say cheese!

I was at the playground with my kids yesterday and my four-year-old kept asking me to take pictures of things. This tree! Me standing next to this tree! That awesome slug! Me climbing this giant rock! Me hugging my friend! I cheerfully kept hauling out my phone and snapping quick shots, which he and the other kids would immediately demand to see, as if the fun thing they just did couldn’t happen unless they could look at it on a tiny screen.

My kids have a digital camera a friend of mine gave them. They use it constantly, mostly to make stop-motion animation films with Lego. They take literally hundreds of pictures, of everything. I saw my eight year old taking a whole series of pictures of his own feet once, just because he could.

This is so dramatically different from my first experiences with cameras, it’s almost unfathomable. It’s like explaining telephone party lines, or two-channel TV, or McDonald’s orange drink. My kids just have no frame of reference for it, and even I am taken aback when I realize how much has changed.

This was my first camera:


It was a hand-me-down from my mom. She gave it to me in the fifth grade, when I went on a week-long exchange trip to Ottawa. I’d never been out of the province before, so it merited such a momentous thing. For the entire week-long trip, I had one roll of film with 24 pictures.

You’d better believe I was careful about what I took pictures of! Only 24 shots! Jeepers, I can take 24 shots of the same tulip these days just to make sure I get it the way I want, casually discarding any that I’m not happy with while I’m still standing there staring at the tulip. There’s also a built-in flash in both my phone and my DSLR camera, which I can turn on or off, or adjust manually, or set to daytime / nighttime / low light / insect mode / WHATEVER SITUATION I CAN POSSIBLY BE IN.

Back in the day, kids, your average indoor snapshot had two light levels – overexposed or too dark to see. Ever wonder why our entire childhoods appeared according to the photographic record to happen outdoors? Yes, we were outside more, but it’s also because it was just easier to take half-decent shots in lots of natural light.

My second camera looked like this:


It took flash cubes. FLASH CUBES.


See how it says “four flashes in one”? So, you bought a package of three, and that gave you 12 flashes. Twelve. They were super-bright, and expensive, too.

In fact everything about cameras was expensive. The equipment, the film, the flash cubes… and all that did was give you the means to take the pictures.

If you actually wanted to see your pictures, well. You had to pay for developing. You could drop them at most drugstores and after a mere seven days, look at your shots. You could pony up big bucks to get three-day processing, if you were really in a rush.

There were also several services that allowed you to mail in your film and pay a much-reduced rate for processing, although that took weeks, plus you had the fun of nervously putting your wedding day / child’s first birthday / graduation film into the hands of Canada Post, hoping like hell that they’d arrive undamaged.

There was no guarantee with that service, either. Once my mom sent away several rolls to be developed and when they came back, every single picture was ruined – they’d mucked up the colour, and everything had a weird purple tint. We all looked like drowning victims. It was quite unsettling.

We are spoiled by technology in some interesting ways, aren’t we?



4 thoughts on “say cheese!

  1. This is hilarious, I think about this often. How you would develop a whole roll of film and there would be maybe two good shots. All casual group photos would have at least one person with their eyes closed and someone with a weird look on their face. Now we can retake the same photo over and over, or just photoshop it. It’s like our parents had a few photo ops a year, but nowadays every day is a photo op. It’s Thursday! My hair looks good! Selfie! And why would we ever take a photo of a rock? That was an expensive unnecessary waste. But now, we can capture that rock in all of its glory.


  2. We used to send our film *away* to Scot Photo! (Perhaps “Foto”, even) It would take *weeks* to find out the whole roll was over exposed or there was only half a friend because you were laughing so hard and it was expensive to get it developed. Sometimes they’d just lose your film completely. That was never fun.

    Now it’s 87,000 photos a day. :\

    Technology may be making us stOOpid, but not as stoopid as waiting 6 weeks for 35 black pictures and one with half a friend.


    This was my first camera, given to me by my parents when I was 9. I
    still have it complete in the original box. It’s currently on a bookshelf in my bedroom.
    I even have the camera bag that my parents bought me to put it in.
    Mine did not come with the extra lenses but my Mother did buy the same camera a few years back that came with the lenses. She promised me that at some point I would get it lol
    I did find a store in Montreal that sells 110 film and develops it. Apparently the 110 film stopped being made for a few years. My plan has been to order some and show my kids the wonders of film. I should get on that before they stop making the film again.
    I’ve only owned two real camera since that one, both digital and one I dropped and smashed the lens at a wedding, the other the lens cover refused to open after a few years.
    But I’m sure if I fired up the 110 she would work just fine even if she is 28 years old.
    My children both have iPhones that they use as a camera but my daughter requested a video camcorder for Chirstmas this year. I found a great deal on a Canon at Costco on December 24th.


  4. my first camera was the Vivitar. It was beige. Now I complain that my DSLR is too cumbersome and the Blackberry has a really shitty camera. Spoiled much?


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