The search for authenticity: Film cameras repopularized


Amanda Nelson

Junior Amanda Nelson poses with her FujiFilm Quick Snap disposable film camera.

Makenna Leiby, A&E Editor

Disposable film cameras have experienced a rebirth of popularity among teenagers, and their unique qualities have earned them their recent spotlight. 

The current generation of teenagers likely remembers their earliest interactions with photography being through the lens of an iPhone camera. Today’s teens are known for using iPhone cameras and editing software to post highly filtered enhanced images to social media sites. 

However, in recent years there has been a visible uptake in film camera usage and desire for candid or authentic images. Sales for disposable film cameras such as the Kodak Fun Saver and Fujifilm Quick Snap have experienced recent exponential growth. 

There are multiple categories of film cameras, including rangefinder cameras, point-and-shoot cameras and instant cameras. The most popular category among teenagers is the point-and-shoot or disposable camera. 

These cameras earn the title “disposable” because they are single-use cameras equipped with a certain amount of film. When a photographer has taken the maximum amount of photos on that film roll, the camera cannot accept a replacement film roll, so it is typically disposed of after one session of use. Furthermore, the typical disposable camera does not offer the ability to zoom or alter the lens, so the photographer simply points the camera at the target subject of the image and shoots the picture. 

Disposable film cameras are affordable, lightweight and simple to use, so most teenagers beginning with film photography are likely to opt for this category of camera. Junior Amanda Nelson expressed the convenient nature of using her Fujifilm Quick Snap in her daily life. “It’s so easy to carry and fun to snap a photo on the go,” she said. 

When using a film camera the photographer is unable to view the final version of the photo until after development, so images cannot be fine-tuned or retaken for perfection. The large appeal of using a film camera is its ability to capture candid moments and provide images that remind featured persons of their most authentic selves.

Junior Maddie Cubbage introduced the idea of film photos being more heartfelt and representative of the photographer. “With the film camera you have to be more selective about what photos you take because you only have a certain amount of film available,” she said. “So the selected photos have more meaning to you.” 

The film camera offers an additional appeal to teens: the vintage aesthetic of the pictures taken. When an image is shot on a film camera, the film strip is momentarily magnified through the lens, and the subject of the photo is burned onto the film. Therefore, the photos feature a yellow-orange tint with a slightly dark background that makes a picture feel reminiscent of a vintage aesthetic. 

Cubbage spoke on the comforting nostalgia that vintage-looking film photos can generate. “A lot of the pictures I see of my parents from when they were younger and from that era all have a similar grainy texture to them,” she said. “I think film cameras nowadays give the same effect”. 

The journey of youthful self-discovery is heavily aided by the exploration of potential interests and hobbies. The recent growth in film camera popularity can also be attributed to a rise in teens looking for more adventurous areas of self-expression. 

There is more to disposable cameras than the simplicity of capturing moments between family and friends. Teens can also explore photography through the process of manipulating a film camera to retrieve desired effects like motion pictures, blur, high exposure and many other types of images. 

Nelson discussed her personal experience with the art of film cameras and her tricks for producing a valuable photo. “I like to stay conscious about the lighting in my photos and take several in different areas to experiment with the types of lighting,” she said. 

The recent growth in film camera popularity among teenagers is due to the many benefits the camera provides such as authenticity, nostalgic aesthetics and opportunities for hobby exploration. Teenagers are forever seeking ways to creatively express themselves, and the film camera is one of the current targets of interest.