Hujicam was the app that blew up the internet in 2018. When Instagram darling Selena Gomez posted a photo from the March for Our Lives using the filter, the rest of the world wasn’t far behind. From big celebrities like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian to your college roommate, it seems like everywhere you look there’s an Instagram photo with a fake ‘98 timestamp. Keep reading to find out more about Huji, why it’s so popular, and how to use it to your advantage.
What is Hujicam?
The 90s have had a true renaissance as more and more millennials grow nostalgic for a simpler time. The muted colors and soft grunge look of 90s photos are in. Huji capitalizes on this 90s nostalgia by bringing the experience right to your phone. The app is meant to mimic the disposable camera experience, and the photos you get look just like the ones you took at summer camp. All you have to do with Huji is point and shoot. Then the app processes your photo in the lab, adding on distinctive 90s colors and the1998 timestamp.
With its cheeky wording (Press the shutter when you’re ready to face 1998) and charming inefficiency – the app does mimic a disposable camera in that you can’t change camera views and you have to press your eye to the ‘shutter’ – it’s no wonder that Hujicam is so popular. Riding the wave of peak 90s nostalgia, the celebrities that helped to put it on the map have inspired the rest of we humble Instagrammers to get our photos looking a little bit cooler and less filtered. It’s just that air of low-quality on purpose that has become relief from ultra-filtered, ultra-glossy Instagram posts.
How to Use Hujicam
Hujicam is free to use from the app store on iPhone and Android, so if you want an end of the century look all you have to do is download. The good news is that if you’ve ever used a disposable camera, you already know how to use Huji cam. (Sorry, Gen Z.) Just turn your phone landscape and put your eye to the viewfinder, then tap your phone to take the picture. As previously mentioned, Huji isn’t playing around with the disposable camera experience. The viewfinder is as tiny as it actually was in the 90s, and if you want to take a selfie you’ll just have to trust that your camera is aimed the right way. These things, while charming, can take some getting used to!
Pros and Cons of Huji
Huji is a great app for photos that have tons of style and personality…but the technical challenges do remind us why we like our smartphones in the first place. Unlike a real disposable camera, your smartphone has no dedicated picture button and it can be challenging to get the picture and framing you want. And since it seems that everybody and their mother is using Hujicam these days, you’re no longer an original for having an ultra-cool, laid-back, 90s vibe. The #HUJI community is large and fun, but if you want to stand out, Huji may not be the best place to do it anymore. Couple that with the physical challenges of the app and it’s clear why, although the 90s are still thriving, Huji may be taking a backseat. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives.
Alternatives to Hujicam
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when one app blows up, a host of copycats will follow. If you want the vintage look of the disposable while still embracing the modern trappings of the smartphone, consider these alternatives to Hujicam:
Russian-based app Lomograph offers an array of full Soviet film aesthetics – that are filters you can slap on after you take your photo. Lomograph has both pre-set filters and settings you can apply like whether you want dust or distortion. You can even add custom datestamps to your photos – and you don’t have to worry about framing them.
Hujicam is a disposable, but Calla replicates the experience of 35mm. While the app itself can be a bit confusing due to the mix of Korean and English, the things you can do on the app outweigh the negatives. Although you only get one type of film for free there’s enough to do with the actual editing of the photos that it’s not too limiting. [MY OWN EXAMPLE HERE].
3. VHS Cam
If you love the vintage look so much you want to apply it to your videos, look no further than VHS cam. This app makes your videos look like they’ve been recorded through a camcorder in the 80s – timestamp and all.
4. Kuni Cam
Kuni Cam is, in my opinion, one of the best film-editing apps on the app store today. The reason it’s so great is because it offers not one but many, many kinds of film looks, including Kodak, Fuji, and Polaroid – and color schemes within those to boot. There’s also a ton of in-app features you can play with to make your picture look exactly as retro as you want. The app is free with in-app purchases, but the in-app purchases include editing videos and many types of film – it might just be worth it!
5. KD Pro
KD Pro is perhaps Hujicam’s closest relative, but its motor functions are slightly easier to use. It does mimic the disposable camera experience. You only get 24 pictures in one roll of “film” and you must use it like a disposable, the same way you do with Huji. However, the viewfinder is larger and you can flip the camera view, so soldier on with the selfies. You can use flash or no flash and even change the color you’d like your fade to be.
I flip-flopped over whether or not to include Gudak in this list, but since it came before Hujicam I decided I must. Maybe what you like about Hujicam isn’t the filter, but the analog experience. In that case I point you to Gudak, which is Hujicam’s predecessor and commits to analog. Like KD pro, on Gudak you can only shoot 24 photos at a time – and you have to wait an hour before you can ‘load another roll’ of film and shoot again. After your photos are finished, it will take three days for them to ‘develop’. Gudak’s strict rules make it inconvenient but do bring back some of the surprise element of photography. It does cost $1, so make sure you’re committed to the analog experience before you download it.
Film Is In
Using the film look, believe it or not, is actually one of the best ways to improve your photography. Apps like Huji that mirror the disposable experience force photographers to think about their framing. Apps that take it one step further and limit the amount of photos you can take, like KD Pro, force photographers to think about what they’re actually photographing.
It makes sense that Hujicam is so wildly popular as people get back to what we loved about photography in the first place. The unpredictability and genuineness of the entire process really brings out a genuine yearning for something less structured than the traditional Instagram photo. However, some motor limitations are still too much to deal with, so Hujicam has some great alternatives. Whether or not you use Huji to create film looks, one thing is certain – retro is in, and we think we’ll be seeing it for a good long while.