Instant Photography: 5 Tips for Avoiding Mistakes

Hi chums!

I got my Polaroid camera in July earlier this year. Although I haven't had my camera for long, I have already learnt a lot (by making a few mistakes myself!) so I wanted to share them with you because Polaroid film is expensive so you don't want to make a mistake if you can help it!

I have narrowed them down into 5 tips, so I hope they are helpful!

1. Consider the lighting

Lighting is key to a Polaroid picture.

I took a photo of an afternoon tea party I had in the summer. We had it indoors because it wasn't nice enough weather to be outside. I didn't turn on the light for the photo and so it came out looking quite dark.

Likewise, it can be difficult taking one outside. I have often found that when the sky is blue and the sun is shining it seems like the best time to take a Polaroid. However, after taking a few like this I have realises that maybe it's not the best idea. For example, remember when you took you're school photo when you were younger? Some may not want reminding of this, but the point is that the photographers usually use fake lighting. They either have a light with a kind of umbrella-looking contraption, or they have some square boxes on a stand. Either way the light isn't directly shining onto your face. It's the same with a Polaroid. When it's cloudy the sunlight isn't as strong and so the light doesn't reflect as strongly into your camera, making your picture less white and the object more defined.

Here's an example:

So it completely depends on your location but I would put lighting as one of the biggest things to think about before your take your Polaroid.

2. Remember to put the setting on

This may seem super obvious, but when you're waiting in a busy place and you're trying to take a picture without people in, or if you're concentrating on lining up the shot, it is easy to forget to twist the lense to the right setting.

On my Polaroid camera there are 5 settings: indoors, cloudy, sunny, really sunny and Hi-key.

Sadly, for one photo I was trying to take, I completely forgot about changing the setting to sunny, so I took a photo outdoors on the indoors setting. The result was a white picture which barely defined the outside of the building I was trying to take a picture of! You can see how it turned out below.

3. Don't try to over-complicate a picture

This tip is best understood by an example, so here we go:

I went to Disneyland this summer (yay!) and I decided I wanted to take a Polaroid of Cinderella's Castle but I thought it would be cool if I got the statue of Walt Disney holding hands with Mickey Mouse in front of it. It ended up not going so well because the photo captured Walt and Mickey, but the castle was quite hard to see.

Another example is the following:

This was at Buckingham Palace. I thought that it would be cool to take a picture of the back of the palace, but to frame it with two bushes. Instead of looking really artsy and cool, sadly the camera couldn't cope with the lighting very well. It would have been better to just take a picture of the palace on its own (isn't hindsight the worst?!)

The best Polaroid photos that I have taken have been of the more simple things. I wouldn't advise having too much depth in your photos - focus on one thing and your picture will turn out fab!

4. Don't open your camera to check if any film is left!

My Polaroid camera, like disposable cameras, shows how many pictures are left. I am also usually quite good at counting down how many I have left, but one day the number screen showed the letter 'S' instead of a number. I thought I had one photo left, but I wasn't sure so I thought I would open it up and have a look. It turned out that I did have one left, but when I tried taking a photo with it, it came out white.

Polaroid film is very sensitive and can't be exposed to light, which is why the packets of film come in a black box which you place in the back of your camera. After you put the box in, you press the button to take a photo and instead of getting a Polaroid, a thin black bit of plastic comes out. That is the front of the box which was protecting the film from the light. After this point you can't open the back to check for film or you will end up wasting any you have left.

This point may be obvious to some people, but as a complete beginner of instant photography I had no idea and I was so angry at myself for wasting a picture!

5. If you make a mistake, forgive and forget!

So far I have taken 4 Polaroid pictures that have gone wrong and after each I have felt really annoyed with myself and it has made me feel a bit down for a bit, but you (and I) have to learn not to be too sad about a shot going wrong - unfortunately it is the nature of instant photography!

When you do make a mistake, try to think on the bright side! Look at all the Polaroids which have gone really well and which you are proud of!

That's the end of my 5 tips, so I hope if you're a newcomer to instant photography and Polaroid cameras that I hope that this helps (even just a tiny bit)!

Thank you for reading and happy instant photographing!



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