Photo Printing Through the Years

Photo Printing Through the Years

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Photo printing has been around for centuries and is one of the most popular ways for people to make memories last a lifetime and add fun imagery to everyday life. 

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Go To Best 10 Apps for Photo Printing
  1. Printing Origins
  2. Black & White Paper
  3. Printing From Negative Images
  4. Polaroid Cameras
  5. Photo Print Uses

The term photographic printing refers to the process of transferring a photograph onto paper using specialized paper. The whole process began around the mid-1800s with the invention of the camera. Soon after, photographers began finding ways to use combinations of chemicals and metals to transfer these photographs. Sir John Herschel, for instance, was trying to find a way to easily create copies of blueprints for construction when he discovered a way to print photos on cyanotype. 

Moving to the 1900s, a man named Eastman Kodak invented a camera with its own roll of film. The photographs were stored on the film in the camera (which back then was not available to the actual user of the camera). Once the user had taken the allotted amount of photos, they would mail the whole camera back to the Kodak company who would develop and send back prints of the photos. This process made the larger cameras using glass plate technology rather obsolete, left for only professional photographers.

One popular way to print photos was also printing on black and white paper. This whole process involves four steps, all of which take place in a darkroom used by professional photographers to create prints. These types of rooms are often featured in movies and television shows, but few people understand the full process and the work it takes to make these prints look their best. 

To begin with, the image is exposed onto sensitized paper with some sort of enlarger or printing press before a chemical process ensues. The latent image is then processed in a chemical reaction. This process involves developing the exposed image in silver halide and then diluting the chemicals to stop development at just the right moment. That's the part in the movie where you see the photographer dip the image into the pan of water. This also removes the processing chemicals so that the final print will not fade or deteriorate further beyond its fully developed state. 

Along with black and white, negative images can be used for printing photos in color as well. This process is typically referred to as chromogenic printing, silver halide printing, or dye coupler printing. These types of prints are basically photos created from a color negative, a transparency, or a digital print. These digital prints include 3 layers that help the development process. These layers are made up of gelatin, which contains silver halide to create light sensitivity. The gelatin also includes a dye coupler that pairs together the proper colors to create the desired print on the final canvas. 

Today, this process still remains and is used by Kodak Endura and Fujifilm to print high-quality photos, especially for marketing and advertising. An abbreviated form of this process takes place in at-home color printers when using special photo paper composed of a similar combination of gelatin layers and dye coupler technology. Using these kinds of printers at home allows for non-professional photographers to have high-quality photo printing for their phone, computer, or digital camera. 

As the process of printing photos in color was heading toward today's technology, a shortcut in the process led to a pop culture icon that we still see today. The Polaroid camera, or instant camera, has its own film that develops itself and prints the photograph in a matter of minutes. The late 20th century was the golden age of Polaroids, which were an incredibly popular way to commemorate special moments. The obvious benefit was not having to wait to get the film developed to have the picture. The user simply pointed the camera, clicked the button to capture the image, and then waited for the camera to print the photo. 

However, the largest downside was simply slightly lower quality than regular photographs from film that had to be developed by a professional. These would take days or weeks at a time, so most people were happy to trade instant photos for slightly lower quality. These Polaroid cameras are still around today at reasonable prices and are a popular throwback style of photograph alternative to smartphone photographs. 

Whether the photo printing takes place in an instant process as with the Polaroid camera, a home printer, or professional photo printing, people print photos for a variety of different reasons. Many people will use their Polaroid camera photos to create mini photo journals to commemorate a trip or special occasion while people can print 8x10 inch photos from their phones on their at-home printers. These photos can be put in frames around the house, mailed to loved ones as gifts, or used for work projects. 

If photographers want to print out larger photos, they'll typically have them done by a printing service like FedEx, Walgreens, or CVS Photo for posters, pamphlets, or advertising stickers. Few people still use the classic Kodak style cameras that force users to send the film away for development. Smartphones made this technology obsolete because people prefer to see the image instantly on their phones. This also gives the user the option to take as many photos as they want rather than only using a few shots on film for each particular moment. 

As photo printing advanced through the years, the major changes all led to greater convenience for the user and greater accessibility to professional level photographs. 

  • Print up to 1,000 4x6 photos a year for FREE! No subscriptions. No commitments.

    4.8 Ratings 687K+ Reviews 5M+ Downloads
    • I had seen the commercial on TV several times, which is how I learned of FreePrints. I couldn’t believe a company would offer so many free prints & all I had to pay for was shipping. I finally went to their website to see what this was all about. Sure enough, 85 prints per month, free. So I went ahead and tried this out, with just a few pictures I had already on my phone. I also ordered double prints, so I could give my Mom copies, if they were good enough to share. For a low low price & shipping, under $10, I received my pictures. I was really impressed with the light cardboard envelope they came in. The pictures came out so good. I am on a limited income, so I can’t afford much, but each month now I want to order more of my digital saved pictures. I also ordered the free magnet pictures they offered with my 2nd order. Oh My Gosh!!! They are great also. Now I want to re-do the pictures on my fridge. I also want to get the free tile picture that is offered each month. I’m a picture person, my family is displayed on most of my walls. Try this, you won’t be disappointed.
      Grama Debi


