Belgian photographer Tasja Van Rymenant (@tasjavanrymenant) remembers almost everything about her grandmother’s house: the smells, the colour of the walls, and perhaps most of all, the portrait of her grandmother sitting over the fireplace. “There wasn't a single day that she didn't look at that image of herself,” the artist tells us. “She cherished it.”
Like many photographers of her generation, Tasja worries about the future of images. She doesn’t want the pictures we make to end up forgotten or lost on a hard drive or mobile phone. She hopes they last forever.
“This is why printed images can mean so much,” she says. “The instax is a nice application for that. I like the fact that these cameras make analog photography easier and more accessible. It's an old decade coming to life again, just in a modern way.”
We interviewed a group of nine talented instax photographers to get their best tips for creating timeless pictures they’ll treasure for decades to come. Read on to learn how they take fleeting moments and turn them into permanent keepsakes.
1. Embrace the unexpected
Instant photography is all about the magic of spontaneity. “The thing I love the most about my instax cameras is that you don't know how the photos are going to come out after you take them,” the London photographer Sam Carr (@saamcarr) explains. “It's so unpredictable and unique to that exact moment.”
Jack O'Brien (@jo.img), who also lives in London, has similar advice. “One of my favorite images captured using the SQ6 was made through experimentation and an accidental button click,” he says. Let your preconceptions go, and give into your instincts and intuition.
Ibukun Sammy © Jack O'Brien
2. Stay in the moment
Because you’re not looking at a screen on the back of your camera, instant photography gives you the opportunity to be present and mindful. Savor your experiences without distractions, and observe the world around you.
“With instax, you get one shot,” Lissette Calveiro (@lissettecalv), a photographer, writer, and digital marketing expert based in NYC, explains. “It's all about being in that moment. In this day and age, it’s important to create these authentic and truly raw memories.”
Stefano tells us, “Instant film teaches you to really look in front of you, or around you, instead of looking at the display on your camera. It’s a subtle concept, but it’s the truth of today's photography: with the average digital camera or smartphone, we don’t look at what we’re photographing anymore. Instax film has definitely taught me to be more in touch with my subjects, and it has made me a better photographer. It’s been a great lesson I’m applying to my everyday job.”
Jack continues, “Instant photography is an important medium for me. It allows me to really connect with my subject. As a portrait photographer, I believe connecting with your subject is the most important thing.”
3. Value the imperfections
If there’s one phrase Stefano hates hearing on set, it’s “We’ll fix it in post.” Instant photos can’t be manipulated the same way most photos can, and that’s what makes them valuable. “If you’re using an analog instax, you can’t shoot two identical photos,” Stefano continues. “The photos are unique, like paintings.”
Your image doesn’t have to be picture-perfect; it will be more meaningful if it reflects the moment honestly. “Shoot real life as it is,” the Berlin-based photographer Carsten Tschach (@totallyperfectworld) advises.
Maddy Corbin (@maddy.corbin), a photographer and lifestyle blogger based in Indianapolis, shares a similar view. “I think photographers can use these tools to better capture the ‘in-between’ moments,” she explains. “Maybe they’re not the perfectly staged photos or the ones where everything is exactly on point, but instax cameras and film can capture things you may have missed so that you never forget them.”
© Sam Carr
4. Master your settings
“The number one rule I tell every beginner is settings, settings, settings,” the photographer Jasmine Vasquez (@jasminelivinfree) says. Your settings will vary based on the lighting conditions, so get to know your camera.
Lissette agrees. “Give yourself time to practice using different settings and manual tricks (such as covering the flash, if needed) so that you can become an expert no matter where you are,” she says.
Sam adds, “I would tell other instax photographers not to be afraid to experiment with different settings. Even if you get a shot that didn’t go as you planned, it still can look cool! I always get loads of packs of film so that I'm not limited and can play around.”
5. Watch the light
“My biggest tip for shooting with your instax camera is to always look at your lighting,” Maddy tells us. “Great lighting? No need for flash. Dark out? Use flash. Lighting can quickly determine the quality of an image, so when you start looking at it prior to shooting, it can change the way your images turn out!”
6. Get closer
The legendary photographer Robert Capa famously stressed the importance of getting close to your subjects, and instant cameras are no exception. Breann Chiero, who runs the lifestyle brand and agency Hungry Hipsters (@HungryHipsters), tells us, “My top tips for shooting with instax (particularly the Mini 9) include making sure the subject of the photo isn't too small or far away.”
Jasmine has similar advice: “Don’t forget to get close enough to where the object of the photo is in focus and make them Strike a Pose!”
7. Try a double exposure
“I love the double exposure as a new feature on the instax cameras,” Tasja says. “It's a nice extra to play with. I love to put someone against a completely white background and combine this image with another one of nature (branches, flowers, etc.) or just a pair of hands.”
8. Gift prints
“I choose to decorate with my instax photos and even gift them to friends,” Breann tells us. An instax print makes a one-of-kind present for loved ones, and you can even give them to people you’ve encountered on your travels.
“Hand the prints out to the people you just photographed, or stick them into a notebook and add some handwritten lines to them,” Carsten suggests. “Have you ever handed an instax image to a person you photographed two minutes ago? Look into their eyes the moment they see it.”