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What Polaroid Photography Has Taught Me

Gen Z has grown up in a society that’s all about perfection, internet personas and comparison.

At the center of our society are photographs.

We plaster them across all social media platforms, taking up storage on our phones and sent and posted almost everywhere and to everyone.

It’s all gone too far.

People, especially women, have felt the pressure now more than ever fit into a certain beauty standard and to prove who they are through Instagram feeds and likes.

When did the beauty of photos shift from capturing moments and natural beauty, to fixating on angles, filters and poses?

You can now take a billion photos, pick the best of the bunch, edit the hell out of them and post them as if they were the original photo from a phone camera.

I am a freelance photographer and I heavily edit photos and pre-plan shots, and although those are imperative aspects of my job, I feel myself forgetting what made me fall in love with photography in the first place: capturing moments.

So, I bought myself an old school Polaroid camera to remind myself what photos mean to me.

These are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

The value of physical photos

Some of my favorite memories and ways to spend my free time is to look through old photos with my mom.

We giggle and reminisce, while looking at all the memories our family has made.

Also, it’s a fun way for me to see how she used to dress, how times were back then and for me to learn about the stories that make up those photos.

Polaroid photos have taught me the value of physical photos.

I am so used to having pictures on my phone, which makes it less likely for me to look back on them and appreciate them.

To have a box of Polaroids or to look up at them taped on my wall is a constant reminder of all the wonderful people and things in my life.

Embracing the first shot

Growing up in this society, we are so used to saying, “No, I look bad in this one, take another one.”

You can’t do that with a Polaroid.

Not only do you have to wait for it to develop, but you are paying for every picture you snap.

As my journey into Polaroid photography has progressed, I have gotten more OK with thinking I don’t look good in a photo.

Instead of saying, “Ugh, I look gross in this picture.” I now think, “I mean sure, I don’t look the best, but that’s not going to matter when I’m looking back on this in the future. I am going to be thinking about the people or places that are in the photos.”

It’s actually granted me a lot more self-confidence, because I’m not fixated on how I look.

Polaroids aren’t for social media and for others to see, they are for you to look back on and to embrace all that you are and to remember the moments that make you want to grab your camera.

Moments only happen once

It’s easy to let moments slip by when you’re scrolling through your phone.

You lose sight of how precious moments are with your friends, family and loved ones.

Polaroid photography has taught me to take fewer photos of myself and more photos of the people, places and moments I love.

You can still do this with your phone, or with any camera, but capturing moments with a Polaroid is a unique experience.

You only get one chance to capture a moment.

There’s a beautiful balance between planning the shot and encapsulating a piece of time.

Not only has Polaroid photography taught me these lessons, it has also left me with beautiful and unique photos that I can look back on.

Whether you already have a Polaroid or don’t, I urge you to remember all these things when taking photographs.

It’s easy to get caught up in our modernized world but remember the value your photos will have in the years to come.

Journalism major at the University of Florida.
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