  • Free Print, Grad, Invitation, Card, Personalize, Blanket, Pillow, Mother, Father

    4.5 Ratings 111K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    • Okay so y’all may see the reviews all over the place but imma be real with you there were some problems but that was on my part because I did not have a lot of space on my phone it said the photos were not available so I had to delete some apps and then it worked perfectly fine. When I went to place my order I did get 100 pictures free but obviously you have to pay for shipping but I’m okay with it because in free prints it is more expensive for less pictures so this is really good and it does make sure everything is good . I had put my mom’s address for billing but it said there was a problem so then I put mine and it worked perfectly fine , I guess I had to put where my card goes which is a first but I like it . Also it does tell me if some are low resolution which I like and my order did not take long to happen and I will put how my pictures are when they arrive but all was really good, thank you.


  • Print photos at Walmart. Order prints easily. 1hr Walmart pickup

    4.8 Ratings 18K+ Reviews 100K+ Downloads
    • I did think I was going to be able to choose from so many places how convenient!!! I haven’t picked up yet but so far way easier an faster than going into the store am doing it!!


  • CVS Photo Prints. Ready in 1 Hour. Print Pictures From Your Phone. No Kiosks!

    4.8 Ratings 132K+ Reviews 100K+ Downloads
    • I recently was in CVS using the old fashion method with the USB cord to print my pictures for some reason, no matter how many times I retried all of my pictures didn’t display. So I sought out to find an app that would allow me to print ALL of my pics.... and long and behold. It was so easy. Didn’t even take me all of 5 minutes to select my pictures, the finish, as well as the sizes. Now all I’m waiting for is an email letting me know when I can go pick them up.


  • WALGREENS PHOTO partner - store for prescriptions, coupons, photos and shopping

    4.8 Ratings 299K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    • I went to the store in the morning. We tried to download my pictures to the kiosk. I had a manager & the photo tech try to help me to no avail. The manager suggested that I go home & try the app on my iPad. What a great suggestion. I was ready to give up. Using the Walgreens photo print 1 hour app, I was able to download 100 pictures. I received an email when the photos were ready (& yes 1 hour). When I went to the store, my prints were great. The photo tech (who didn’t know about the trouble I had earlier) had me look at the prints. She asked how many I had. She then produced a coupon for me. I paid less than 1/2 the price quoted on line. Way to go! Great customer service.
      perfect prints


  • Get unlimited free prints, only on the Shutterfly app!

    4.6 Ratings 493K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    • I am a novice with Shutterfly and was trying to assemble a photo book from my iPhone. After 3 separate calls to your tech support team...my order was processed to my amazement and satisfaction. I called 3 times because after first problem I had was solved by your team, I felt I was ok to to continue on my own.. unfortunately, I continued to assemble my book only to run into another hurdle. Your patient tech support rep was supportive of me and spoke to me with empowering words that helped my confidence to continue creating my book. I was able to proceed with my assembly until I reached my third roadblock. By this time I was frustrated and gave up, but this book was very important to me to give to my daughter for graduating college with her MBA degree and my granddaughter graduating with her with her Associate’s Degree. I do not want to but it was important for me to call tech-support again. And the person on the other in once again very kind, very helpful, very patient, very reassuring and talked me through and process and my book was ordered. Just want you to know the character and caliber of people you’ve selected to work with your customers. I appreciate your choices. I neglected to get names this time but I need tech-support again I will have names to pass on to you. I am at 5 Star in satisfaction Shutterfly customer.


  • The best app to print your photos: Prints, Posters, Albums, Magnets, Canvases

    4.7 Ratings 83K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    • So easy and so fast! It takes a few minutes to choose the pics we want to frame or create a book or whatever version this App has to offer. Delivery time is amazing & the quality is top notch. Kudos to LALALAB. Team!


  • Walmart Photo Prints. Always Low Print Prices. 1 Hour Pickup

    4.8 Ratings 36K+ Reviews 50K+ Downloads
    • I have used this app to print my photos out at Walmart too many times to count. It is very easy to use and you can select as many or as little photos as you want to print. Even if you only want to print out 1 picture, you can do it on this app. I have never had any problems with the app or picking the pictures up from Walmart.


  • Print Photos and Photo Gifts in 1 Hour at CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, Target

    4.8 Ratings 39K+ Reviews 100K+ Downloads
    • Needed to get passport photos for myself and my husband QUICK! Took pictures at home at 7:30 AM and picked up the pictures by 8:15I received a notification that the photos were ready at 8:06 AM! This technology is wonderful! Went straight to file my application for my passport right afterwards. I would highly recommend and both sets cost less than $1 at CVS! They even offered to cut the pictures and put them in a little folder to protect them!
      Mobile App Maven


  • FREE app for PIXMA & MAXIFY by Canon
    Print from your smart device easily

    4.4 Ratings 7K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    • There was no hassle in connection with the printer and device using to the WIFI. Very fast speed in locating the printer on the app compared to its old app Canon Print


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