When I was a kid, I dreamed of having that “magical camera that makes photos immediately.” Of course, I’m talking about an instant camera. Nowadays, it seems they are being resurrected. You can buy all kinds of these, or even make them yourself. Photographer and vlogger Josh Katz shares his thoughts on why every photographer should experiment with instant cameras. Even if you otherwise shoot digital, you can learn something new and apply the knowledge to your digital photography. And here’s how instant cameras helped Josh improve his work.
Before we begin, one more thing – I’ve noticed Josh uses the term “Polaroid” for all instant cameras. Some commenters wrote this makes them cringe, but keep in mind that “Polaroid,” for many people, is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of instant cameras. In Serbian, “Polaroid” is even the official generic term for all instant cameras. Now that we’ve cleared this out, let’s get to the reasons why you should use them.
Just like shooting 35mm film, using instant cameras makes you be more selective. You’ll learn to be more careful and choose perfect timing for the photo. You’ll start appreciating quality over quantity. There’s no shooting dozens of shots just so you can select the best one later. But also, I think it teaches you patience to plan your shots.
Instant cameras are relatively cheap; you can get them for under $90. Although, instant film isn’t really the cheapest there is. But I guess it will help mastering that selectiveness I mentioned above.
3. Feedback loop
Both previous points can be applied to film photography in general. But with instant cameras, you see the result almost immediately, which isn’t the case with 35mm film. So, it’s a kind of a compromise between digital and film photography. You need to be selective about the shots you take, but you can see them soon after you’ve made them.
With instant cameras and fixed lenses, you can’t crop the photo after you shoot it. You need to frame it properly in camera, which will hone your skills and make you think about the shot before you take it.
5. Focusing on the composition
This reason leans on the previous one. Since instant cameras don’t have so many settings like digital ones, you can focus more on the composition and not think about the settings. As mentioned, you need to get it right, because there’s no post-processing. Which leads us to the next point.
6. No editing
When shooting with an instant camera, there’s no editing involved. Again, it lets you focus more on the composition and makes you wait for the perfect moment. But also, it makes you try your best to get the best possible shot in-camera. And I’d say, at times, it’s kinda liberating as well.
What was the last time you felt anticipation and excitement to see your photos? It happens when you develop a film, but this feeling may be weaker for digital photographers. When you shoot with an instant camera, you can have that feeling of anticipation before you see your photo appear. Although to be honest, I feel stoked even after I finish shooting digital photos. I can’t wait to get them transferred to Lightroom, edit them and see how they’ll end up looking. But, if you’ve lost this feeling, Josh suggests instant cameras might bring it back.
8. The “cool factor”
Finally, there’s what Josh calls “the cool factor.” The instant photos look great, and the cameras attract the looks. People might stop you in the street and get interested in your gear. Other photo enthusiasts may want to discuss it or exchange experiences, which can lead you to interesting conversations. In my book, attracting attention is actually a big minus. But if you like interacting with strangers, this is one of the things an instant camera will certainly get you.
In conclusion, instant cameras can be great if you want to challenge yourself. While they probably won’t be your bread and butter gear, you can use them to mix things up a bit and refresh your passion for photography if it began to fade. As far as I’m concerned, I still want to get one. I see some of Josh’s reasons as legit, but in my case – it would mainly be fulfilling a childhood dream.