How to Take Better Shots with a Fujifilm Instax

April 11, 2024
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Nowadays, everything’s digital, but there’s something really cool about actually holding a photo in your hand. A lot of us are getting back into printing out our favorite shots to share the old-school way—with frames and all—for our friends, family, and even clients. It’s kind of sparked a new love for those classic, printed photos, making gadgets like the Fujifilm Instax super popular. They’re fun because they print your photo right away, and they’ve got this vintage vibe that feels a bit like the early days of Instagram.

Getting the hang of an Instax camera is fun, but there’s a bit of a learning curve at first. What’s awesome about it is how each photo is perfectly imperfect, giving you these cool, retro-looking snapshots. But, let’s be real, your first few tries might come out looking more like abstract art.

The good news is, after a bit of experimenting, you start to figure out how to really make those Instax photos shine. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way and want to share them so you can skip the frustrating parts. It’s all about capturing those moments and actually being able to hold them, without the hassle of messing up a bunch of film.

1. Don’t Forget the Battery Charger

Before you dash off to capture moments with your Instax, make sure the battery is fully charged. And if you’re hitting the road, the battery charger is a must-bring.

I learned this the hard way. After packing all my gear—lenses, tripods, you name it—I somehow left the charger behind. Maybe it was packing exhaustion, or maybe I thought a full charge would last as it does with my other cameras. Either way, it was a mistake.

Right on the first day of exploring Hawaii, I found out my camera’s battery had mysteriously drained to less than 25% during the flight, despite being off. Talk about a bad start.

Trying to find a workaround was a hassle. The hotel didn’t have spare Instax chargers, and Amazon Prime couldn’t guarantee a quick delivery during the Christmas rush to Hawaii. My attempts to cross-use chargers from my Canon and Ricoh cameras were a failure.

So, learn from my oversight: pack the battery charger. Add it to your packing list and make room for it in your bag. It’ll save you from unnecessary stress and keep your shooting spree uninterrupted.

2. Keep Your Instax Film Close on Flights

When you read the Instax film packaging, you might get the impression it’s super delicate. I sure did and ended up on a wild internet search about traveling with film. I nearly bought a lead-lined bag at one point, which likely would’ve had security rummaging through my bags.

After taking a moment to chill, I decided to follow some basic precautions without overdoing it. One key tip I found: checked luggage gets hit with more radiation than carry-on, which can be bad news for film.

So, I tucked my film into a ziplock bag and placed it in my backpack. At security, I put it in a separate bin for a smooth check-through. The film came out perfectly fine in Hawaii, no issues at all. Despite not using all the film due to my camera battery dilemma and having to go through security twice with it, the film I brought back still worked like a charm.

An update from me: I’ve since taken my Instax film on three more trips, totaling six airport security scans, and I’m happy to report no problems at all! So, keep your film with you as a carry-on to avoid any radiation woes and enjoy snapping away on your travels.

3. Keep Your Distance & Mind the Light

I noticed a little flower icon on my Instax camera and thought, “Hey, this must mean it’s great for close-ups.” Turns out, I was mistaken. Every attempt at a close-up shot ended in a blurry, somewhat artistic mess.

Also, attempting to capture scenes with a lot of contrast in lighting—like sunsets or forest paths where light filters through the trees—was a no-go. The Instax just isn’t cut out for handling wide dynamic ranges. I found that shady spots were my best bet. This whole experience reminded me of Eli’s adventure with medium format film in New Zealand. He faced similar challenges with light and ended up opting for cloudy days to get that soft, even lighting.

So, a word to the wise: Keep a bit of distance between your camera and the subject, and try to shoot inconsistent lighting to avoid the Instax’s limitations with close-ups and varied light conditions.

Extra Bits of Wisdom for New Instax Users

My first few attempts with the Instax? Let’s just say they weren’t going to win any awards. As I was trying to get the hang of it through some trial and error, the pressure of a dying battery and the cost of each photo (70 cents a pop!) added a bit of stress. 

In search of wisdom, I came across a few game-changing tips: the viewfinder and the lens don’t exactly align, which explained why my framing was a bit off. Then I saw someone mention her photos often came out darker than expected, a problem I was all too familiar with. 

Armed with this newfound knowledge and a bit of moral support, I dove back in with more confidence.

It took another half dozen shots or so, but I finally started to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Given that the film isn’t exactly cheap, I’m hoping these insights will help you skip over some of the costly trial and error I went through.

Fujifilm Instax Success Checklist

Here’s the scoop on snagging some sweet shots with your Fujifilm Instax:

  • Stay in the Sweet Spot: Keep your distance between 3 to 15 feet from whatever you’re shooting. Close-ups are a no-go, and while landscapes are doable, the film’s small size means you’ll lose some detail. For crisp and clear results, stick with table tops, interiors, and portraits.
  • Light It Right: Overcast days are your best friend. The soft, diffused light makes everything look better without harsh shadows. If you’re in a sunny spot like Hawaii, great, but in places like Chicago, you might have to get creative with shade or indoor lighting.
  • Flash with Care: The flash can be a mixed blessing. It lights things up but can also bleach out some of the vibrant colors you’re trying to capture. It tends to work better for portraits than food shots, so use it wisely.
  • Simplify Your Shots: Detailed shots aren’t Instax’s strong suit. Think of each photo more like a thumbnail sketch—you get the gist of the scene, but the finer details might be a bit fuzzy.

Capturing Moments That Matter

At Looxcie, we believe that photography, at its core, is about preserving moments that tell a story, evoke an emotion, or capture a slice of beauty in our everyday lives. The journey with a Fujifilm Instax underscores a valuable lesson: the essence of a good photo isn’t in the pixel count or the perfection of details, but in the feeling it conveys and the story it tells.

As you venture into the world with a camera in hand, remember that the best shots often come from understanding your tools and playing to their strengths. Whether it’s an Instax or any other camera, embracing its quirks and limitations can lead to surprisingly creative and memorable imagery. So, keep an open mind, experiment with different settings and scenes, and most importantly, enjoy the process of capturing life’s moments.

Photography is a journey, not just of places and faces but of growth and discovery. Keep shooting, keep learning, and most importantly, have fun capturing the world through your eyes.


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