Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lessons about Polaroids

Recently I worked on a show that calls for a Polaroid photo to be taken in the final scene. There really were no shortcuts available either to get around spending the money on the consumable prop of film for each performance. The photo is taken in full view of the audience and then one character is immediately asked to sign the bottom of the photo after the camera spits it out.

I acquired a working 600 land camera (popular in the 70s and 80s) and then started trying to find film. Turns out...way harder than you would imagine.

First, Polaroid stopped making film for its instant cameras in 2008. Fujifilm has since taken over production of some instant film, but as far as the camera professionals I talked to could tell me, they don't work in older Polaroid cameras and are mostly just for Fujifilm cameras.

To get the film you have two options. The first is ebay, where bidding is competitive for old expired polaroid film. I thought that this would be a good option for me. I figured the chemicals for developing the photos in the expired film might have degraded over time, but since I didn't need a quality image, I should be fine. The problem is that the battery in old Polaroid cameras is part of the film pack and the battery had degraded over time as well. After spitting out half of the photos in the pack, the battery went dead and the remainder of the pack had to be thrown away.

A second option is the-impossible-project, a company made up of former Polaroid employees working in an old Polaroid factory in the Netherlands. For the past few years they have been working to combine their knowledge to reinvent instant film. Their products are still growing and developing (for example they don't have the peel off guard old Polaroid film had. You have to shade the picture immediately as it is being spit out of the camera to avoid over exposure). Typically a downside of this film is the time it takes to ship, but I was lucky (I thought) to find a local camera store that buys it and keeps it in stock. In the end, the impossible film I purchased from the local store had the same problem as the ebay film. It had been sitting too long and the battery went dead after only taking six out of the eight photos in the pack. I would be interested in how film direct from the Netherlands would have held up.

So for future reference, plan on spending around $4 per photo if you need Polaroids, and allow plenty of time for ebay bidding and overseas shipping. If I had to do it again I think I would take my chances with the impossible project as I imagine their products are only going to get better with time.

1 comment:

  1. Test the battery first?

    You could probably kludge a replacement using a flat style Lipo cell or something, just a thought.
    Obviously this would need to be done in darkness with a night vision camera to stop the film getting damaged..