Why I would happily spend 3€ on every photograph I’ll take.

by Jens Lennartsson


Imagine every photo you shoot will set you back about 3€. I mean, every time you click the button it will cost you. It might not strike you as a huge amount of money but do a quick count; how many photos do you shoot every day — with your phone or your camera?

And not only that. Unless you keep out of direct sunlight but make sure you have enough light and think about how you act and what you do for an hour after the picture is taken — it will turn out like crap. Hell, most of the time it will be like nothing you expected any way.

Why would any photographer wanna work like that?

I went to Berlin for a weekend a short while ago. I’ve wanted to go there for quite some time. Everyone’s been telling me ”Whoa, you are so artistic and creative — you HAVE to go there because everyone is so artistic and creative there ”. Well, thank you and I will.

So, I finally went to this ”creative heaven on Earth”. I could bore you with all the cool people, concept stores and how Damien Rice ended up playing a private concert in my hotel lobby the last night — but I will stick to the topic (paying a lot of money for each photo you snap).

Polaroids ©Jens Lennartsson

I wanted to get one of those foldable Polaroid SX-70s for as long as I can remember. Probably because Polaroid managed to do the same thing as Apple; make you wanna have something without really knowing why. It IS a pretty bad-ass looking camera. And of course I found one in Kreuzberg, Berlin, one of the cities with highest hipsters per capita in the world.

I hadn’t sold any article ideas before I left, my idea was to shoot and take notes and craft the pitches when I came back. But I decided to leave my DSLR in the hotel room and shoot with the Polaroid.

Related post: 6 things that SHOULD take photographers time to accomplish

It was nothing less than a struggle, I’ll tell you that. In 2009, Polaroid discontinued the production of instant film. But a few years later, a group of enthusiasts founded ‘The Impossible Project’ and re-launched the production. Though they are constantly working on improving the quality of the film, it is still a long way to go.

Here’s a a few things you have to keep in mind if shooting ”modern day” Polaroids:

  1. Shield it from any kind of light during the first minute, otherwise it will turn out overexposed and yellow.
  2. Keep it in a pocket/box/other dark place for at least an hour. Takes about 40 min to fully develop. Instant photo, uh?
  3. If the temperature is too low, keep it in your pocket close to your body. It doesn’t like cold climate.
  4. If the temperature is too high, eeeeh, maybe keep a cold beer in your pocket? It doesn’t like a warm climate.
  5. Make sure you exposure compensate correctly. There’s a plastic wheel for that.
  6. The photos are gonna turn out yellow whatever you do. Put a blue filter in front of the lens, that will help. But it is probably gonna turn out yellow anyway.

When I went out the first time, strolling along Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg I had my first revelation. My brain is always on the look-out for motifs, people with interesting features or light hitting a interesting surface in a beautiful way. Whenever I see something that might end up being a great photo, I shoot it. It is kinda like I’m thinking ”I can as well take the picture, maybe it’s good”. I am reckless. I spend photos like they’re worth nothing. Because it doesn’t cost me anything. But now, with my newly purchased analogue Instagram-camera (with an eight pack of shots, worth 20€) I had to weigh every photo before taking it. Is it worth 3€? Is it really THAT good? I started to care about every photo I was about to take.

Picking up your phone to Google every question you have instead of discussing it with each other probably makes us dumb as a bag of hammers in the long run and having a map app accessible in your phone will most certainly make our sense of locality practically disappear in a few decades. In the same way being able to shoot thousands of photos a day will make the creative chunk of our brain that knows about the golden spiral and the rule of thirds wither and f*cking die.

Polaroids ©Jens Lennartsson

There is a saying that goes something like this

If you give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and wait long enough, one of them will almost surely produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

Don’t be a monkey!

Every shot in that first pack of film I shot turned out crap. Too yellow, underexposed, overexposed, too blue, out of focus etcetera. And it was an amazing feeling!

I’m able to shoot super sharp portraits good enough to put in print, with my phone. It is so smart that it knows what the colors are supposed to look like and even tell if I’m shooting head on into the sun. But I am a photographer. Everyone is able to buy a decent camera today and that piece of plastic will basically take the photos for them. So if you and me are going to be able to compete with everyone else, we will have to start thinking. To stay creative, to know out craft and trade, within and without.

Written by Jens Lennartsson — Traveler, Photographer, Minimalist.

This first appeared on my blog about the human part of photography, The Zen Photographer.

PS. Impossible Project just released a new black an white film that do not need shielding and will develop in a few minutes. They have managed to get a hold of an old, retired Polaroid employee and finally have been able to pin down the formula that Polaroid used in the original. And I happened to run into a guy in Berlin, who was one of the photographers that field tested the Impossible films when they started to make it. He mentioned for me that there will be a new version of the color film out soon!

Originally published at thezenphotographer.com on March 30, 2015.