An Instant Tradition


This past Thanksgiving I did a little experiment involving my boyfriend’s family: I brought a gaggle of instant cameras to the festivities. Seeing as he’s the love of my life, I wanted to bond more with his relatives. I wasn’t sure that everyone would be into this idea of mine, but I thought it just might work. That or they’d be dreading the next holiday where I would be in attendance. Guess what? It worked!

Now, let’s just stop for a moment before we go on. If you are scratching your head thinking that instant cameras were dead and gone, I am here to tell you they are not! In fact, these devices, generally regarded as relics of days past, are alive and well and just waiting to make your holidays extra special. From Fujifilm to the venerable Polaroid, you can find several options that are fun, easy to operate and are affordable.

OK, now back to the story.

To warm things up, the first camera I brought out was the Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s. In addition to comments like, “That thing looks like a marshmallow,” reveries on formerly owned Polaroid cameras and the utter joy of instant pictures (especially from the over-35 crowd) were shared. There were also lots of oohs and aahs—and statements that all boiled down to: “That’s really neat!” Of course, I can’t forget: “Those are mini Polaroids!”

Another plus of this little marshmallow—I mean Fuji—is that everyone could operate it with no explanation required. Well, with one exception: to turn it on, you have to pull the lens out—which, in itself, encouraged conversation. Things were off to a good start, so I went to my bag and put the rest of cameras out on the coffee table: the Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 and the Fujifilm Instax 210, along with two Polaroids: the Z340 and the PoGo (working for B&H does give me access to some pretty cool cameras). You would have thought I had just given them each five bucks. Instantly, so to speak, we went from holiday dinner to party.

From that point on, everything from the turkey to Bandit the Dog had its picture taken. The two Polaroid cameras I brought were especially fawned over. While they each put out an instant print, they’re also digital, which allows you to save files to a memory card for other uses as well—just like those non-print-producing digitals of which we’re all so fond. Another appreciated aspect of these cameras: you don’t have to print out every photo you take. You can peruse the shots on the LCD screen and decide which ones are most deserving of the honor.

The Z340 gives you the option to add the Polaroid border to its ZINK prints and adjust the color, and the PoGo prints out little photos that double as stickers! If that is not the coolest thing ever, well, then… I am severely misguided.

In an inevitable meshing of analog and digital, some family members even pulled out their phones and started snapping away at the prints, with intentions of putting a picture of the picture up on their Facebook pages. What a startling moment; people using modern digital phone technology to make images of old-school prints. Since you can use the film cartridges from the Fujifilm camera as low-tech picture frames, I put the big group shot I took with the 210—which provides a wide Polaroidesque print (a Fujiroid, if you will)—into one and left it as a present for my boyfriend’s aunt, who was also the host.

Everybody loves an instant photo. And what’s not to love? After you shoot the picture you “instantly” (well, almost) get to see it! That time lag between shooting the photo and its development is some of the most exciting anticipation you’ll ever experience. I had to explain to the little cousins in attendance that shaking the prints doesn’t make them develop faster, it’s just a part of the ritual. Shortly after, they were shaking all the freshly taken pictures with glee.



Not only that, but as the photos were placed on the coffee table, one after another, everyone would gather by the growing collage to check out the pictures, commenting on and admiring the shots, and reminiscing about our good time, even though it was still in progress. What’s more, I got to know every family member a little bit better than I had previously known them, as they asked me about my cameras, the pictures, and everything in between.

The picture of Bandit the Dog was a particular favorite, honored with a spot on the fridge. What other kind of camera gets the type of immediate response in which even the family dog’s picture is marveled at? What’s more, the prints from all these instants have an old-school color and look to them, much like original Polaroids, which everyone enjoyed. Our memories already looked like memories—that added a definite boost to the nostalgia factor.

By the end of the night I had given away a pile of pictures to those who are fast becoming my new family. There was no need to promise to email the photos later on, and no wait for having prints made, which can add up. It was a great success and, I hope, another step in the right direction of blending in with my sweetheart’s family.

Making a family tradition of fun, easy-to-use cameras at the holidays might be just the thing you need to shake up the same old, same old—or perhaps “get in good” with your significant other’s relatives. Whatever your reasoning happens to be, these cameras will also come in handy long after the presents are unwrapped and you’ve sung the last round of Auld Lang Syne.



In fact, a trend at weddings lately is to have a DIY photo booth set up with an instant camera. The photo booth documents friends and family enjoying the big day and provides guests with a little memento, or a unique photo album for the couple to keep—not to mention how it enhances the mood of the reception. The instant photos can even be written on, allowing guests to leave messages and good wishes.

In addition to instants however, there is also an entire line of cameras from Lomography, the great re-animator of low-fi analog cameras. From the hallowed Diana to wonders of the Cold War Soviet era—along with many of the company’s own creations—Lomography makes fun and unusual cameras that shoot fun and unusual images. From the Colorsplash, which splays a splash of color all over the image, to the Holga and its artistic light-leaks, and more, the only hitch you’ll encounter with these is that you’ll have to get the film developed the good, old-fashioned way. But once you do, you’ll have visual records of your memories unlike anyone else’s.

Whatever your event—holiday, party, wedding, graduation—or low-fi camera choice, you are (I promise) going to: A) make new friends; B) enjoy yourself; and C) be the life of the party! And by the way, you’re sure to get invited to the next party—in the hope that you’ll bring your camera along, of course. So, make sure you’ve got plenty of film, and you’re ready to be the center of attention. Then get out there and start creating a whole new holiday tradition. I guarantee a good time will be had by all.


Please email me! What is your favorite between the Polaroid z340 and the Instax 210. I am having the hardest time picking and I'd like your intake a lot!

Thank you!

Perfect timing - my dad had a poloroid for a long time, hes always saying how he misses that camera. Now I know what to get him for Xmas! Maybe Ill borrow it when I go to my GF's house fir dinner too!

great list, but i think you forgot Impossible Project Film.

Amazing article, I'm coming by today to pick up one of those marshmallows! Im going to my BF's family's house for Xmas and itll be a perfect icebreaker. Thank you so much for this idea!