There is something magical about capturing an image and watching it develop before your eyes into a Polaroid photograph you can pass around for approval in minutes. Taking an instant photograph is indulging in alchemy itself, even if it is disguised in a tiny box. But this pint-sized hobby has so much to offer, from capturing stunning colors and moodily lit portraits to exquisite closeups of the natural world with a clarity that will take your breath away. No wand waving or magic jiggery-pokery required. Just a steady hand and a good Polaroid camera.
Things to Know
You will be amazed by the diversity of photos you can capture with your Polaroid camera. Each photograph taken from a Polaroid camera has its own distinctive features. It differs from the others in terms of its quality, texture or tone. Sometimes, it’s a distinct lighting angle or the speed the image is captured or something else entirely that makes each Polaroid photograph significantly unique. When you discover the excitement instant photography, your successes will leave you impatient for the next step in your pastime. To help you get started, here are a few things to bear in mind to help you on your way to being a good instant photographer.
Pick Your Instant Camera Carefully
A number of instant cameras available, but it is a good idea to do some research and give special attention to a few features before you go ahead to the store eager to make a purchase. For instance, consider the picture size and the type of lens used. You should also check the shooting and focusing range, along with the shutter speed and aim to get the best camera you can afford on the market. Some of the best instant cameras in 2018 came with built-in constant firing flash. It makes sense to invest your money in one of these. If you’re willing to spend more for something even better, go for an instant camera with an electric flash that is equipped with automatic light emission control.
Take care of Polaroid Films
It is important to store and treat Polaroid film with care since they contain sensitive ingredients which are easily damaged if mishandled. It’s better to store them in a cool place such as a refrigerator and upside down to avoid damage. Bring the films to room temperature before you start your shoot.
Consider the Lighting
Lighting is a game changer when it comes to photography. Well lit photographs are always more aesthetically pleasing than those taken in inappropriate light. This film achieves the best results in a well-lit environment although due consideration still needs to be given to the light’s source and direction of travel to create harmony with the subject. You might wish to experiment a little, but generally speaking, the light source should be to the side of the subject.
Polaroid cameras have their own built-in lighting feature to adjust the length of time the shutter is open according to the intensity of ambient light automatically. They require some steady handling when taking a long exposure image in low light conditions. You need a steady grip or a tripod if you are planning on shooting instant pictures at night or in a darker environment to not end up with blurry images.
Learn to Play with Colors
Learn how to play with color. Using color effectively is an important skill to develop. Modern Polaroids are highly capable of capturing vivid colors without a loss of depth or detail. Using color effectively can create a balance between subject and background to complement the overall composition rather than overpower it. Photographs with bright and colorful backgrounds are always preferred over dim or light colored backdrops whose details get lost on film to present the subject in a stark, flat contrast.
Polaroid film does produce high-quality photographs but it does call for patience. However, tempting don’t disturb the film while the image is being processed. Instead, protect it from light so that the required chemical reactions can take place efficiently. Usually, a color photo takes 10 to 15 minutes to get completely developed. Black and white photos develop faster, just 5 to 10 minutes. It’s better to allow a little more rest time for higher quality photographs.
Take the Close-Up Shots
Something an instant photography novice should be aware of is that these photographs are quite small. With a standard size Polaroid camera, you’ll be getting photos no larger than the size of a credit card, and if that is the case, you’ll be much better off taking close-up shots. You are less likely to get a good composition if you’re trying to capture a subject that does not fit the frame. Likewise, if the subject is too far away, it becomes difficult for viewers to define the subject at all when it is lost in the shot. It is always worth the time and the effort to set up a shot from various angles until you discover the best composition to compensate for the limitations of image size.
Learn Where to Put Your Fingers
Not knowing where to place your fingers could potentially ruin your photos, especially if you’re using a diminutive instant camera. So many people experience this issue because they don’t know how to keep the ends of their fingers from intruding in the frame. Similarly, you should ensure you don’t obscure the built-in flash while taking photos. Work with your camera often and as you learn how to be an instant photographer you’ll become accustomed to where to hold the camera without mishap. Alternatively, you can consider buying a better, larger instant camera.
Know the Function of the Rollers
Put very simply, in Polaroid cameras, two metal rollers roll a developing paste down onto the film and the result is a photograph. It is essential to keep these rollers clean and check them for leakage before loading new film. Dirt or dust on the rollers contaminates images and interferes with the distribution of the developing paste on the film to ruin photograph with streaks.
Taking Care of Your Treasure
Polaroid photographs, like many other photographs, are bound to lose color intensity with the passage of time. Sometimes, Polaroid photos fade away turning yellow and at other times they become brittle and fall apart. By taking precautions, you can save your Polaroids from losing their vibrancy over time.
- Protect your photos from the effects of extreme environmental conditions like direct exposure to sunlight and moisture and avoid damp storage conditions.
- Protect your photographs from exposure to dust and airborne grease.
- Always hold your photo by its corner.
- Allow sufficient rest and drying time before you stack your photographs for storing.
- Be careful while choosing where to store your photos. Magnetic albums and albums made with PVA or PVC pipes can react with the chemicals on Polaroids and cause them damage.
- It’s better to store your photographs in dark places.
- Avoid folding the photo. Store them flat.
- The photo-storage and photo-display boxes must be tested by PAT i.e. Photographic Activity Test. They must be free from any acidic substances and chemicals that may cause harm to your photographs. Many brands make specialized albums and display boxes for Polaroids which are safer to use and increase the life of your photographs.
If to you, a good photograph should be out on the show, looked at and enjoyed and not stored in some chip or cloud, then instant photography should be right up your street. As you are learning how to keep your fingers in the right place and figuring out the magic of how to capture glorious technicolor on instant film, keep your rollers clean and there’s nothing you can’t achieve with your tiny camera. Even if it means getting down on your knees for the closest of close ups or jogging back a few steps to get the whole picture in frame, once you get going you’re certain to discover a new whole world of photography, in an instant.