Like going-out tops, claw hair clips, and other hallmarks of the early 2000s, disposable cameras are trending hot for 2023. “The Y2K era is making a comeback,” says photographer Gaby Jeter. “People love nostalgia, and nothing's more nostalgic than waiting days for photos to develop versus having the image right there on your phone.”
Meet the Expert
Gaby Jeter is a wedding and polaroid photographer and the founder of Gaby J Photography. She is based in Las Vegas.
Interested in incorporating this DIY photography style into your wedding? Read on to learn how to make the most of disposable cameras (and polaroids and other instant photography!) on your big day, plus how to get your film developed.
The Benefits of Disposable Cameras and Polaroids
Why are couples adding old-school photography styles to their wedding days? Jeter says it best: “They allow guests to take candid, spontaneous shots of the wedding and the reception and can add an element of silliness to the event.”
It makes sense: After years of photographers prioritizing highly stylized, editorial images that could double for something you see in a magazine, couples are also craving less posed and more organic visual memories of their wedding day. Disposable cameras are an easy way to achieve this. (Images developed from film also have a cool, grainy quality that lends a vintage vibe to the pics.) Add a few to the center of your reception tables—along with some cute signage instructing guests on where to leave the finished cameras at the end of the night—and you’ll wind up a collection of snaps taken from a unique vantage point. “Most photographers follow the couple around throughout the night and might miss the moments happening at the reception tables,” says Jeter. “Disposable cameras offer a fun perspective from a guest's point of view.”
Looking for something that still feels candid, but with just a bit more professional polish? Consider booking a polaroid photographer for the day. Jeter, who has offered this service for years, finds that couples love the tangibility and instantaneous nature of the shots. “It feels great to provide something my clients can hold in their hands and pass around to friends and family,” she says. “My first package starts at $600 and includes up to 40 polaroids handed to the couple right after our session, so they have something on their wedding day.”
All that said, disposable cameras and polaroids should not replace a traditional photographer entirely. “Disposable cameras and polaroids can be unpredictable regarding the shots they take and the quality of the images they produce,” Jeter adds. “A professional wedding photographer will have a specific plan and vision for capturing your wedding day and will be able to produce consistent, high-quality, edited images.”
Disposable Camera Photography Tips
Here’s how guests can make the most of disposable cameras.
- Get up close and personal. Disposable camera photography is all about capturing human emotion and enjoyment. So leave those wide angle room shots to the pros, and focus on fun and merriment with your tablemates.
- Turn that flash on. If you’re snapping pics at night or indoors without natural light sources, the flash is 100 percent necessary. (Don’t worry, it won’t interfere with the professional photographer’s work!)
- Keep fingers away from the lens. This one is pretty self explanatory, but warrants a mention because a disposable camera's viewfinder is separate from the lens, so you won't notice the interloper until after the image has been developed.
How to Develop Disposable Cameras
Unfortunately, the cost to develop film from disposable cameras is much higher than it was back in the day when a town had multiple One-Hour Photo shops. While your local Walmart and drugstores such as CVS and Walgreens may still offer this service, Jeter recommends sending the cameras to a professional processor such as Goodman Film Lab in Texas. “Professional photo labs take their time to carefully process, develop and scan your film, color correct and adjust each frame with precision. They can also handle a broader range of film types and formats. In contrast, the drugstore tech tries to do all of this in under one hour. In this case, you get what you pay for.”
It can cost between $15 to $30 per disposable camera to develop a roll of film, so be sure to budget accordingly. (In this day and age, you might also have to pay an additional cost to have your images printed out.) For those who are happy to stick to digital scans of their images, online services such as Strap Photo Club make the process super easy and seamless—but know that you will pay more for the convenience.