College /// Screens x
an illustration of a disposable camera next to another disposable camera with a strip of film in the background
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Ditch your smartphone if you really want to make memories during the sunny season.

With summer nearly here, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need: a tote bag that holds your beach towel for those days by the pool, sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun, a good book to captivate you while you work on your tan, bug spray for those nights by the campfire — and believe it or not, a disposable camera to capture all of your summertime fun!

Disposable cameras have been around for a while, with the first model created in 1949. With H.M. Stiles as the mind behind it, the very first model was produced by the company Photo-Pak, although Fujifilm and Kodak would eventually produce the models people are more familiar with today. Just like today, these cameras were meant to be convenient — they were cheap and easy to use. Customers would purchase the camera for a small fee and have an allotted number of “exposures,” or pictures. After the exposures were used up, they would write their name and address on the film roll and drop it off, and it would be sent to the company, developed, and then the photos would be mailed back to their photographer.

While technology has obviously evolved, evident by smartphones capable of taking photos that we can immediately access, there’s still something about a disposable camera that can really root your memories in an extra nostalgic feeling. Beyond the memory aspect, there are many other reasons why a disposable camera will upgrade your summer experiences.

Photos taken with disposable cameras are trendy, for one. David Dobrik, a popular YouTube celebrity, even has his own Instagram account dedicated to the trend of sharing pictures taken by disposable cameras. While it’s been a second since Dobrik himself has posted, many other celebrities keep the trend alive, including popular model Gigi Hadid with her Instagram account gisposable. Dobrik’s love of disposable photos manifested in the app Dispo, which he co-founded in 2019. Dispo is an app meant to mimic taking photos with a disposable camera. The app allows you to take photos, complete with that nostalgic filter, and users go through a waiting period before they’re able to view them, similar to real disposable cameras. This app can introduce a fun way to capture memories because the photos are easily uploaded to your camera roll the very next day.

While one could easily download the app, real disposable cameras offer an even better experience. One of the best things about it is that it keeps you in the moment; while you can take a photo with the app on your phone, phones are distractions more often than they’re not, and you can become obsessed with finding the perfect photo instead of just enjoying the experience.

Additionally, disposable cameras are somewhat more durable than your smartphone. They come in different varieties; some are completely waterproof for underwater captures, letting you avoid the cost spent on a fancy case or compromising the camera lens by using a plastic baggie. You might have more peace of mind trying to take photos with the cheaper disposable because if something happens to it, no sweat — however, if you’re taking the photos with your smartphone and things go wrong, you’re in trouble and will likely lose more than just 30 exposures.

Photos you take on a disposable camera can also decrease the space that is taken up on your phone when you use your phone camera. If you know you have two copies of the same photo (one on the disposable and one on your phone), you’re more likely to delete the photos off your phone. For me personally, pictures take up the most space on my phone and it’s hard for me to delete them; they would be much easier to eliminate knowing that I have a physical copy already printed out or if I had never taken the photo with my phone in the first place.

If you’re feeling guilty about the “disposable” part, there are other cameras out there that allow you to just purchase new film while reusing the same camera. The cameras come in all sorts of cute designs and still give you the nostalgic feel without buying a new camera over and over if you really get into using it. The best part is that it gives you the opportunity to try your hand at something new; photos taken with disposable cameras can offer a trial-and-error learning experience, and you might find yourself really enjoying it and looking at higher quality cameras for your future photoshoots.

What’s really cool about the concept is perhaps one of the reasons why, in most cases, one might rather have a phone — the fact that you don’t see the photos until they’re developed. After they’re developed, a whole treasure trove of memories you might’ve forgotten about come to light, which is pretty cool.

If a friend borrowed your camera and took a “hacked” photo, similar to what people used to do on social media in the early 2010s, you wouldn’t know until you developed the photos, and wouldn’t that be hilarious to find? That sense of surprise can’t be replicated with a smartphone. And, if you finish up your camera right before school starts, you can use the developed photos to decorate your dorm room! It can be hard to decide what photos to develop and hang up, but using a disposable camera removes the problem by putting the photos you want all in one spot.

In a day and age where our attention is subsumed by technology, it’s worth it to revert back to the past. Disposable cameras are not only relatively cheap, but the natural filter of the camera will give your photos a nostalgic shading you’ll fall in love with. The photos you take will present that bittersweet feeling of growing up and remembering all the fun you had throughout your college years. Plain and simple, disposable cameras will allow you to relive these fleeting moments over and over, much better than any smartphone camera capture could do.

Writer Profile

Aly Walters

Michigan State University
English With a Creative Writing Concentration

I am a senior at Michigan State University who also works at MSU’s Writing Center. In my free time, I love working on my latest writing projects!

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