Disposable cameras, lifelong memories

Film cameras make long-awaited return


Molly Reinecke

Gathered with her friends over the summer, senior Bridget Thomas poses for a disposable photo taken by senior Molly Reinecke. Reinecke started taking film pictures of her friends in 2019. “It’s always super fun because Molly brings her camera when we’re all hanging out and she just takes pictures of candid moments,” Thomas said. “Then we get reminded of all the fun times a few weeks later when Molly gets the photos back.”

Loading the camera with film, checking the shutter speed, adjusting the aperture and getting ready for the perfect shot. The only difference is you can’t see the photos right away. In 2019, film and disposable cameras made a comeback into mainstream media and are used by teenagers today with growing popularity. 

Reinecke and her friend, Sophie Metzner, pose in Downtown Chicago in 2019. (Courtesy of Molly Reinecke)

When senior Molly Reinecke saw these types of cameras regaining popularity, she thought the pictures looked interesting and wanted to try it out herself. Having used disposable cameras when she was younger, Reinecke got one of her own to take pictures of her birthday trip to Chicago in 2019.

“I think film is coming back because every picture has a unique look to it. The typical iPhone camera can be boring and exhausting to keep retaking pictures,” Reinecke said. “I like not being able to see the pictures immediately after I take them. It is always fun being surprised with the pictures when they come back from the lab.”

Sophomore Samantha Hipp captures her friends posing with Nerf guns. (Samantha Hipp)

 The first disposable camera was created by Fujifilm in 1986. Although digital cameras existed, they were hard to carry around because of their large size. Disposable cameras were cheaper and smaller, making them more popular. Sophomore Sam Hipp began taking film pictures a few years ago when she went to summer camp with her friends.

 We didn’t have our phones so some people had disposable cameras in order to capture some moments there,” Hipp said. I always knew about disposable cameras, but it really caught my attention seeing how easy and fun it was to use them.”

 Since developing film can be expensive, many photo apps like David’s Disposables and Dispo have replicated the same effect. After about a year of re-purchasing disposable cameras, Reinecke invested in a reusable film camera.

Seniors Emma Briedecker, Leah Selm, Irene Yannakakis, Ale Calvo and Emma Roth pose for a photo before going to dinner. (Molly Reinecke )

“I knew it was a better option in the long run. Film itself is cheaper than disposable cameras, so you get your money’s worth,” Reinecke said. 

 When a roll of film is full, it can then be taken to a lab to be developed. Reinecke and Hipp agree film pictures are fun, but the process of development is lengthy. The filmstrip undergoes a series of chemical washes to ensure that it won’t become any more exposed. This part of the development process can take five to seven hours. Then the film can be used to produce prints.

 “Film and digital both have their own unique qualities. To me, digital photos are more posed, which isn’t bad at all, but with disposables, not everything is planned out. You only have one shot to take your picture and you won’t even know how it turns out or if it even takes. Taking pictures on a disposable is such a fun experience that I definitely love way more than just scrolling through pictures on a phone,” Hipp said.

Sophomore Samantha Hipp poses with her friends at Camp Lakewood in Potosi, Mo. (Courtesy of Samantha Hipp)