This is my official Polaroid Blog since I no longer update this site. Please take a moment to visit my new site and let me know what you think!
I am happy to announce that I have started moving my content and pages from this site to my new one!
The new Squarespace site gives me more freedom and flexibility to post my work. While I have and still enjoy using WordPress, it it mostly a blogging site. At least it has been for me. I’d like to make blogging secondary to my work.
So please take some time to visit my new site and leave me some feedback here or at my new site. I look forward to hearing from everyone!
Take care, and keep shooting film!
This is a quick blog to ask those of you who visit my site to please check out Garrison Irwin’s newest project, Out of Focus. These webisodes chronicle the journey of a group of teenagers as they search for their missing friend. Garrison was a student of mine in middle school and has gone on to do some great things in high school. We couldn’t be more proud of his accomplishments!
Filmmaking was a passion of mine when I was a junior in high school. It is what got me started in photography. Back then we only had access to super 8 cameras. Video was just starting to catch on, but it was far too expensive for us to use. Today’s technology is simply incredible and Garrison and his friends have made the most out of what they are using. It’s exciting to see such a young person with so much talent!
Thanks for taking the time to view Garrison’s webisodes and don’t forget to shoot instant film!
This post is long overdue. In fact, some of it is old news. However, I did want to share that one of my instant photographs was accepted into The Delaplaine Visual Arts and Education Center’s annual juried exhibit. I had originally submitted three instant photographs, but only The Root Beer Truck was accepted. This photograph is part of an ongoing project that I started last summer. I have more information about it under my newly created Projects page. Needless to say, I was very pleased that my work was accepted given the fact that there was so much other excellent art work entered into this particular show. I have been inspired to put together a proposal for a solo show involving my instant photographs titled Olive in the Wild. I just submitted the proposal so it will be at least a month or more before I hear any news. I will post photographs of this project in the upcoming days.
I have made a few changes to this site. I wanted to share more of my work so that is why I created the Projects page. I also eliminated the Stuff for Sale page and replaced it with a Wanted page. Please take some time to look this page over and let me know if you have any of the items listed on there. I am especially interested in the Polaroid Photo Albums. They are so hard to come by these days. In fact, any photo album for the Fuji FP film is tough to find.
Finally, I am going through that phase again where I want to give a Polaroid 180 or 195 a try. In fact, I would be willing to use any instant camera that allows me more control over the aperture and shutter speed. I am curious about the advantages of a manual camera over an automatic camera. I am looking for greater control over my depth of field, but I believe I can achieve the same results with my 250. Please let me know your thoughts!
In the mean time, continue to shoot lots and lots of instant film. I really want it to stay around for a very long time.
I realize it’s been several weeks since my last post. In fact, I’m two weeks behind posting my daughter’s weekly Polaroid. It’s not like I haven’t had the time. We’ve had several days off from school due to snow. There hasn’t been much to share. In addition, I feel very lazy these days. I had the flu two weeks ago and I haven’t felt the same since then.
I did purchase a Polaroid #519 picture album. It holds a total of 72 photos back-to-back in plastic sleeves. It’s perfect for holding Olive’s weekly Polaroids. I enjoy looking through the last 34 weeks and seeing how much she’s grown since we brought her home from the hospital. I rarely come across these photo albums. I’m certain that there are plenty still out there, but they are full of family photos. Some of the plastic rings in my album were brittle and broke off. There’s no way of replacing these or adding more of the plastic sleeves. The cardboard sleeve is well worn, but holds the album nicely. Polaroid made several photo albums including the 521, which was their deluxe model. I’ve never seen one of these, but I’m always on the look out for one. I have enough instant photos to fill several albums.
Sadly the album I won from eBay was nearly full of wedding Polaroids from the early 70s.
I’ve kept them for now and might post a few from time to time. The lighting is off in a number of the pictures, but it didn’t keep the family from ordering copies. The cardboard mounts on the back of many of the pictures are marked with requests for one or more copies. Unfortunately there are no names or even a location of where the wedding took place. There are few identifying clues in the photos themselves. I have to wonder why and how these personal mementos make it to eBay. I’d hate for my most personal memories to meet their fate on some sort of worldwide auction site.
However, it happens all the time!
Apparently it wasn’t all that uncommon for wedding photographers to offer a Polaroid Package. This would have been much more affordable compared to film photography. There are some wedding photographers who still incorporate instant photography into their photo packages and offerings.
That’s about it for now. Remember, keep the dream alive and take lots of instant photos!
