A huge thank you to the nearly 1100 players in over 50 countries who came together to participate in 2019’s fifth annual EMULSIVE Santa. It’s that time of the year again and I’m proud to be able to announce that registration for the sixth annual EMULSIVE Secret Santa is now open.

Before you skip to the bottom of this article for the registration form, I have a few important things I need to talk about. Please read on.

What’s different about EMULSIVE Santa 2020?

Not much. A lot. 2020 has been one hell of a year. For my part, I wasn’t sure I’d be running EMULSIVE Santa this year.

I came into the back end of 2019 knowing that I would not have a job in February 2020. I took it as an opportunity to think about what I wanted to do professionally and decided a short career break was in order. I was lucky, Mrs EM and I had a small nest egg, which we could fall back on and I could take a few months to look around.

Then the pandemic hit and everything was off the table. Conversations I’d been having were put on hold, hiring freezes spread faster than the latest meme and I was left in limbo.

Back to Secret Santa and of course, the pandemic had the knock-on effect of cutting off postal systems and with financial instability affecting many members of our film photography community — least of all myself — it became clear that trying to help out the few players who were left out in the cold by 2019’s bad Santas last year was going to be near on impossible.

With that same instability continuing to be a huge factor in many people’s lives (including mine) as we got to June, I found myself unsure of how to proceed. I was thinking it should be something a little more intimate and focused on connecting people and thankfully, this is where @aislinn-chuahiock stepped in. We spoke at length about what we wanted to see from the event in 2020 and what this would mean to all of you reading this. Here it is.

We don’t want you to send parcels. In fact, we don’t want you to send gifts that cannot fit through someone’s letterbox. A flat envelope is ideal and humble simplicity is the name of the game.

People are stressed, people have financial constraints and worries, postal systems are under immense burden worldwide, and post is getting lost, misdirected and simply stolen. With that in mind, we’d like 2020’s players to focus on connecting with their match and sending them a little love in a world which needs us to remember more about what connects us and less about what divides us. What to send?

  • A postcard
  • A print or set of prints
  • A letter

Every year for the past 5 years, I have written, “EMULSIVE Santa is about giving (and receiving) the gift of film photography.” I have also spoken at length about how the event is an opportunity to expand our connections with the community at large and bring people together.

This year, the second statement still stands but I’d like to change the first:

EMULSIVE Santa is about giving (and receiving) the gift of love and support with a fellow human.

With that in mind, we are asking that if you decide to participate in this year’s even, you do not send a camera, film, local sweets and delicacies, handmade scarves or bottles of alcohol.

Send a print, send a postcard, send a letter. Send all three. Send 12 prints on a theme. Send a letter – 9 pages, BOTH SIDES. Send Love.

If you absolutely must send film, a camera or something else, please feel free to do so AFTER the event in a personal capacity.

For new players: What is EMULSIVE Santa?

It’s just like a normal Secret Santa that you might play with your family, friends or at work. Everyone’s name goes into a hat and each person is matched randomly with another player they’re matched to buy a gift for.

Everyone ends up with a match and gift-giving goes round in an imaginary circle. It’s not a pairing, you are not giving a gift to the person who is buying you one.

This graphic might help:

EMULSIVE Secret Santa - How it works

Event timeline and sponsors

Registration is open from today, September 6th until October 31st. No exceptions.

The draw to select matches will be made over November 4th to 6th and you’ll receive details of the person you’re matched to send a gift to some time on the November 7th.

The deadline for sending gifts out is November 15th at the very latest. That gives you a little over five weeks to get your gift together and approximately the same to arrive at its destination. Given the pressure on our global postal systems right now, the earlier the better, please.

Regarding sponsors, there are none and I will not be reaching out to organise any. Instead, I’d like any past sponsors reading this to join in as normal players and connect directly with a member of the community,

Matching and wish lists

If you’re new to all this, I’ll reiterate that you are not exchanging gifts with the person sending you a gift.

Additionally, depending on your RSVP, this person you are matched to send a gift to may well be in a different country to you. Please be aware that if you chose not to ship internationally but are the only person in your country to join the event, you will be matched to send a gift to someone in another country – get around this by inviting your friends – physical and virtual.

You might be interested in...

Wish lists continue to exist for all participants but please ignore them. They’re no use for 2020.

Sending and receiving gifts

I normally include examples of gifts send during the previous year’s event. I’m not doing that this time.The “Secret” in “Secret Santa” means you don’t know who is sending you a gift but as like every year of this event so far, we’re asking everyone to let their match know who you are. of course, if you’d like to stay anonymous, that is your prerogative but more than ever, it’s about making and maintaining those connections.

Don’t let the lack of wrapped gifts bother you! Please still feel free to take a photo of what you’re sending out and post it on social media along with the #EMULSIVEsanta20 hashtag. You can also tag EMULSIVEfilm on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as EMULSIVEsanta on Twitter.

