Hello! Upon special request, today I’m going to be offering some tips and techniques for fellow Polaroid camera owners. If you don’t have a Polaroid then this post might not be for you.
My parents kindly bought me my Polaroid camera as a reward for a) becoming head boy of my school and b) all the time and hard work I put in to my GCSE exams in June. The camera is a black ‘Fujifilm Instax Mini 8’ so this post will probably be quite specific to that. I’d say other great Polaroid cameras are available but I haven’t used any others so I don’t actually know.
I’ve divided the article into several sections as my knowledge is just so vast and interesting (basically I just managed to ramble on for far too long). You can either read the entire, super interesting article or just skip to certain sections by clicking on them below… Enjoy.
30th August 2014
How to take a picture (and turn it on - that helps
Here I'm going to quickly explain how to actually take a photograph with the camera - something quite important considering that is essentially what a camera is made to do. It is fairly simple but if you're a cynical teen much like myself and decided not to read the instruction manual then the mundane task of switching it on becomes considerably more challenging.
1. Inserting the batteries
2. Inserting the film
The two pictures above are courtesy of the apparently quite helpful instruction manual (cheers, Fujifilm) and seemed too boring to try to explain so I didn't. One thing that is worth noting - something I completely ignored and was then extremely confused by - is the fourth diagram above. The first picture that comes out is in actual fact not a picture ; it's the piece of black paper protecting the film. You still get your ten photos, but when you first insert new film and press the button to take an image, this comes out. I was extremely confused when this happened and did actually sit on the side of a road in Croatia waiting for the picture to appear... which, of course, it never did. This only happens before image numero uno (to my non-Spanish speaking readers, I just said 'number one') so don't expect this to happen before every photo.
3. Turn me on... *ahem*
There's a little button right next to the lense kind of the shape of a jelly bean (right here) which you press to open up the lense. Give it a couple of seconds for the camera to boot up.
Point the camera exactly where you want to take the photograph. Above the lens there are 5 different settings dependant on lighting. The camera will automatically suggest a setting but you always have to manually turn the lens. Although it is automatically detected, for some reason the camera always starts in the 'indoors' setting - so if you're in bright lighting and forget to change the setting, your photo will come out blank. You shouldn't use the 'Hi-key' setting outdoors or your picture will come out really bright. Meanwhile, if you would like a lighter image then turn the dial to the setting before the one that lights up.
5. Be Meticulous
Although the idea of a Polaroid is spontaneity, you do have to be meticulous when taking a photo. You only get one chance to get it perfect before you click the button and it prints off, so make it count. There's a small lense which shows what you're taking a picture of on the right-hand side, but this is just glass and so not exactly what you're aiming at. Be consious of this when aiming your photos, as you can spend ages aiming your photo to be perfectly central, only for it to print off slightly lopsided.
6. Click the button!
Once you're completely happy with everything, take the picture! Unless something's happening that can't be repeated, I usually try out taking the photo with my phone first. Film isn't exactly cheap so it's definitely worth making sure your picture will be perfect. Remember: the flash always goes off and you can't stop that, so don't cover it up with your hand.
7. Enjoy the finished product!
Now you've got your photo. Wait for the whole film to pop out of the top before you yank it out as you don't want to ruin your image - especially considering how much work it takes to prepare it. I love watching the photo develop, which takes approximately ten minutes. The photo should start to appear faintly after around 20 seconds. If nothing's happening after a minute has passed then something has definitely gone wrong. Though the image will be pretty clear after a couple of minutes, the ink won't become properly vibrant and sharp until the ten minute mark. Contrary to popular belief, you should not shake the film (read: "shake it like a Polaroid picture") as that will actually be detrimental and damaging.
Things to remember
- Every photo will be different. Embrace the fact that you can't predict what effect the photo will have and that you only have one copy.
- Always check the 'setting' beforehand. Above the lens there are 5 different settings dependant on lighting. The camera will automatically suggest a setting but you always have to manually turn the lens. Although it is automatically detected, for some reason the camera always starts in the 'indoors' setting - so if you're in high key lighting and forget to change the setting, your photo will come out blank.
- Don't "shake it like a Polaroid picture" - this is damaging and detrimental.
- The first time you take a picture on a new film, the first thing to come out will be a black 'protector' piece. This is not a photo and only happens before the first image.
- You shouldn't open the film compartment unless you've used up all the photos. If you do open this up then all of the film will be damaged and therefore unusable.
- There's a small glass panel on the bottom right with a small ticker telling you exactly how many images you have remaining. Beware of this when going out; if you intend to take lots of photographs, make sure the number isn't 1 - obviously.
All the mistakes I've made (yes, this requires a whole section)
Me being me, I've managed to make quite a few mistakes as a beginner. When I first recieved the camera, I did lots of research and watched some YouTube tutorials. However, most people neglected to mention all of the super easy errors and the result of this. Shamelessly, I feel it's just as important to share my mistakes as well as my successes. So here they are...