While looking through some Etsy stores, I came across this book by Lou Jacobs, Jr. titled Instant Photography. It is 127 pages of pure reading pleasure. Included in this book are chapters on What is Instant Photography, Instant Cameras and Film: How They Work, and Picture Projects for Profit. All joking aside, this book does provide Polaroid users with information on the various camera models manufactured by Polaroid including peel-apart film cameras and integral film cameras. It has technical information about cameras (aperture and shutter speeds) as well as references to the many no-longer manufactured Polaroid films. There’s even a chapter about accessories for instant cameras. Look for it on Amazon. It’s not an expensive book and shipping was free since I have a Prime membership. It’s an excellent resource to keep on one’s shelf, especially when it comes to learning about the various cameras and films. My favorite photograph is
perhaps the first selfie that I’ve seen taken with an SX-70. I suppose the idea of a selfie has been around since the invention of the camera. However, I have to give the author credit for making good use of his camera!
As a side note, a quick internet search shows that Lou Jacobs, Jr. is still making photographs and has a website here. Please check out his work for its outstanding quality and attention to detail.
I know it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with school starting back up and my graduate work. However, I did find time to open an Etsy store. I’m selling some of my Polaroids along with my son’s art. The store’s name is, BBooherPhotography. I will continue to post more items as I find the time. I will eliminate the For Sale page on this site and list any instant cameras and accessories on the Etsy store. Whether I sell anything or not remains to be seen! I have a number of flashbulbs to list so keep an eye out.
Last, but not least, I picked up a Vivitar 181 flash from eBay. It is a big and heavy flash that has two settings, Hi and Low. It uses rechargeable batteries that no longer hold a charge for more than an hour or so. I’ve taken it apart to see if I can replace the batteries. It looks simple enough, but I’m in no hurry. The capacitor is huge so be careful! I’ll take some pictures and include them in a future post.
That’s it for now! Remember, get out there and take some instant photos.
I’m sure that by now this is old news, but I wanted to share it with the Instant Photography community at-large. The more this information is out there the greater the chance to keep instant photography thriving and alive.
The first site is a PDF straight from Polaroid explaining the codes found on the back of their instant photos. This includes both peel-apart (pack-film) and integral film. This fifty-five page document (dated 1998) does a thorough job of explaining the various codes found on the backs of Polaroid pictures. I never gave much thought to these codes and assumed they only meant something to Polaroid.
I don’t know the author of this website (or the second one, for that matter) and would like to give credit where credit is due. So, please leave a comment or email me with either site’s author/creator.
A more succinct explanation of the codes can be found at another website. This five page PDF document includes illustrations with examples. Since there is less to read through, I’ve found this PDF to be more useful.
To help explain the codes, I’ve included two examples from my own collection of family Polaroids. The first photograph is from a pack of peel-apart pack film. It shows my best friend and me posing in the living room of my parent’s old house.
The second scan below shows the back of the same photograph. My Mom was good enough to add the date it was taken. However, the code provides additional clues, namely, the date the film was manufactured. It reads, J5 12 23 2 A. The first letter tells me that this film was manufactured in September. After the letter J is the number 5 and it tells me the year in which the film was manufactured, 1975. The remaining numbers refer to the machine on which the film was made and the shift during which the film was manufactured. (This information is of little use to me, but the Polaroid manual goes into detail about how to interpret these codes.) At the top (barely seen in this scan) it reads, Polaroid Type 108. It’s interesting to note that for film that was manufactured in 1975 this particular photograph was not taken until 1976. Because instant film was so expensive even back then, it was a big deal to break out the instant camera and take a picture. Therefore, keep in mind that the code can only reveal the date of manufacture and NOT the date of when the photograph was taken.
The same information holds true for integral film. Remember, the date only reveals when the film was manufactured and nothing more. Take a look at my next example below.
This Polaroid shows me holding our family cat. Once again, I’m standing in the living room of my parent’s old house. This is perhaps one of my favorite Polaroids because 30 years later my son took a picture of me holding our cat in the kitchen of our apartment. It wasn’t until much later that we discovered the similarities between the two photos.
Again, using the information from the above referenced websites I can determine that this film was manufactured in July (07) 1978 (8). In the background of the Polaroid is my certificate of having played Soccer during my freshman year of high school, 1979. Again, my Dad used his film sparingly, which probably explains why we have so few family Polaroids.