Please, please, please try no to open your gift before Christmas Day. When you finally do, take a photo tagging the accounts above and using the #EMULSIVEsanta20 hashtag.

When Christmas Day finally rolls around, post a picture of your opened gift on social media and if your Santa has let you know who they are, go ahead and tag them.

Don’t be one of those people

EMULSIVE Santa is organised in good faith and while you can decide to remain anonymous, your actions reflect on yourself, EMULSIVE and the good name of the analogue photography community, especially now.

How to get involved

Event registration is wide open and the window is short. You have until October 31st to register and not a minute more. If you are a past participant, you can expect an email in your inbox within a few minutes of this article’s publication.

If you do not receive an invite in your inbox you will need to complete the form linked below to receive your invitation link. This “double registration” system for new players was introduced back in 2017 in an attempt to reduce the number of no-shows and along with a few other manual checks, it helped to reduce the no-show rate to a little over 1% of players for 2019’s event.

After you have signed up for the event there are two things that each and every player absolutely must do. They are:

  • Set a profile picture

Sounds simple? It is. The reason for what might be considered an anally retentive request is that signing up for an event like this is simple. Forgetting to send that gift is even more so.

By setting a profile picture you are showing that you are engaged and interested. It takes only a little effort to complete this step but when it comes to being matched, having one will give your Santa (the person sending you a gift), confidence that they’re matched with someone who took time out of their day to do it. Anyone who does not have a profile picture or wishlist set by November 1st will be removed from the event

No exceptions.

Got questions? Send me an email once you’re registered on Elfster and I’ll do my best to help.

It’s over to you

Sign up, get thinking and help bring joy to one of your siblings in this global film photography family of ours.

Thanks for reading,

~ EM

PS. One super important credit: a huge thanks to Aislinn Chuahiock for the cover photo and support in pulling all this together!

Register for EMULSIVE Santa 2020

Please complete this Google form and grab the event invite from the confirmation page (shown after you submit it). This link is unique to you and cannot be used by anyone else. You must use that link to register on Elfster by October 31st.

Disclaimers and terms

EMULSIVE is not Elfster (the service provider used for the listing/matching). If you have any qualms about the level of your data protection, then I will have to suggest you bow out and not participate.

We’ve tested out and researched a few service providers along the way and Elfster seemed to come out on top for the functionality they provide and what they do with data provided by their users.

We have no affiliation or commercial/personal connection with Elfster and you use the service at your own risk. Don’t forget that I’m putting my details on there, too.

Should anything terrible happen (they get hacked, lose your data, etc.), we really can’t take any responsibility. We’re using them in good faith, as much as you are.

Elfster is a public service, so we ask that you don’t invite participants in this event to others you may decide to create without their express consent. We’re sorry but anyone found doing this will be excluded from entry.

Share your knowledge, story or project

The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.

If you like what you're reading you can also help this passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.

About the author

Avatar - EM

Founder, overlord, and editor-in-chief at EMULSIVE.org. I may be a benevolent gestalt entity but contrary to increasingly popular belief, I am not an AI.

, and please make sure you also check out their website here.

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  1. I signed up day one and set a profile pic but I still haven’t been matched with anyone. Did I do something wrong or are names still being matched?

    1. It’ll be soon. Right now we’re helping shepherd those without profile pictures to a place where they don’t get cut and trying to figure out how to match a dozen people with no international shipping set…who are the only people in their countries participating.

  2. WAHEY!!!! Emulsive Secret Santa is GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! As per my previous Secret Santas, my match will recieve a personal message DVD and a Christmas Card. As per this Secret Santa, if my Professional Lab opens up to walk ins, my match will receive a Print from a recent roll of film. Simples:)

  3. This looks… Sad.
    I’m okay with everything said, however aftertaste feels not like ‘share love’, but ‘shrink your expression’. Would be more fair just to remove any limits on ‘what to send list’ instead of remodeling this to fit postcard exchange festival. It just doesn’t feel right.
    In the end, it isn’t about postcards. It never was. If it is about love… Love doesn’t accept rules, it destroys every wall you make and yet you’re trying it to fit a door of a letterbox. This isn’t right.
    In these rough times we have to team up, collaborate with anyone we can so the thing that unites us – film photography – lives long enough to tell our children how we were enduring and fighting back.
    P.S.: I have to intention in arguing with anybody. This is ‘imho’ I wanted to share in light of sad text and no feedback from users here.
    Take care. Resist. Don’t give up.

  4. Sadly I was one of the people that didn’t receive a gift last year but still happy to participate again this year.

    New format looks interesting as well – gives me a reason to finally actually print something 😛

  5. Hey Em, Aislinn,

    How would one go about being a rematch Santa? I’d hate anyone this year to go without.