Polaroid Tricks


One of the most popular and populist forms of photograph, the Polaroid has been an iconic staple of American culture since its inception in 1948. Created by Edward Land upon the belief that a consumer should be able to see his photograph immediately, the instant cameras and film that the company marketed were used by snap-shooters and professionals alike to capture memories and create works of art.

Polaroid Transfers

  • Due to the way a Polaroid picture develops, you can transfer the image from the picture's included base to another surface. To do this, expose a Polaroid using a Polaroid DayLab or a normal Polaroid camera. About 10 seconds after exposure, peel apart the Polaroid and place the negative on a piece of damp paper that you've blotted dry. Hold the negative there for a few minutes, and then gently peel it away. With this technique, the imperfections are an important part of the image.

Surface-Altered Polaroids

  • You can create amazing images with Polariod's SX-70 film, commonly called Time-Zero, through surface manipulation and alteration. First, take a picture with an SX-70 camera and SX-70 film. As the image develops, apply pressure to the Mylar surface of the film with a sharp-edged tool like a pen or clay-sculpting tools. This changes the underlying chemical composition, producing unique and unpredictable images. While Polaroid no longer makes this film, the Impossible Project, listed in the Resource section, sells a version of this film called PX-70 that works with existing SX-70 cameras and can be manipulated in the same fashion.

Polariod Emulsion Lifts

  • By the same process of tearing apart a Polaroid that is used for Polaroid transfers, you can also allow the image to develop and then remove the gossamer film containing that image and apply it to another surface. This is done by allowing the image to developing and then soaking it in warm water. After the image has soaked for a few minutes, carefully rub off the paper backing from the image, eventually leaving only a semi-transparent image. The glue on this image is still functional, so you can apply the lift to another surface and briefly manipulate it before the glue sets.

Experiment and Pratice

  • Owing to the alternative nature of manipulating and altering Polaroid images, the process requires considerable practice before you can reliably create the image you're looking for. However unpredictable the results, the process is often enjoyable and exciting, especially for the amateur photographer looking for experience with alternative techniques, as the instructions are not hard to follow. Remember, practice, experiment and have fun.

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