So, why the July 1980 notation? Well, when I first researched the Polaroid codes I mistook the 8 in the code for a 0 and wrote it down as July 1980. However, something didn’t jive. I knew that this Polaroid had been taken much earlier because I knew I did not play soccer in 1980. I was too busy doing God only knows what else. Upon closer inspection with a stronger magnifying glass I discovered the 0 to be an 8, hence 1978. Therefore, be careful when looking at the codes on Polaroids. The numbers may be faded and difficult to read. Try to use contextual clues to help with dating your own Polaroids.
I am a nostalgic person by nature and enjoy looking at old photographs as much as I enjoy taking new photographs. Each picture tells a unique story and it tells one that will last for as long as the photograph itself lasts. Now, get out there and make memories. SHOOT MORE INSTANT FILM!
Reader Peter Cheng shared a comment that he uses a Vivitar 181 flash along with a rare, but extremely useful Vivitar Adapter PFA-2. Excited by the prospect of yet another way to mount an electronic flash to a Polaroid Land Camera, I scoured the internet for any information I could find regarding this rare adapter. Indeed, it is rare! I did find this entry by way of Google Books from a copy of Popular Mechanics circa 1971! Check it out here. Peter was also kind enough to share some photos of the instructions for mounting the adapter and the flash to a Polaroid camera. Taking a closer look at what photos of the adapter I was able to find, it looks very similar to those available by way of Fastcat99. You’ll recall from my last post that these adapters have a hot shoe attached to a #268 mounting bracket that allows for both the flash and the bracket to
easily mount onto the camera. The Vivitar Adapter PFA-2 looks to be very similar. Of course, the Vivitar adapter did come with a flash synchronization plug. However, this is not necessary as long as the shutter button is released immediately after taking a photograph. It’s interesting to note that Vivitar didn’t mention anything about the fact that Polaroid Land Cameras were designed for M-Sync (flash bulbs). I would assume that the Vivitar 180 and 181 are for use with X-Sync cameras. Marty Kuhn conducted an informal test using electronic flash. His results can be viewed here.
Looking at eBay, the Vivitar 180 and 181 can easily be had for under $20. Many of these auctions include the AC adapter, an additional sync cord, and a carrying case. What I like the most about these flashes is the fact that they can be rotated vertically or horizontally. (What good this does for me as a photographer is irrelevant, but the option to rotate the flash is available to me should I need to do so.)
Thanks again Peter for sharing this information. We would love to see some instant photos taken with this set up. Please let us know if you have a website or Flickr account so that we can take a look around and admire your work.
Again, get out there and shoot more instant film!
Nothing is more rewarding than showing up to a family get together or party with a Polaroid Land Camera. After the initial teasing and ribbing about using such an old camera, everyone loves to have their photograph taken and then have it handed to them within several minutes.
However, unless the get together is outside on a sunny day one will need a lot of artificial light. Due to the Polaroid’s f/8.8 aperture, I prefer to use a flash. There is rarely, if ever, enough ambient light to take an indoor photo.
You’re thinking, “So, what’s available and how much is it going to cost me?” If you already own a decent electronic flash, that may be all that’s needed. However, let’s take a closer look at what’s available starting with what Polaroid originally manufactured for use with their Land Cameras.
The Polaroid #268 Flash Gun was Polaroid’s answer to indoor photography. This relatively
small and unobtrusive flash can still be had at an affordable price. It does require a single AA (1.5 volt) battery and is located beneath the flash’s mounting bracket. This easily forgotten detail is the Achilles’ heel of this flash. Forgotten about, these batteries are left inside only to corrode and nearly ruin what on the outside looks like a mint condition flash gun. Always ask the seller about the battery compartment before buying. While some repairs can be made, expect wires to become corroded and unattached. (Be careful, those old batteries leave behind some nasty chemicals. Use eye protection and gloves when working with and around corroded batteries.)
Perhaps a bigger issue with using a #268 flash gun is their need for flash bulbs. There were a number of different sized flash bulbs as well as manufacturers during the heyday of instant (and film) photography, and these bulbs could be easily purchased from just about any drugstore well into the late 1980s. Unfortunately, flash bulbs for the Polaroid are no longer produced. All that’s available are what can be found on eBay, Etsy, or through various sites dedicated to keeping instant photography alive. (While I’ve not completely checked out this source, Cress Photo sells a wide assortment of flash bulbs. I believe that it is New Old Stock. (Use some caution when visiting their website. Their flash bulb models are, shall we say, interesting?) Expect to pay on average $10 or more for a pack of 12 bulbs. That’s $0.83 a bulb AND before paying shipping costs. I’ve seen some places sell bulbs for as much as $15 per pack and again that’s before shipping costs. One option is to buy in bulk. Early on, I bought some New Old Stock (NOS) of 144 bulbs and paid about $0.50 per bulb. The shipping was free. Still, that’s money that could be spent on film! At about $0.90 per sheet of film and $0.50 per bulb that’s a whopping total of $1.40 per indoor photo. Maybe giving away those instant photographs isn’t such a good idea after all.
