7 Reasons to Love Instant Film

6 min read by Bailey Tovar.

I love taking pictures. I believe that a photograph can preserve a single moment in ever-changing reality, forever. As we move forward in time, constantly altering our existence it’s nice to look back at old images and know that the memory we hold dear can be relieved again and again.

My adventure in photography started with digital tools. As the journey progressed, I got introduced to 35mm and instant film formats. And for that, I will always be thankful.

The medium, the culture, and the art are beautiful, addictive and inspiring. Millions of people use and love it for different reasons. Here are the seven that are mine.

Instant film is by far my favourite medium. It’s been gaining popularity quite fast recently (just check Instagram for #instax or #polaroid). I love how more people are being introduced to analog photography with the cute and quirky plastic Instax Mini camera bodies. An accessory made to project an easygoing fashion choice is now seen all over the streets as people from different walks of life take them along. They are beyond Fuji’s marketing experiment; they are the tools to capture the fleeting moments in time.

The medium, the culture, and the art are beautiful, addictive and inspiring. Millions of people use and love it for different reasons. Here are the seven that are mine:

Reason 1: Timelessness of Film.

Photo from my 93-year-old grandma’s assisted living apartment. Taken with Instax Mini 8.

Instant film might not have the same iconic appeal of the once ubiquitous 35mm film rolls. Yet the memories of it being a part of special events are still vivid with most of us who are over thirty. Those who lived through the golden age of Polaroid cameras are left with the sweet taste of nostalgia on their lips as they remember using them “back in the day.”

The photos shot on this format bring up memories of youth and family whenever I show them to friends or strangers. The way that the image gradually appears on the paper over time is an unforgettable experience.

Reason 2: Breaking the Ice.

Photo taken at a local park, where I received several strange looks and a few questions about my Polaroid 600.

Instant photographs are conversation starters. Whether you’re shooting with Instax Mini, Polaroid 600, Lomo Instant, Instax wide, or Polaroid Pic 300: amusement and curiosity always follow. Those who are older tend to wonder whether they’re having a deja vu or if instant film is really making its way back to reality. Younger people love to hold the pictures in hand; instant film is cool again!

It wasn’t difficult to convince those who are interested to go out and buy Instax or dust off that old Polaroid camera. Seems like my passion for the medium has rubbed off on a handful of great folks. I do want them to fall in love with it, just like I did.

Reason 3: Instant Gratification.

Portrait of my lovely friend Alex. Taken with Instax Mini 8.

There are many ways to hold a photograph. Today, most of the images live on smartphone and computer screens. Photos that we care about are eventually printed and hung on walls or become photo books. But it’s never an immediate process from the virtual realm onto paper. And no matter how good your screen is, it needs batteries (but that’s another story).

With an exception of miniature printers, the only way to hold a photograph as soon as the picture is taken is with an instant camera. It can fit in your pocket or you can give it to your friend — there and then.

Reason 4: The Colours.

Photo of Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma of some rocks stacked by the water. Taken with Lomo Instant Mini.

There are filters and effects that one can create and apply to digital images. They often take time, patience and creative vision. Instant film, however, is an artist of its own. No two images are ever alike. They are unique, flourished with beautiful, crisp lines and vibrant colours. The palette so powerful it makes you not only see but feel.

Reason 5: Frame The Photograph.

Photo of my dear friend Julie taken at Arcadia Coffee in Weatherford, TX. Shot on Instax Mini 8.

Every piece of art, every photograph needs a frame. Polaroid and Instax photos are born with it. Most of them are thick white paper borders with a space to write notes. But there are special editions too. The rainbow border, black border, cartoon border, gold border — whatever your heart desires. Though the fancy ones are a bit harder to find.

Personally, I like the classic white frame as it works with almost any type of image and does not take away from the photo.

Reason 6: Size & Form.

Instant film is designed to be useful as soon as the picture is taken. The tiny frames of Instax Mini can fit in a wallet or a phone case; yet detailed enough to be enlarged on a scanner and hung on the wall. Instax Wide is a step in a grander direction; still fits in your hand but also looks great on a night stand. And of course, the classic square Polaroid film that inspired the billion dollar internet darling, Instagram.

The convenience and real-world share-ability of those formats is only eclipsed by the quality of the actual end product. All of the instant photos shot on film are thick enough that they never warp, yet light enough to hang from a line or sticky tacks. And that’s just one example on how one can decorate an entire room...

Reason 7: The Simplicity.

Polaroid and Instax cameras are basically point and shoot. There’s nothing specific that needs to be done in order to take a good photo besides choosing composition, subject, and lighting. You are free to be a photographer, not a camera technician. However, if there’s more control required, some cameras (Instax Mini 90 or Lomography instant cameras) will let you do a bit more. Like bulb exposures, multiple exposures and more. Actually, almost any old Polaroid camera could be hacked to do all of these things.

Photo of a blooming flower as spring approaches. It’s a little dark because I’m still fumbling my way around with the new Lomo Instant.

There’s just something about watching your little masterpiece develop right in front of you whenever you take it. And that is something I believe every photographer should experience.