Update 2020/10/22: The first wave of 15 sponsors have been announced. See the link below, or the main sponsor update article.

Welcome to the 7th annual EMULSIVE Santa film and traditional photography gift exchange! A huge thank you to the nearly 800 players in over 50 countries who came together to participate in 2020’s sixth annual EMULSIVE Santa. It was a strange event for a strange year, and although we continue to feel the effects — and will continue to do so for some years to come — I’m proud to be able to announce that registration for the seventh annual EMULSIVE Secret Santa is now open.

If you participated in previous events, you’ll either have received your invite at the same time as this article was published or will very, very soon.

As with years gone by, 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.

EMULSIVE Santa 2020 and 2021 compared

2020 was a year of hell for the vast majority of the world and rolling into 2021, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be running EMULSIVE Santa — or in fact EMULSIVE — this year at all.

Don’t let that little (overly?) dramatic note distract you, though. EMULSIVE Santa is back, and with your help, it’ll be bigger, better, and spread more love than ever before.

I expected 2020’s event to be severely limited, with both postal restrictions in place, as well as self-imposed event restrictions, which limited gifts to “flat” objects. The player count dropped by ⅓ to 800 players but the gifts that were shared on social media were STRONG. Here are just a few examples via Twitter

The drop in players was disappointing but understandable, given the aforementioned restrictions and a self-imposed lack of event sponsors.

2021’s event is back to business as usual. In fact, I’d like to make it better than business as usual.

For this, the 7th year, I’m asking for everyone in the community at large to help if they can and spread some love.

For new players: What is EMULSIVE Santa?

It’s the world’s largest annual film/traditional photography gift exchange.

It works just like a normal Secret Santa that you might play with your family, friends, or at work but focused on film and traditional photography.

Everyone’s name goes into a hat and each person is matched randomly with another player, to whom they must send a gift worth at least US$20 (not including shipping).

Each player 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. Imagine this instead:

Event timeline and sponsors

Registration is open from today, October 1st, 2021 until October 31st, 2021. No exceptions.

Player matching will be completed over November 1st to 4th, 2021 and players will hopefully receive details of the person you’re matched to send a gift to some time on November 7th.

The deadline for sending gifts out is December 7th at the very latest. That gives you a little over four weeks to get your gift together and about a fortnight to arrive at its destination. As with previous years, given the pressure on our global postal systems, the earlier you shop and ship, the better, please.

Regarding sponsors, I intentionally did not reach out to any for 2020’s event. Instead, I asked past sponsors join in as normal players and connect directly with a member of the community — which many did, thank you!

Sponsors are back for the 2021 event. Please keep an eye out for an announcement over the next few weeks with further details. See the updated section below!

2021’s first sponsor update

After a hiatus in 2020 (due to Covid and everything that came with it), sponsors are back on board with a vengeance for 2021, and I’m pleased to announce our first wave of 15 as of about an hour ago:

  • Analogue Wonderland
  • Billingham Bags
  • Carmencita Lab
  • Film Folk
  • Film Washi
  • ILFORD Photo
  • Kodak Alaris
  • Kosmo Foto
  • Lomography
  • pixl-latr
  • Shoot Film Co
  • Solarcan
  • Teddington Photographic
  • Ultrafine

You can expect more to come over the coming days, with a special announcement in just a few days from now, and a final announcement close to the final day of registration on October 31st, 2021.

Matching and wish lists

Please be aware that depending on your event 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!

Sending and receiving gifts

I normally include examples of gifts sent 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 just like every year of this event so far, we’re asking you all to let you match know who you are in your card/a note with your gift.

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 #EMULSIVEsanta hashtag. You can also tag EMULSIVEfilm on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as EMULSIVEsanta on Twitter. There’s also my Facebook Group, Film Photography Chat, which I highly recommend if you’re on FB.

On receiving gifts

Please, please, please do not open your gift before Christmas Day. When you finally do, take a photo tagging the accounts above and using the #EMULSIVEsanta 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.

As normal, any players caught no-showing will be banned from all future events on EMULSIVE and the event sponsors will also be notified.

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 already.

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’s helped to reduce the no-show rate to a little over 1% of players since 2019.

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
  • Create / update your wish list.

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 without an additional warning.

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 with me. I could not do it without you!

Register for EMULSIVE Santa 2021

Please complete the Google form embedded below (or access it directly here) and grab the event invite from the confirmation page shown after you submit it.

IMPORTANT: 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. Once registered, please make sure you are a member of the EMULSIVE Secret Santa 2021 gift exchange there.

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 registered (and also finished my Elster profile, but what I don’t understand is the wish list. Do I have to set uo one? I tried to add something but that didn’t work.

      1. Great, thanks. Now it worked. I don’t understand, why we need this list (as far as I understood the Emulsive Santa, it is about a gift I prepare with relevance to photography), but anyway. Thanks for helping out, it’s my first time of participation. Last year I missed the deadline.

        1. You’re very welcome indeed. I make note of the reasoning behind adding a wish list from a process perspective in the “How to get involved” section of the post (it’s near the bottom).

          The TLDR is that aside from giving your match an indication of what you’re interested in – everyone is different, after all – it’s also about ensuring that participants are aware and engaged. Adding this one small extra step resulted in a huge drop in no-shows and other problems in past years, so while it might be a slight annoyance, it serves a tangible, measurable good for the event as a whole.

  2. I tried to sign up but the Elfster page at the end didn’t load – do I need to re-register from scratch?

    1. I’m glad we’re able to switch back to the original format and can’t wait to get everyone matched up in a few weeks. Anything you can do to help spread the word is appreciated!