However, there are less expensive flash bulbs. Two types of bulbs can be used in the #268 flash gun, clear bulbs and blue bulbs. Clear bulbs are packaged as M3 and blue bulbs are M3B. Both of these will work, but expect the blue bulb to produce less light when used behind the blue plastic shield of a #268 flash gun. This can be somewhat controlled by adjusting the L/D wheel on the camera’s lens. Another option is to remove the flashgun’s shield entirely, but risk having a bulb explode and showering its subjects with hot shrapnel. (Please note, these bulbs are HOT after they fire. Use caution when handling them.) The good news about the M3B bulbs is that they are less expensive on the used market. They are often overlooked because of their color and the fact that they produce a little less light. However, I’ve used them with success and use them exclusively when shooting what little I have left of my black and white film stock. The blue color of the bulb and the #268 shield is to give a color balance closer to daylight. Don’t worry, it won’t affect Fuji’s FP-100c film.
In summary, a Polaroid #268 flash gun with flashbulbs is a quick and easy set-up. It adds to the character of using a Polaroid Land Camera, and the flash will knock people blind because of its bright output of light. However, it is more expensive due to the ridiculously high cost of flash bulbs.
The other option is to use what some of us may already have, an electronic flash. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a flash with the Auto Aperture setting is my personal favorite. That way I can set the ASA (around 100) and aperture (f/8) and let the flash control the amount of light produced. All I have to worry about is my distance. Using a more sophisticated flash allows me to swivel the flash head for bounce flash photography. I could
even use multiple flash heads for studio photography. However, a simple flash such as the Vivitar 252 is what I’ve used in the past. This flash has a built in PC cord making life easier since I don’t have to buy one. Plus, the flash has two auto settings and a manual setting. Its guide number of 64 (ASA 100, in feet) is perfect for my use.
The disadvantage to using an electronic flash is the need for a way to mount the flash to the camera. There’s not a hot shoe attachment on a Polaroid Land Camera. Again, there are solutions. The flash could be handheld, but that makes focusing the camera nearly impossible. Another option is a flash bracket, but not every Polaroid has a tripod socket
(opening) on the bottom of the camera. Fortunately there are some ingenious folks out there who have taken the parts from a #268 flash gun and turned them into the perfect mount for an electronic flash. These can be a bit pricey, but remember that no one is getting rich from taking the time to purchase the materials and make these handy little things. Besides, one of these
mounts can be easily had for the cost of two packs of flash bulbs. Money will be saved in the long run, which can be better spent of film! I purchased mine from Fastcat99.
Perfecto, right? Well, sort of. Polaroid Land Camera’s have an M-Sync. That means their shutters are made to sync with the long duration of a flash bulb. Remember, a flash bulb is basically a controlled explosion inside a piece of glass wrapped in plastic. The magnesium ribbons take some time to reach their peak brightness. Therefore, the camera’s shutter doesn’t fully open right away. There’s a short delay of a few milli-seconds before it is completely open. That way the maximum output of light reaches the subject before it is recorded by the film. In other words, the bulb flashes first and then the camera’s shutter opens. This gives the bulb enough time to reach its peak brightness.
On the other hand, an electronic flash (X-Sync) is almost instantaneous. The bright flash of light is so quick that an M-Sync lens barely has time for its shutter to fully open. This can result in photographs that are unevenly lit. It’s similar to setting an old film camera to a shutter speed higher than the flash sync speed. Half the photograph is properly exposed while the other half is black.
Again, there’s good news. For the mechanically inclined, adjustments to the camera can be made. If taking apart a 50 year old Polaroid frightens you send the camera out to have this work done. Bare in mind that once this fix has been made using flash bulbs is no longer an option. The shutter is set for X-Sync and the bulb won’t have time to reach its full brightness before the shutter closes. This may result in underexposed photographs.
Personally I have never had any problems with using an electronic flash with my Polaroid 100 or 250. I’ve never had the shutter adjusted and my photos come out properly exposed in my opinion. However, I have read of some folks having issues and needing the adjustment to their shutters made by a professional or themselves.
