Why the Polaroid Photo Still Survives in the Digital Age

Why Polaroid photography survives in the digital age

Polaroid camera

In an age where we can point and shoot our digital camera or camera phone hundreds of times a day, rifle back through our images and select the best ones to share on social media, it seems surprising that real film even exists anymore.

Further, with their white frames and off-colour, blurred images, it seems even more surprising that Polaroid photography is still popular.  Why won’t the Polaroid perish?  And is it just the hipsters keeping instant cameras going?  Let’s find out…



On 26th November, 1948, the first ever Polaroid camera was sold for $89.95 USD in Boston, Massachusetts: the Model 95 Land camera.  This revolutionary design offered almost-instant gratification in a world where the internet, digital cameras and smart phones didn’t exist.  Thus, it’s no surprise that Polaroid sold their millionth camera by 1956.

However, it’s safe to say that technology has moved on since then; in fact, digital cameras have been in common use for over 25 years.  So, why do many still reach for their clunky, old-school instant cameras to capture certain moments?  We asked around the Verve Head Office to find out.



Instagram produces square, often white-rimmed images that are definitely reminiscent of Polaroid photography.  There are even filters available (such as CremaRise and Amaro) designed to age and distort your images to appear like instant prints.  Many believe that the introduction of Instagram in 2010, and its subsequent popularity, may be partly to thank for the continuation of instant cameras.



Most people don’t print their digital images.  They e-mail them, use them as desktop backgrounds and upload them to various social media sites…but most go unprinted.  A Polaroid print offers a physical souvenir of your experience and there’s an undeniable, old-school charm to that.  In the same way that typewriters, push-bikes and big headphones have returned to fashion, it seems nostalgia (and the fashion trends amongst hipsters) will continue to govern our purchases for the foreseeable future.



Using an instant camera forces you to think more carefully about each shot, thus honing your photography skills.  Instead of taking 20 snaps of the same thing, trashing 19 and keeping that 1 (so you can pretend it was your first try – don’t worry, we all do it), an instant print means thinking carefully about colour, light and composition before you click that button.



Watching a print develop in front of your eyes is a truly fascinating experience: this is something many people pine for in this digital age.  Part of the allure is the uncertainty behind how the image will turn out.  Then, when you hold it in your hands, you feel like you’ve produced something unique: a special, one-off image to truly capture that moment in time.

David Hockney, English artist and photographer, is known for his Polaroid Composites. Source


Firstly, Polaroid photography is expensive. Although you can pick up a perfectly good instant camera for under $100 (Fujifilm Instax is what the ‘cool kids’ are using at the moment), the film is pretty pricey – you could be looking at paying around $2 per shot.  To earn even more street cred, you could look at a refurbished Polaroid 600, which can be found online for $130-300.  However, your per-shot cost could rocket up to $6.

Aside from the difference in cost, the accessibility and creative scope that digital cameras provide just can’t be ignored.  An instant print isn’t customisable once you’ve taken it, whereas that’s just the beginning of a digital image.

Thus, it seems instant images might be best saved for savouring special moments or to display in fun, creative ways around the home.  Try posting them on the fridge with funky magnets, clipping them on to twine and hanging them around the room or sticking them on the wall in different shapes.

To try and bridge the gap between these two mediums, many companies are now working to produce suitable hybrid options: something that matches the versatility of a digital camera, whilst retaining the magic of a Polaroid-style print.  From Polaroid’s portable printers and ZINK (Zero-Ink) paper to Canon’s Selphy, we are definitely entering a new age in photography – it seems that the best of both worlds might be within reach.

Verve Portraits offers many types of finishes on our artworks, including illustrations and retro Polaroid-styles, check out our gallery now.

Written by: Laura Jones

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