An instant film camera might not be the first camera you think of bringing with you when you’re hired to shoot a wedding, but you should consider it. Instant film has a rich history, a fun, nostalgic reputation, and can ultimately bring more benefits to your business than initially meets the eye.
Instant Film Cameras: History
Instant cameras were once a staple in the photographic world. Unfortunately, as a product of the late 1940’s, there are not a lot of options that remain in production today. With almost no demand for them in the 2000s, instant film cameras nearly fizzled out completely, and production companies, one by one, shut their doors. This progression came to a head recently with the sad death of Fujifilm’s type 100 pack film. But with startups like Type-55, and The Impossible Project, I’m relieved to tell you that classic instant film is still alive. In the last years, Fujifilm brought new life to the medium with their Instax project, which sold over six and a half million Instax cameras in 2016. With Instax on the rise, and 3rd parties ramping up production for classic cameras, more photographers have begun using instant cameras on wedding days.
Instant Film Cameras: Today
There are a couple of types of instant film available today, but the most prevalent is the Instax from Fujifilm. They make the pack film in several formats: wide, mini, and square. Along with the pack film, Fuji also produces an array of instant cameras in various formats. Fuji is not that only one producing cameras that shoot the Instax film. For example, Leica has created the Sofort (Instax mini) camera, which is gorgeous. Another camera on the market is the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Magellan. This camera features a glass lens, and produces some of the sharpest images available on Instax film.
Just because some of the cameras are comprised of cheap, plastic bodies with plastic lenses, it’s important not to devalue instant film as a photographic tool and an avenue through which you can give your clients a unique product and experience.
Favorite Instant Film Camera
As I mentioned above, Fujifilm stopped producing type 100 pack film, but there is some still circulating on the market today. I find that this film receives the most dramatic, excited reactions from clients. This film is usually shot on an old Polaroid Land Camera. The process for this film takes more effort than a standard click-and-print Polaroid, as you have to know how long to leave the photo developing before you peel the film apart. Once you nail the shot, you’re rewarded with a smelly, goopy negative, and a distinct looking positive print. This film is excellent because you don’t have to wait to scan the print if you want to scan it in high resolution. Instead, you can just peel off the negative for yourself, and send the couple home with their print right away. There is one major drawback with the type 100 pack film; because of the discontinuation of the film, the available stock is becoming very scarce and (consequently) increasingly expensive.
4 Benefits of Taking Instant Film
- Give an instant memory
I enjoy shooting instant film for personal work, but it can also give your wedding clients a snapshot of their experience that they can immediately take home with them.
Instant film gives your couple an actual physical image that they can hold in their hands minutes after being shot. Even when you put together a wedding slideshow to present to the couple later in the evening, nothing beats a physical print. After I take an instant snapshot and hand it to the couple, I also take advantage of that genuine photo opportunity. Capturing the couple’s expressions as their faces light up watching their print develop in front of their eyes is priceless. This image is often the first image the couple has seen of themselves together in their wedding attire.
The benefits are not exclusive to the client; there is often a ripple effect that ends up positively benefiting the photographer. My couples typically buzz around the reception, showing off the image to their wedding party and other guests, and speaking enthusiastically about how unique their photographer is.
2. Slow down.
I’ve also found that shooting instant film has brought a variety of benefits to my work. Just like with 35mm film on my Leica M3, it has slowed me down, but even more so. The expense of some of the specialty film is much higher than roll film, so I have to be even more certain of the shot before I commit and press the shutter.
3. Embrace imperfection.
Both new and vintage instant cameras have their flaws and can be quite quirky. For instance, my Instax wide always shoots with the flash on and has a couple of light leak spots. I love the little bit of character that these imperfections lend to each frame. Because of that, I don’t edit them at all. As a photographer, I embrace the imperfection of the film and cameras, and that makes shooting on an instant film camera, frankly, just pure fun…and a little chaotic. I consider it just pure photography, what you get is what you get.
4. Set yourself apart.
Setting yourself apart from the crowd is never easy in a saturated wedding market, and I know first hand that instant cameras can help secure your place. Many photographers don’t want to carry an additional camera and film just for a couple of shots, but in my experience, the results are more than well worth the effort. Leaping into instant film doesn’t require a hefty entry cost, so get out there and try something different at your next session.