Now, with all this said about electronic flashes there is one last caveat, shutter drag. Back in the day of film photography we would choose a slow shutter speed when shooting with a flash. That way the ambient light could help brighten up the background. This meant our subjects didn’t look like they were standing in a black hole. With black and white film, color temperature was not a concern. The flash “froze” the subjects and the slow shutter speed allowed for a pleasant amount of ambient light. This is still done today with digital cameras, but has a different name (fill flash, I believe).
Because of the electronics in a Polaroid Land Camera, the shutter is controlled by the amount of light “seen” by the light cell. The more light the faster the shutter speed, less light results in longer shutter times. That’s what made these cameras so advanced for their time! However, an electronic flash is so quick that the Polaroid’s electronics don’t have enough time to take into account how long the shutter should stay open. Hence, the shutter will drag and stay open until the release of the shutter button or the camera records enough ambient light to close on its own. Either way a decent photograph develops! Releasing the shutter button right away is what I do, but dragging the shutter can allow for enough ambient light to make for a well exposed photo. The one issue with dragging the shutter is it can introduce camera shake. Using a tripod can eliminate that problem, though. Also, it’s a good idea to have the subjects in the photo remain still until the shutter fully closes. When done outside the flash acts as a fill light.
So, the decision on what to use for artificial light is completely up to the reader. Both require some minimal cost, but one (flash bulbs) requires continued cost. Using flash bulbs certainly adds to the nostalgia of instant photography, but it gets pricey. Also, I have had flash bulbs not work on occasions for whatever reasons. Electronic flash is more cost effective and more reliable, but it requires its users to do a bit of thinking by making sure the controls on the flash have been set accordingly. There is also the initial up front cost of buying the hot shoe mount and perhaps a flash. Still, it’s cheaper than flash bulbs!
I still have a number of M3 and M3B bulbs. However, I rarely use them and instead use an electronic flash. As silly as this may sound, I’ve started using my Nikon SB-800 with my Polaroid 250. I can control the settings more accurately with the Nikon than the Vivitar 252. While I rarely bounce flash when using my Polaroid camera, that option is available to me. (It should be noted that the #268’s head can rotate allowing for bounce flash. However, the amount of light reaching the subject is severely limited.)
Psychologically there’s something weird about seeing such an advanced flash as the Nikon SB-800 on a 50 year old camera. It also adds to the overall weight of the camera. However, I believe Dr. Land would approve of this arrangement were he alive today. For me it sends a loud and clear message to the manufacturers of instant film that their products are still very relevant in this day and age of digital photography. In fact, we need for them to produce more instant film, preferably more of the peel-apart film.
I would love to hear from others regarding what they use for a flash. Does anyone have advice or any special techniques that they would like to share? Let us know! What do others prefer, flash bulbs or an electronic flash? In the mean time, keep instant film alive by shooting more instant film.
Recently, I was given a Polaroid One Step by a friend who rescued it from a yard sale several years ago. My son, Grant, is the integral film user while I am the peel-apart sort of guy. Nonetheless, I broke down and ordered a pack of film for the camera from The Impossible Project along with a set of 8 instant postcards. (Remember my love for the Polaroid Postcarders?) Growing up, my Dad owned a number of Polaroid cameras. For whatever reason he kept those cameras and gave them to Grant just as The Impossible Project was taking off. After much trial and error (and money), we got most of those cameras working. Grant still has them, but rarely takes photos because he can’t afford the film.
My feelings about today’s integral film are mixed. I own a Fuji Instax Mini 7s camera and use it for taking weekly photos of Olive. However, due to the film’s business card size I hardly take the camera with me and use it for taking instant photos. Lately, though, I’ve been considering a Fuji Instax Wide 210 for its larger sized film. These cameras are affordable on the used market and the film is not too terribly expensive. Still, it’s not like shooting with a vintage Polaroid camera.
For me, I miss the colors and rich saturation of Polaroid’s original integral film. As a
teenager, I would borrow my Father’s SX-70 and take instant photos of friends and places we would visit. My father always brought his camera along on vacation and took photos of family. Sadly, very few of these instant photos are around. The ones I do have are located in my Found Family Photos page.
I’m grateful for The Impossible Project’s efforts to keep instant photography alive and prosperous. They have an enormous fan base and continue to add to their line of offerings. Who knows, maybe I’ll keep my One Step and add to my love for instant photography. Their size is perfect for a frame and I appreciate the space at the bottom for writing dates, notes, and decorations.
Then again, maybe I could trade it for a Fuji Instax Wide 210 . . .