Fun and frustration: What it was like for an ordinary Ugandan taking pictures in the 80’s

long before digital cameras came in, pictures were taken using analog cameras and back in the 60’s, taking pictures was a thing seen as luxurious since cameras were owned by a hand full of people and photo studios, only located in kampala, were not more than 5.

Unlike today, majority of Ugandans who had some money then, would only take photos during wedding and that was it for two reasons one being scarcity of cameramen and the second being it was so expensive.

let’s dive into the annoying and fun bits of what it felt like taking pictures in the 1960’s.

When the Natinal Theater was celebrating culture on 27th May 2022, I got an opportunity to attend but the section that attracted me most was the historical technology that was used and I had a chance to interact with one of the care takers, working at the national broadcaster Uganda Broadcasting Corporation(UBC) who took me through how cameras were used in the past.

Filming and the camera
the manual cameras came with a lot of technicalities. One needed to know all about exposers and film strips. Film strips is what you can today call a memory card-where photos are stored as negatives and taken to be processed. to make films ready for processing, a camera man had to first finish an entire strip of the film which was about 30 photo negatives, take it to the dark room for processing and finally come out with a black and white photo and this would take almost a month since most of the work was done in Nirobi-Kenya. that meant that for you to have a look at your wedding photo, you would need to be patient and by the time it arrived you might as well have forgotten all about it if not giving up on seeing your photos. on delivery of your long awaited photos, one would jump up in happiness resurrecting the lost joy and bringing back the memory once again for family and friends to talk about.

A video film strip similar to that of photography. one would use this other than a memory card used today

In studios, it was quite expensive for an express photo compared to one you had to wait for reason being, to get the specific film of a photo, the whole film was put in a film unwinder, select and cut specific film, then the other parts put back together to continue taking pictures that if if your photo was on film number 10, it was cut from number 9 and 11, taken off and then the film rejoined with 9 and 11, rewond in case the film was full or set it to the next film for taking pictures say film 9. the entire process was time consuming and a film would be sacrificed hence the high charge.

a film roll (in background) and a Koadak camera used in the early days to take pictures

Film processing later came to Uganda and was done in only Kampala.

As technology evolved, colored pictures came on the scene and taking photographs became a little bit easier like it is today. Photo studios mushroomed spreading in every part of the country whereby it wasn’t necessary to travel all the way to kampala for a picture.

The most common cameras and film strips used back in the day were Kodak

Right now you can go to a photo studio, and within minutes your photos are printed out- whether passport or album- at a cheap price. not forgetting that even the smartphone your having can act as your camera which you can use to take pictures and have them printed of course depending on the quality of your phone camera to get good quality output.

while taking pictures in the 80’s seemed hectic, it was worth the memories


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Muwanga Deo

About the Author: Muwanga Deo

I am a journalist by profession having worked with former Record Television in 2019 and a current affairs news writer since 2019 to-date