Business Insider Edition

These photo-editing apps are blowing up on Instagram for one simple reason: nostalgia

Avery Hartmans , Business Insider US
 Jul 25, 2018, 08:57 AM

Images taken on Huji Cam (left), and 1888 (right).

  • Retro photo apps like Huji Cam and 1888 are gaining popularity on Instagram.
  • Both apps mimic the look of images taken on a disposable camera, automatically editing your photos to look over-saturated and grainy, complete with the date in the bottom right corner.
  • Huji Cam launched last October and has already been downloaded 22 million times, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

If you've been on Instagram lately you may have noticed something familiar about photos being posted to the platform — if you lived through the '90s, that is. 

Celebrities, influencers, and regular 'grammers alike have begun posting photos that have a certain aesthetic — a grainy, over-saturated, and occasionally light-streaked look, much like photos captured on a film camera.

And, if you look a little closer, you'll notice neon orange digits stating the date. 

These photos are the result of apps like Huji Cam and 1888, which try to mimic the look of photos from a disposable camera. In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the past, Huji Cam's default date even says it's still 1998. 

To use both Huji Cam and 1888, you'll have to turn your phone sideways like you're holding a disposable camera.

Huji Cam and 1888 work pretty similarly. Both apps require you turn your phone horizontally, as if you're holding a disposable camera, and capture your image through an on-screen viewfinder. After you take the picture, both apps show you a screen that says "Developing," as if your image is truly being sent to a dark room. 

The final result is an image that has been edited to look more vintage, complete with the date added to the corner, although you can toggle that off on both apps, or change it to the current date on Huji Cam. 

Both Huji Cam and 1888 are free to download, but to access the full app — including the ability to import photos you've already taken — you'll have to pay $1 (about R13.40) and $2 (just shy of R27.00), respectively.

These apps have caught on quickly — Huji Cam in particular. Since Huji Cam launched last October, it's been downloaded approximately 22 million times, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower. The app has earned its creators — a company called Manhole Inc. — about $570,000 (R7.6 million), Sensor Tower estimates. 

1888 — which, according to Refinery 29, is named after the year Kodak was founded — launched last week. It's founder told Refinery 29 that it already been download 20,000 times, although Sensor Tower data pegs the number of installs at around 8,000. 

So why the sudden popularity? There are plenty of photo apps out there that can do more than add the date and over-saturate your photos, including apps like VSCO and even Instagram's own editing tools. 

Sensor Tower cofounder Alex Malafeev says it has a lot to do with nostalgia. 

"I'm definitely seeing a number of these retro camera workalike apps on the stores going back a few years," Malafeev said in an email to Business Insider. "My gut is that they're being driven by Instagram users and sheer novelty."

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