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.