Students ‘snap’ memories with Polaroid cameras

Alissa Mitchell holds photos that she took with her polaroid camera over the summer. Mitchell said she can really see why polaroid cameras are becoming popular. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Recent trends show Polaroid cameras are an increasingly popular way for students to save memories of their college experiences.

According to Free People’s blog, Polaroid photos are “intentional and thoughtful” and “romantic and rustic.”

Polaroid cameras were first developed in 1947 by Edwin Land, according to Polaroid’s website, and a number of models have been created since.

BYU student Alissa Mitchell is a junior in the graphic design program, and previously owned a Polaroid camera.

Alissa Mitchell holds photos that she took with her polaroid camera at Zion National Park. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Mitchell said the main purpose of Polaroid cameras is to “look hip.” She said most people are either “super into it or not into the scene at all.”

Mitchell also said Polaroid cameras are unique because they allow the user to hold something tangible in the moment the photo was taken.

“Because so many things are digital, holding something in your hand seems to have more value. It’s fun to have that photo in the moment it was taken,” Mitchell said. “It becomes a part of the experience.”

Mitchell said the downside of having a Polaroid camera and the reason she sold hers is the cost.

“It’s kind of an expensive hobby. The camera is around $70, and each little picture is a dollar,” Mitchell said. “It’s also a little annoying to carry around with you, so people don’t usually take them on adventures because they’re hefty.”

Alissa Mitchell and her friends take a photo with a Polaroid camera. (Alissa Mitchell)
Alissa Mitchell and her friends take a photo in a church building with a Polaroid camera. Many people frame their Polaroid photos against other backgrounds for a vintage photo aesthetic. (Alissa Mitchell)

Dillon Ostlund is a professional photographer and a junior studying English at BYU.

Ostlund said he would never choose to use a Polaroid camera in professional photography.

“Polaroid cameras were the early equivalent of taking iPhone pictures,” Ostlund said. “It was portable and you didn’t have to develop it. Because they auto develop, even today, they’re extremely undesirable for photography purposes. You get one shot, and it better be good.”

Derek Wride works at Allen’s Camera in Provo and said Polaroid cameras are popular for their artistic, vintage, hipster aesthetic.

“You can drive a story with Polaroid cameras a lot better than you can drive a story with a digital camera,” Wride said. “As odd as it sounds, the really low-grade quality lenses that are on the Polaroid and the semi-decent film it prints is cool. People want to be a part of it.”

Taking pictures of people holding Polaroid pictures is a popular way to utilize Polaroids, according to Wride.

“I see that on Instagram a lot. You can have the Polaroid picture in the frame, and you can see the details in the fingers,” Wride said. “They’ll generally contrast that with a different background, or it’s the same exact picture, and it’s like a double picture.”

He also mentioned creating a Polaroid photo book is a popular option for replacing a standard guestbook at weddings.

Wride said Allen’s Camera frequently sells out of film. Polaroid cameras are some of the top things Allen’s Camera sells during the Christmas and holiday season, according to Wride.

“People are going to D.I. and their grandparents’ house and finding these old Polaroid cameras,” Wride said. “You can have this instant moment that feels very vintage and I think a lot of people like that.”

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