The things that make college parties worthy of documentation are frequently the things that make them hostile to electronics. Things get spilled, people are clumsy, and at the end of the night you may have a ruined gadget. However, that puts you in a bad place if you want to document the evening–party photos are great, but no one wants to run the risk of the ruined digital camera.

Enter the humble disposable camera. For around $10 (plus another $10 to develop the film) you can have a worry-free camera for a high-risk environment. If something gets spilled on the camera or someone drops it, you don’t have to worry about a huge replacement cost. All you’ll lose will be the night’s photos, and even then you may still salvage something interesting, as these pictures from a disposable camera dropped in a pool show.

Because disposable cameras have cheap lenses, they tend to flatten images out. For party photos, this is actually a pretty cool effect. It’s like adding nostalgia to your photo while it’s being taken–it summons up photos from before the era of pervasive digital cameras. It’s like a lo-tech Instagram.

The process of getting the photos developed is actually pretty painless. Most drug stores (CVS and Target, in my area) will still develop film cameras. Because they do it using digital magic, you can get a photo CD (or just a photo CD, if you don’t want prints) along with your negatives. That way, you can take advantage of the wonders of the modern era post-party and post your photos to Flickr or Facebook. People seem to get a kick out of the look–my New Year’s photos, which were taken this way, are some of the most popular on my Flickr page.

The last nice thing about having a camera that you don’t have to worry about is that you can hand it off to other party goers without guilt. It’s always fun to come back to the photos in the morning and see that your friends have snapped a few of you–something that’s less likely if you’re watching a nice digital camera in order to make sure that no one spills anything on it.

Though the input cost may make disposable camera impractical for day-to-day use, for big deal parties they’re a great way to do something new with your photos. If you’ve taken your own disposable photos, give us a link the comments!