A time long ago…before iPhones, Instagram and Hypstamatic…if you wanted a photo instantly you used a Polaroid camera.
I got a refurbished Polaroid 600 series camera for Christmas from my lovely wife. The film is somewhat difficult to get your hands on. Polaroid stopped making film in 2008 and now the only company that makes it is The Impossible Project. The company purchased one of the Polaroid companies’ shuttered facilities in The Netherlands and began producing the instant pack film once again. You can’t pick the film up at your local Walmart but you can easily purchase it on The Impossible Project’s website. One of the biggest draw backs of the film is the price. A pack of 8 exposure Color Shade PX 680, the film used in the example below, is around $24. Another issue which some may consider a drawback is the film gives you uneven and sometimes unexpected results.
So why would you want to use a Polaroid with we have digital cameras that can take instant high quality digital photos that can be shared with the world in a matter of seconds? Why would anyone want to spend that much money on film and take the chance that the photo you take won’t even process correctly? First, I think there is a sense of nostalgia. I remember growing up with a Polaroid in the house, being freed from its box only for special occasions like Christmas, weddings and family visits.
Secondly and most important, when I started shooting with this Polaroid I used a little part of my brain that I hadn’t used in a while. Most of us who grew up shooting on film had to be a little more thoughtful and selective when taking photographs. Now, with 16gb memory cards you can just shoot everything now and ask questions later, you can afford to take 50 shots that are not so great. In the not so distant past, if you had 36 exposures on a 35mm roll of film you had to ask yourself, “is this moment worthy of my valuable celluloid real estate?” You have to look, think and compose and make sure you have the shot BEFORE you press the shutter. When you spend $24 on 8 exposures you better make sure you aren’t just wasting a frame.
What you create is a single unique object. A one-of-a-kind photograph that can’t be reprinted, refiltered, enlarged, etc (of course it can be scanned where these manipulations can be performed but the original remains unchanged).
Something else I found interesting is that one of the drawbacks of the Polaroid instant camera was the somewhat poor image quality that was the tradeoff for instant photos. Now, though, we have cameras in our phones that take exceptional 8 megapixel digital images and now we apply filters to decrease the image quality to make them look more “vintage” and unique.