San Diego camera store sees film photography resurgence

SAN DIEGO, CA (KGTV) – Camera Exposure, a San Diego camera storesees the resurgence of film photography, a trend that has peaked even more during the pandemic.

Co-owner Rob Cowan said he started Safelight Labs in 2019 with the goal of creating a community darkroom where people can learn about photography and photo processing. A year later, the pandemic hit and community spaces were no longer realistic, so he had to pivot. Coincidentally, the former owner of Camera Exposure was talking about selling, so he bought the camera store.

“I thought it was going to be a really good fit between having a film processing lab and a camera store. It kind of seemed like a good marriage,” he said.

Now he owns the hybrid business with Caitlyn Boreliz and they are seeing business soar. He said it had to do with a variety of reasons. More recently, the pandemic has caused people to find outdoor activities, so photography has exploded.

“People needed a hobby, people needed something to do and filming was something you could still do, you could still go out and take pictures in the street with your friends in your circle” , did he declare.

In addition, the change of generation arouses the interest of a new public. He said he sees a trend where older people want to get rid of old cameras deemed “too slow”, while younger people are intrigued by the medium.

“The younger generation only had the internet at their disposal. They had digital cameras and mobile phones with cameras,” he said.

They are doing so well that they have purchased a new processing machine, allowing them to move away from processing by hand. This allows them to develop more photos faster, which helps them reduce the slow wait times they’ve been juggling since the start of the pandemic.

He said he doesn’t see film photography going away anytime soon, despite his age. In fact, he hopes to grow the business even further. Eventually, he would like to add to the existing store and print shop, creating a community darkroom in North Park, a gallery and space for classes.

This project, however, will take time and money. He said he estimates it will cost around $50,000 to create, so the first phase will likely not be complete until the summer of 2023.

Camera Exposure is located at 2701 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116.

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