1. The wrong setting
It unsurprisngly only took me until photo number two to completely cock up. In my excitement at seeing a nice rock pathway, I totally forgot to change the settings on the camera from 'indoors' to 'outdoors' - so what printed was a strange almost-there image. It actually looks kind of like a sketch that has been started but not finished so I did keep this one as it reminds me of the way my Nan taught me to sketch.
2. The wrong setting (again)
Again, in fact the very next day, I forgot the settings once more. Having not learned my lesson, this time I was so intrigued by a passing boat that I didn't realise I was taking a photograph of some high key lighting in the 'indoors' setting. The result? A completely blank image. Ten minutes later a very slightly blue tint appeared, but nothing else. I've tried internet searching whether I can place this back in my camera and take a new picture on the same image but no-one seems to know. Not even Google could tell me - I was so desperate I even tried asking Jeeves but still to no avail.
3. The wrong setti- just kidding! Patience
Patience is essential when taking Polaroids. If you want that perfect photo, you'll have to wait a while. While in Croatia, I embarked on a beautiful bicycle ride with my family. We reached a little pathway where I stopped to take a picture of my brother cycling. This was my first picture so I was excited to take it. I was also cautious of holding my family up for too long as we only had the bikes rented for 2 hours. ANYWAY... When I took the first photo, the scene was idyllic; there were our bicycles, the coast, some boats and a paraglider in the sky who matched my colour scheme perfectly. However, as I soon realised, the first photo to come out is a black 'protector' piece. I didn't know this at the time, so we spent ages waiting for it to develop. It didn't. I therefore had to take the photo again but the paraglider and boats were gone. The photo came out nicely, but it was kind of frustrating when the paraglider and boats returned 5 minutes later as we watched the photo develop without them.
I'm sure more mistakes are coming my way soon so I'll update this when they do. Not to be pessimistic or anything.
Presenting your Polaroids
Now you've got your images, show them off and make something beautiful! These photos really do have endless potential and they're a lovely credit card size.
1. Pin It
This idea and image is courtesy of Liz Robson Photography. All you need is a corkboard, enough photos to fill it and an equal number of pins. This method means that you can put similar photos together or in groups and you can arrange them in any configuration your mind imagines. The photos also won't be damaged as they sit nicely on the pins. However, I can imagine photos could possibly fall off, therefore damging them, so do be cautious. All photos would also have to be placed exactly landscape or portrait to avoid them falling from grace.
2. Book It
I really love this idea - it's a great way of displaying photos in groups from certain dates. Though it would take a while, this would look amazing once finished. Perhaps this is probably better for a travel or fashion style. The image above is property of Hemut Newton | Ozon
3. Frame It
This idea is from Not On The High Steet (dot com) and can be bought and personalised here. I can imagine this would be lovely to either document a year (e.g. a photo for every month) or for a big event such as a wedding. I can't say this is necessarily an idea I'm going to try but I still like it nonetheless.
4. Hang It
My personal favourite. All you need is a thick piece of rope/string and lots of wooden pegs to make a really nice wall display of your Polaroids. This has a really vintage feel to it, which perfectly suits the photos. This is a technique I'd definitely like to try out myself, alongside the book. This image is from Bohemian Bunnie who also offer advise on the different types of camera as well as presenting them right over here.
Should I Buy A Polaroid Camera????????
This is a good question - one that I asked myself an awful lot before I got mine. If you're a creative person then Polaroids offer a world of possibility and you'll love how the images come out. I can imagine these would be amazing at a party, in fact my friend Sophie recently had a garden party where guests could hang up Polaroids on the fence and the end result is something quite lovely. Photo courtesy of my bezzer Saskia Roberts.
However, if you're quite a clumsy, impatient person and it takes you several attempts to get the photo just right then I probably wouldn't recommend a Polaroid. A digital camera or a phone will still be there to take your pictures and you can try as many times as your memory card will allow it. There's always apps to edit your photos and make them look like Polaroids afterwards.
I'd also like to quickly point out the price. Without naming names, certain 'urban' style clothing stores will charge around £90 for these camera, while a certain online shop which happens to have the same name as a rainforest and river will sell them for about £50. I bought mine online and got 40 photos for only an extra £25 which is a bargain. Work it out.
Photos I’ve taken – the good, the bad and the ugly (my selfies)
Finally, we've reached the end of this article which went on for a lot longer than expected. Here's a cheeky little gallery of photos I've taken. Note: the more pernickety will notice I mentioned selfies in the title, that was merely a joke and I definitely wouldn't waste film on just my own face :)
Thanks very much for reading and hopefully this will be of help to at least one person! If you have any other hints, techniques, stories or ideas then please put them in the comment section below and I might just add them. Likewise, if you have any suggestions for my next 'How To' article then please post them down below.
Until next time, bye!
By Jack Edwards
Hello! Unfortunately, due to the number of images on this page, my How To Polaroid blog post can not be viewed in this mobile optimised view. You can, however, view this on the full site. Click the button right at the top of the page for that... My profuse apologies!
How To Use A Polaroid Camera