December 19, 2016

Bath-based photography student and all-round Polaroid addict, Sami Coulthard shares with us her top tips for getting the most out of your camera and what to do with the shots when you’re done! Over to you, Sami…

“I was infatuated with the Polaroid camera ever since my tenth birthday party; whilst me and my pals huddled together next to a giant costumed bear, a woman held a large silver box which she unfolded toward our grins, pressed a button and oosh! There it was: a physical, irreplaceable photo in the palm of her hand that appeared in an instant.

Sadly, I didn’t receive that desired Polaroid camera for my eleventh birthday. It was actually Christmas three years ago which brought instant photography into my life. A present from my boyfriend, I finally unwrapped the gift (along with a pack of film) that I’d been longing over for over a decade. I shoved the film into the camera and took a photo. As the camera sprung to life and made a bit of a racket, I pressed the red button and ta-da! There was my photo wheeling out at the bottom. I watched with uncontained excitement. But nothing happened.

It’s evident that a lot had changed since I was ten. In 2008, Polaroid announced that they were scrapping their manufacture of film, which, as they were the only company to make polaroid film, ultimately meant the end of instant photography. Major sad faces all round. Fast forward to the present: instant photography is booming. Instant photography can be a fun hobby to keep, especially with the festive season coming up where it’ll be party social and family gathering galore. So why not treat yourself to a Polaroid camera, or grant a friend the gift of instant photography like I was?

Here are a few tips I wish I had read before taking my first polaroid, as despite its catchy tune, you really cannot shake it like a polaroid picture.”

What are the different types of Polaroid?

Polaroid box 600, Polaroid Spectra, Polaroid SX-70

As a beginner, the best option is the box Polaroid 600 type camera, which takes ‘600’ type format film. A simple point and shoot camera, you really cannot go wrong with one of these. Most 600 cameras offer an automatic shutter speed of 1/4-1/200 sec, a flash, a darkening and lightening tool and depending on the model, a close up option.

Known as ‘the box’ camera because of its shape, the camera folds down when not in use to save its battery. Unfolding the camera turns it on, which can be noted by a small green light at the back which ensures that the flash is on. The flash is also suitable for indoor photos, and for best results, away from direct light to avoid over exposure. See our 600 type cameras here.

What film do I need?

Impossible Project 600 film – fill your stockings here.

Let’s be direct – instant photography is not a cheap hobby – but all the more reason for it to be on your Christmas list. Because of its special formula, a pack of eight shots can be bought for £15-20 as the film acts as the cameras battery pack – making each photo particularly unique.

What types of film are there?

Too many to choose from. Of course there is your classic colour film with a square frame. But now you can dazzle your Polaroid collection with black and white prints, colour frames, black frames and even circled frames! Browse them here.

How do I develop a photo?

The thing that I adore about Polaroid photography is how delicate and tending you have to be with each shot. Once you press the shutter button, the rollers will release your photo which needs to be immediately hidden from light, as any light exposure will alter the photo’s development. I place my photos into a book or my coat pocket as soon as it leaves the mouth of the camera. Remember, NOT to shake it, just leave it to let it do its magic. Just make sure that its doing its magic to indoor temperature, as outdoor temperatures will bring a blueish tone to your picture.

How long does it take to develop?

My first attempt at instant photography fell flat, as, despite its name, Polaroids are not quite so instant anymore. Impossible Project are the new manufacturers for polaroid film, and their colour formula takes around 20 to 25 minutes to develop, whilst their black and white film will develop in around ten minutes. An agonizing wait, but the outcomes are well worth the wait.

Not every photo you take will come out perfect, but that is what differs Polaroid photography from digital. It’s a true art form that takes practise, admiration and love for a great outcome. Get snapping over the festive season to hold those memories in the palm of your hand, or why not cover your entire bedroom wall, like I did! Even better, why not attach them to some string lights or between tinsel for that festive décor?

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