Welcome back to the final part in the “Polaroid shooting Tips’n Tricks” series! This time, I’m going to explain different things that you can do to protect your image after taking it.
In case you haven’t read the previous posts in the series, make sure to check those out as they include tips on choosing the right camera & film combo as well as setting things up to achieve a great looking photograph.
Taking Polaroids these days would be less of a hassle if the images weren’t so expensive. The average Polaroid photo on Impossible film costs about 2,5€ for normal and 1,25€ for Factory Seconds packs (excl. shipping and discounts). This is why getting the shot right seems to be more important than ever. However, don’t let that ruin the experience of instant photography! If you see something worth capturing, go for it! (See Impossible’s #nowornever campaign)
Not everything looks good on Polaroid, though. The following kinds of images are probably not going to come out right using instant cameras:
Scenes with very bright and dark areas
Most Polaroid cameras have relatively basic optics in them. Unless you’re shooting with an SLR 680, don’t expect the images to look perfect. Especially light / dark contrasts in images are a challenge for single-element fixed-focus plastic lenses, take this image as an example. More examples below!
If you want to capture something in motion, your best option is to attempt and follow the subject with the camera, taking the image somewhere during the sweep. This can yield a reasonably sharp subject with blurred background (but might also give a completely shaky / blurry image). You’re probably better off taking the image with your smartphone or digital camera and using an Instant Lab to capture it on Polaroid.
Close-Ups (esp. AF cameras) If you’re using a CL (close lens) equipped camera, those are just fine for closeups. However, with an autofocus or fixed-focus camera, closeups won’t be a lot of fun. I’ve had extremely mixed results ranging from great to terribly out of focus when shooting with my AF 660. 🙁 See the gallery right below:
Framing the shot
Unlike most of today’s analog and digital pictures, Polaroid 600 and SX-70 images are (obviously) square. In addition, because classic Polaroid cameras were made mainly for portrait photography, focus is sharpest in the center of the image and autofocus cameras will always attempt to focus on the center of the image. This means that most photographic rules of thumb that you might know don’t necessarily apply on Polaroid format.
However, the following two basic framing techniques can be applied to Polaroid photography:
Rule of Thirds
The bend of the path was consciously placed exactly at the interseciton of the left and bottom thirds in this image:
Center the subject
This one might seem like no technique at all because it’s so basic, but placing the subject of your Polaroid image in the center is actually a good idea for many reasons:
– The center of the image will always be the sharpest spot.
– There is a slight vignette effect at the edge of many Polaroids.
– Classic Polaroid cameras were made for Portrait photography with the subject in the middle.
– AF cameras will always focus on the center of the image.
Things to note when framing the shot:
– Polaroid photos are quitte narrow in comparison to standard 4×3 images. Take care while framing the shot in order not to position things at the very edge of the photo, they’ll seem unimportant and be slightly out of focus! (remember, AF cameras focus in the middle)
– Be careful not to cut anything off by incorrect framing! On all non-SLR Polaroid cameras, the actual image the camera will capture is slightly to the right of what you see in the viewfinder!!
When you’re arranging the subject(s), take some extra time and take some quick digital test images (LOL! Back in the 70s, Polaroids were used for test images!) to check wether the scene looks right. This will also help you with remembering when and where you took the Polaroid image. It’s no shame to rearrange chairs and people for your image since the print will cost an instant 2,5€ (no pun intended).
The following shot took about five minutes of preparation and involved lots of sticky tape to keep everything in place!
How to press the shutter
With everything set up and ready to go, it’s time to press that shutter button! On 600 cameras, use the small black tab under the red button to take the image without flash.
Hey, y’all, and how’s it going?
As I promised earlier, here’s a series full of tips for getting the most out of your Polaroid camera! Part one is about choosing the right camera and film for yourself to use.
As you might already know, there are four kinds of classic Polaroid cameras distinguished mainly by the film they work with: SX-70, 600, Image/Spectra and 8×10. As selecting the camera is a very important task, I have compiled a list of scenarios and a corresponding camera recommendation for you:
You are an amateur / new to the world of Polaroid photography Your best choice: a 600 box-type camera. Any model in good condition will do, but cameras with CL (close lens) or AF (autofocus) features can take sharper images.
You have some experience with Polaroid cameras and photography It might be time to upgrade to a more professional camera. If you don’t already have one, you should now get a CL or AF-equipped camera. For even better image quality, consider getting an SX-70 camera. The film speed is slower on those but also shows more detail than 600 and Image/Spectra images. If you’re looking for one of the most iconic Polaroid cameras, have a look at the SX-70 Sonar Land Camera (not at the price tag tho…).If you’re looking to change things up a bit, why not try an Image / Spectra camera? The images are slightly wider than normal Polaroids and share film characteristics with the 600 film (see below).
You’re an experienced Polaroid photographer looking for the ultimate shooting experience 8×10 cameras / film are the perfect fit for you. This format allows for advanced shooting techniques and uses some of the best cameras.
After choosing your camera, the range of suitable films will be limited to the type of camera: SX-70, 600, Image/Spectra or 8×10 film.
SX-70 film has a film speed of ASA/ISO 150. This gives for a big amount of detail while reducing the chance of overexposed images e. g. when shooting outside as the film is generally less sensitive to light than 600 or Image / Spectra film. This, however, is also a downside of SX-70 film, as slower film speeds require longer shutter speeds in order to achieve bright images. If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can try using an Neutral Density filter plus 600 film in your SX-70 camera.
Tldr; hold your camera steady and you can get impressive results!
600 film: Images taken with this film (ASA/ISO 640) boast bright and vivid images even at low light at the cost of image quality compared to SX-70 film. The chance of blurred images is reduced thanks to faster shutter speeds. 600 cameras are also newer than SX-70 cameras and their mechanics and automatic exposure can be more reliable. (Why is the image quality worse? You could say that the resolution of the image is lower because the chemical “pixels” are bigger. This allows them to capture more light in the same amount of time.) Image/Spectra film is chemically identical to 600 and therefore shares characteristics and film speed. The image area is slightly wider on this film, producing wide-format rectangular results. Great for capturing a landscape in a single shot.
8×10 Film is the only choice if you’re using an 8×10 camera.
The film speed is about 600 ASA/ISO.
Color or Black-and-White?
In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult pre-shooting decisions.
It depends on the motif you’re planning on shooting. If you’re going to take pictures of very structural subjects like buildings and abstractly looking scenery, black and white film can help to direct the viewer’s attention to shapes instead of colors. B&W images can also have a darker atmosphere and tend to look more old-fashioned than colored ones. On the other hand, taking a picture of the colorful flowers in your garden doesn’t necessarily make sense on b&w film. You get the idea.
That’s it for part one of this series of Polaroid shooting Tips and Tricks. Check out the other posts in this series: part two “Capturing the moment” (pre-shooting and mid-shooting techniques) as well as part three “Preserving the moment” (post-shooting tips including development, modification and storage of the images).
Got tips to share with everyone? Feel free to do so in the comment section below!