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Polaroid: The Instant Photo Resurgence


In today’s Instagram-obsessed society, photography needs to be instant and it needs to be connected.

Your father’s clunky-looking digital camera is now a thing of the past with the primary picture-taker being cell phones, which offer a level of quality that can now rival many single-lens reflex cameras.  We want our photo quickly and we want to be able to both upload it and share it with the world almost immediately – a point that’s abundantly clear by the more than 500 million daily active users on Instagram.  But in a time when selfies equal likes and food photos equal retweets, one trend seems to be going in reverse.

If you look carefully these days, you might see the younger demographic ditching their cell phones to take photographs and, instead, relying on a very familiar camera – the Polaroid camera.

The Polaroid camera was popularized in the mid-20th Century by American scientist Edwin Land and was the original way to quickly make your photos shareable.  Created in 1948, the Polaroid would leave its imprint on American popular culture starting somewhere around the 1970s, becoming the standard for which society took photographs but later floundered as a result of the digital format.  Over the last several months, the Polaroid camera has made quite the resurgence in the United States, as teenagers and millenials look for other unique and trendy ways to capture and share their memories.  But these aren’t quite the same cameras your parents used for snapping your photo before the dance or at graduation, these new Polaroids have a few significant modifications which make them all the more appealing.

(Polaroid) Earlier this month, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas, Polaroid announced Polaroid Originals, a brand dedicated to analog instant photography that includes the Polaroid OneStep 2, which will mark the 40th Anniversary of the iconic photography company.  The OneStep 2 is a throwback to the original, with an updated look and a rechargeable battery, all of which allows for an easy-to-use photography experience – complete with actual prints.  Meanwhile, the Polaroid Pop combines the instant photo characteristics with the digital age, complete with instant printing capability, a digital LED screen and Live Edit, to personalize pictures with stickers and filters.

So, what exactly is causing this younger generation to revert back to an older style of photography?

The biggest contributing factor for this trend might very well be nostalgia, as the demand for instant photography has never really dwindled.  Older consumers miss the novelty of immediately holding a photo, while their children – who are growing up in a digital age – get to hold something tangible.  Cameras like the Pop combine the immediate gratification consumers get from smartphones with something they’re able to share and appreciate in real life. These new cameras often have little features that make it desirable for trendsetters, including a mirror to help with selfies and gif-making capabilities for that perfect social media post.

According to a Wall Street Journal story, the company’s leading competitor in this market, Fujifilm Instax, said five million cameras were sold in 2016, with another 6.5 million units expected for 2017.  It’s further proof that there’s certainly a market out there for the comeback to continue to snowball and, who knows, these soon might be on the same nostalgia level as record players or VHS cassettes.  And, as far as we know, hipsters haven’t really gotten their hands on them yet – an almost certain sales spike.