photographers that would follow parades (there is a parade almost every week in Cuenca!). They would shoot the photos, then print them, rush back to the floats and sell the photos to the people in the parade.

I am going back there in October again. I have been planning to get one down there (so I can get supplies locally in Ecuador), and do a similar thing for a project I have in mind of the local markets. I figured giving them quick prints would help cement a friendship, and make them more amenable to my doing full photo studies of them.

Trevor Dayley's picture

That is fantastic Burt. You are absolutely right that the printed images will help with the relationship. I know after I delivered images to people from the first day word spread around and on the second day we were there people were even more receptive and excited to see us.

Spy Black's picture

That is a very kind and thoughtful thing you have done, and congratulations on your project.

I might suggest that perhaps you may want to look into rigging up a solar cell-based power supply system that you can use anywhere, not only to power your printer, but also to charge your batteries when you're out in rural areas where there maybe no immediate power.

Wayne Lennon's picture

if peoples camera doesnt use a SD card, you can get CF-SD adapters on ebay for about $20

Niall Hastie's picture

Super article, and an interesting and inspiring read! Great seeing those kids smiling with their photographs! Good job.

Joseph Gamble's picture

Great article Trevor. Very useful. I might consider using the printer with one of my Vagabond Mini units to power it while in the field. Wish I had this when I went to Guatemala in 2010.

Kevin Minnett's picture

It is a great idea. One that I have done in rural Mali in little villages. I travel with a 12 volt converter. You can always find a 12 volt battery from somewhere in the village. (Someone has one to power the TV for the football match). Pay for the charge when your done and everybody is happy with photos to keep. The Selphy has never let me done even in extreme temperatures.

Mark Schueler's picture

Great article! I have always thought the Selphy was a pretty cool concept, and now I'll have to finally buy one!

Jim Hofman's picture

I do a similar thing for my "models" in a small town in China - except not nearly as immediate. I go to China on business every 60 days and bring prints from the previous trip for people I photographed (if I can find them...)

Ray King's picture

Great read. Thanks for this. I will check this out and be using it soon!

gustavoschiavon's picture

My colleague Nando Azevedo is on the road with a similar project but using a Polaroid compact printer, check it out:

Trevor Dayley's picture

Love it. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Nando Azevedo's picture

Thanks for Sharing "THE PHOTO GIVING PROJECT" Gus. Indeed they are both very similar except that I cant write as well as Trevor. That is why I have filmed it.

If anyone is interested there were 7 different episodes all on vimeo

and the photos are on my website under the "Documentary assignments" tab

Hope everyone enjoys that, I know I did.

Kevin Blood's picture

You have really inspired me. I have not had the opportunity to travel abroad yet but, because of your insight I will definitely include a portable photo printer and plenty of print supplies in my gear. Photography is my life and your idea is a magnificent gift to those who may not have the ability to enjoy these simple images which we take for granted.

Thank you.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thank you so much Kevin. So glad to hear you have been inspired by the post. I look forward to hearing about your future experiences.

Nicholas gonzalez's picture

Sound like it would be great with my 6D as it uses sd cards only. Thanks for the post!

Trevor Dayley's picture

Hey Nicholas. Thanks! Yes using the SD Cards makes it much easier as you can go from camera to printer immediately. The 6D would be perfect.

Danny 'Sambuca' Ackerley's picture

Fantastic stuff Trevor - they will treasure those photos! Power of photography is still alive and well :-)

Dylan Goldby's picture

We did this using the Dell Wasabi on our trip through South East Asia last year. I have never seen so many smiles. I have been looking into the SELPHY for our next trip. Larger prints would be even better, I think.

Daniel Ackerley's picture

Fantastic stuff Trevor - they will treasure those photos! Power of photography is still alive and well - brilliant!

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thank you Daniel. Yes power of photographer and prints is still alive.

Lisa S's picture

Awesome! I'm going to Nicaragua in September and will be working at a non-profit for five days. I'm doing a photography workshop for the kids with some cameras that were donated to me, so this could be the PERFECT addition to the workshop!

Trevor Dayley's picture

Lisa, that sounds like an incredible trip. I highly encourage you to give this a go. It not only is a blessing for the recipients but will bring you so much joy.

Paige Budde's picture

Wonderful story, Trevor! What special keepsakes you provided for these people, and what an incredible experience for your kids.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thank you Paige. My family definitely enjoyed the experience. We will be doing more of this for sure each time we travel.

Panchoskywalker's picture

Thanks for your article, I didn't know about this printer, any comment about color rendition? I would've appreciate a bit more about the story, the trip, the experience and a little less about the gear. But anyway, thank you.

Trevor Dayley's picture

The printer works marvelously. The colors come out absolutely beautiful.

Mikkel Larsen's picture

This is great. I hope I can do something similar one day, this is really inspiring. I want to travel around China, and there are definitely some remote and rural areas here. Next summer, my Chinese girlfriend and I plan to do volunteer teaching in a poor region in Yunnan province, I might have a go at it then! Amazing work!

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thank you so much Mikkel. Definitely do it. It is incredibly rewarding.

Hank's picture

Here is link on cheaper third party battery, it seems like there were quite a few just on Amazon. Op did not dig much:

Trevor Dayley's picture

Awesome. Thank you for sharing Hank. Glad to see another option is available that is cheaper.

Oscar Kickén's picture

Great stuff! Must have meant the world to them! I just love how you can touch people with photography in so many ways.

Nando Azevedo's picture

Congrats on the trip Trevor.
I guess if you have enjoyed this you might also like THE PHOTO GIVING PROJECT. It is a similar project where I was photographing and printing photos trough Sri Lanka and India. I have filmed it and posted it on vimeo

I am still uploading some photos for my website