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Could an Instant Camera Make You a Better Photographer?

There’s something about the analog process that will slow down your photography, making you more thoughtful about image creation. What if you take it one step further and push yourself with an instant camera? Could it make you a better photographer?

Thomas Heaton is a landscape photographer who uses a variety of cameras, usually high-resolution digital beasts that capture the tiniest scrap of detail from every scene. His film cameras — all larger than 135 — are loaded with incredible glass to give maximum quality.

Why, then, would you swap it out for an instant camera, featuring a low-contrast lens with questionable sharpness and stock that has a very limited dynamic range?

Heaton takes you through the process, and while it’s not one that all photographers will appreciate, I can understand the value. Choosing the right instant camera is no simple process, however. I would lean toward the Polaroid SX-70 but they’re hard to come by and prices start at $430. More easily available is the Polaroid Now which keeps things relatively simple, and don’t forget that there are loads of options available from Fuji.

Have you used an instant camera to improve your photographic ability? Let us know in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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2 Comments

I think an instant camera absolutely will make you a better photographer. Usually with an instant camera, film and media gets fairly pricey rather quickly. So your forced think more about picking the right composition and lighting. Or else you've wasted your money on poor shots. Most instant cameras also have a fixed lens. This makes you work harder at getting the right shot but improves your ability to adapt and overcome that limitation. Lastly, it improves your mental mindset by reassuring you that good images can be captured without expensive gear and high resolution. Which also contributes to you becoming a better photographer.

It will definitely make you a poorer photographer buying all that film haha. JK but kind of serious.