Why I love Hipstamatic

Downtown Vancouver

Let me start by saying I don’t hate Instagram, I’m just not a fan…this post is why I love Hipstamatic (for the iPhone) and use it constantly. This post also isn’t about the sharing community that is behind Instagram (which is pretty impressive)…anything that inspires people to take more photos is awesome in my book.


But first, a little background.

I became a photographer while in high school, shooting film. Most often it was a Pentax K1000 like so many others started with:

Big Hair

(pay no attention to my hair, it was the 80’s after all)

After high school, one of my first real jobs was working in a mall photo lab. This gave me unlimited access to nearly free film and processing thanks to my staff discount. This enabled me to shoot film like people shoot digital today: to shoot LOTS of photos without counting the cost of every frame.

I still have boxes and boxes of film negatives and prints that I’d like to scan one day.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the feeling I had (and still get) when I shoot film. You compose your shot and hope for the best because in most cases, it could be days or weeks before you see the resulting photo. This process makes picking up a set of prints better than Christmas for me. Even more so if there are a number of different sessions of photos on a particular roll.

Doesn’t matter if I’m using a 35mm SLR, one of my many Holga’s or some other weird film camera I found at a flea market. It’s all the same nostalgia for me.

Shooting film also requires you to make a number of decisions outside of composition. You have to choose why type of film (and speed) you’re going to use. You also choose what type of lens you’ll use (which of course is the same with a digital SLR). All these factors come into play before you’ve even shot a frame.

When I go on photo walks, I regularly leave most of my gear at home and only use a certain lens for the entire walk. This tends to force you to think more creatively how you’ll capture something with a limited set of options.

Anyways, back to Hipstamatic.

I don’t think Hipstamatic was the first one, but it certainly came out during the gold rush of iPhone apps that simulated a vintage camera look and feel. It immediately captured my attention because of the way that it works: you choose your lens, film, flash and even the case before you take your shot. You don’t get to preview it nor do you get to mess with it afterwards. It worked just like film cameras do. You also couldn’t open your previously shot photos to run them through the different lenses and films (well, unless you shot a photo of that photo I guess). I use CameraBag for that anyways.


You even have to wait for the photo to process with Hipstamatic…just like film. Then, if everything worked and the app doesn’t crash, you get to see your result.


All of these variables go into crafting the photo before you press the big yellow shutter button.

My view from 'the cloud'

This is why I like Hipstamatic. It feels comfortable. It feels like Christmas when you get your shot processed.

I rarely do much, if any post processing to my digital photos. If I do, it’s usually limited to cropping, white balance correction or bumping up the contrast a little. This is likely because in the pre-Photoshop days of film photography, all your post processing was done in the darkroom. I loved playing in the darkroom but it was an expensive endeavor since the materials to develop your film and make prints was pretty expensive to a high school student. Digital changed that and allowed us to experiment to our hearts content. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that I learned early one to try and get it right in the camera and not use the darkroom (or post-processing) as a crutch to fix a poor photo. That’s not to say I don’t fix my own bad photos (I definitely do) but I don’t make it my normal process and it’s usually limited to ‘one-timers’ if I can help it. I probably have thousands of amazing photos, save for one flaw that I couldn’t fix, that will never see the light of day.

This is one of the things I don’t like about Instagram – you shoot a basic photo and then you process it all to hell. The net result is not that different than making the choices of lenses and film in Hipstamatic, since there are a plethora of choices (in app purchases & freebies) but the choice was made up front, not after the fact.


This post may label me a film (or Hipstamatic) snob but I don’t consider myself as such. It’s more about the joy of photography for me and why I have well over 6,400 photos on my iPhone from the last few months…a large percentage of which were shot with Hipstamatic.

I even bought the ‘real world’ Hipstacase for my iPhone for it (with a nicely integrated & removable tripod attachment):

It adds just that little extra to the whole experience.


  1. Deanne says:

    I’ve recently being photographing a lot of my old camera equipment (some I used, some I just collected), so it’s interesting to think I could get that old vibe from an app. I had never heard of Hipstamtic – will have to check it out.

  2. Darren Stone says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I love the process and not knowing what you’re going to get. Just like the old days. Way more mystery involved. I get a kick out of the disposable hipstamatic too. Having to wait until the roll is finished.

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