Printing and Gifting Photographs Nowadays

Earlier this evening, a colleague invited me over for dinner. His wife was cooking a Korean meal. Wanting to be a good guest, I knew that I should bring with me a small gift of appreciation for their hospitality. However, I was unsure what I should give them.

Then I remembered him telling me that his wife really enjoyed looking through the vacation photos that I posted throughout the summer on Facebook—she said that I had a good eye. If she truly enjoyed my photos, then maybe she would like to look through a stack of my 8” x 10” prints and keep some of them? This gift idea seemed like a reasonable choice. After all, I already had the prints and always enjoy the conversations that my photos spark between me and other people. So, when it was time for my dinner engagement, I brought with me my cardboard envelope of prints, and my colleague’s wife was quite happy selecting seven photos that she liked.

During my stay in Doha this past year, I have been taking considerably more photographs and don’t know if I have become a better photographer or if I have access to better subjects to photograph. Nonetheless, people have responded positively to the images that I share on social media and the physical photos that I have offered as gifts; this interest in my photos as gifts has encouraged me to explore various mediums for printing my photos. Thus, for this week’s blog post, I thought that I would discuss four online services that I have enjoyed using to print my photos.


Long ago, I remember taking 35mm film to the store to get developed. You would drop it off, and in about a week, your prints would be ready for pick up. Then digital film became the norm, and this sped up the printing process considerably. Most stores could provide you with prints in less than an hour. More recently, Instagram and its brethren social media became the medium for sharing images, and casual photographers eschewed the need to print photos when they could be shared instantly online.

Still, sometimes in this new picture paradigm, dodos like me want to print photos, and my go-to online printer has always been Snapfish. While you can easily order prints from the webservice, what I like most about it is its capability to create hardcover photo books.

Last month, for instance, for my mother’s birthday, I created a photo book of the pictures that were shot during the trip she, my boys, and I took to Canada. I was awake in London at 3am dealing with jetlag, using the Snapfish website to compile photos for a photo book. At about 8am, I finished it, submitted the order, and then fell asleep. It’s so much easier to create photo albums nowadays from anywhere in the world with internet access.


Several years ago, I became fascinated with the idea of decorating my apartment walls with canvas prints of my snapshots, yet I was unsure how feasible this would be due to the pricing of such a printing process. After exploring different options on the internet, I discovered a method through CanvasPop that made this idea more affordable.

CanvasPop allows you to upload your images from your computer, Instagram, or other social media sites; and if you upload photos with a squared layout (like the standard on Instagram), this is slightly less costly to print than a photo with a rectangular layout. Moreover, the service offers deals that further reduced the printing price, for example, 50% off all orders of $200 or more. (Note: Snapfish provides a variety of deals on its website too.)

If there isn’t a deal with savings sufficient to my liking, I might keep an order queued up in my online cart until the site supplies a deal that I could utilize. Ordering in bulk from CanvasPop using its generous deals allowed me to inexpensively purchase canvas prints for family during the holidays and gain a print for myself through the savings.

One of the nice features of photos printed on canvas and stretched on a wooden frame is that they are ready to hang when once they arrive—no need to hunt for the perfect display frame like with photos printed on paper. Additionally, Snapfish is able to print panoramic photos as well, but I haven’t figured out a way to bring down the cost of this process, besides ordering canvas prints without the wooden frame. Unless you know how to build custom wooden frames to stretch canvas, ordering prints without the frame really isn’t a frugal idea.


At the end of my first academic year in Doha, I had accumulated a body of interesting photos I stored on Instagram and was curious about my options for printing them. Through my research, I learned about the webservice Origrami that would ship for free to most places in the world. This shipping capability piqued my interest since most sites like the ones I mentioned previously (i.e., Snapfish and CanvasPop) do not ship for free to the Qatar.

Origrami is a printing service run by a husband and wife team based in Sydney, Australia; and what I liked most about the service was the endearing printing options. First, the Retroprint option allows you to get 36 4” x 5” prints and select the designer theme for the back of the photos. The two designer themes that I like are postcard and photomap. Photomap uses the Instagram metadata from the photo to provide a map of where the picture was approximately taken. Second, the Retro Cards option allows you to get 18 cards with envelopes. This is great if you want to create your own custom blank cards that you can use for a variety of purposes (e.g., birthdays, congratulations, thank-you’s, etc.).

While in Qatar, I placed my first Origrami order and after six to eight weeks, it finally arrived. I was quite happy with the prints, so I decided to place another order, but this time I would have it shipped to the US. I thought that the prints would make interesting gifts for my family and friends back home, and it would be faster and easier for me to ship them to the US and await my arrival. My one check-in bag was already bursting from all the souvenirs and gifts that I had crammed into it!

My second Origrami order arrived in a week or two—just in time for my arrival in the US. And, sure enough, my family and friends enjoyed sifting through the prints and choosing the ones they liked as gifts.


Recently, I thought that I should do a better job of staying in touch with my nieces. I videochat with them every so often, but they are young and don’t really have the attention to have a sustained conversation with aloof Uncle Conan. So, one idea I considered was sending them monthly postcards updating them about my adventures and letting them know that I was thinking about them. However, there isn’t an abundance of interesting postcards in Qatar, and shipping outside of the country can be slow and costly.

The adage of the internet age seems to be, “Ask and you shall receive an app!” because when I was back in the US, I noticed that my Millennial sister had sent my mom a Mother’s Day card using Sincerely. This is an app-based print service that allows you to create and send postcards from your phone. The god of disruptive innovation already anticipated my need and was waiting for me to voice my request.

After my travels to London and Sri Lanka respectively, I sent my nieces two postcards from my phone. I created the Sri Lanka postcard while waiting in the airport at the end of my trip. Sincerely is quite convenient and fairly inexpensive: each postcard cost me $2 USD to create, print, and send. Generating a postcard in this manner is about as straightforward as writing an email using your cellphone.

Even though my nieces don’t live in the Mesozoic age of 35mm film and printing processes that take a week, I still like to believe that they will enjoy receiving a photo keepsake from me via snail mail and a reminder that I am thinking about them. If not, then in the minds of the two young girls, maybe I will become aloof and eccentric Uncle Conan who takes and prints pictures the old-timey way of long, long ago.

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