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Home Craft How to Take the Perfect Polaroid Picture: 8 Tips

How to Take the Perfect Polaroid Picture: 8 Tips

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It’s incredibly cool that instant cameras are making their way back into the hands of new and experienced photographers. Each instant camera has its own unique take on its form factor, film size, and color science. Polaroid is especially great with this; it makes unique, retro-looking cameras that are easy to use with all experience levels and provides lots of interesting film to try out.


Here are our top tips for getting the best photos possible out of your new Polaroid.

1. Shoot From the Right Distance

Getting a sharp image on a Polaroid is one of the most frustrating things about them, but is also very satisfying when you get it just right.

If you’re shooting a subject, whether it be a person, product, or animal, make sure you are about three feet away, which is the minimum focusing distance of your Polaroid’s lens. Any closer than that, and your subject may be out of focus.

This is the general rule for Polaroid cameras, but newer models are a little easier to use. The Polaroid OneStep+, for example, has two lenses to choose from: portrait and landscape. You should switch to the portrait lens if your subject is between one and three feet away, such as a person or a flower where you may want to shoot a little closer.

The landscape, also called the standard lens, is best used when you’re further than three feet away from your subject, such as when you’re shooting landscape photography, group photos, or architecture.

2. Face Your Subject Away From the Sun

The sun is your best friend when shooting a subject outdoors, but beware of lens flares. When positioning your subject, make sure you are photographing them with your back facing the sun, this way the sun is lighting your subject and there is no chance of a lens flare ruining the entire image.

Shooting towards the sun can actually make for some very cool photos during sunset or sunrise. Making sure the sun is partly behind trees or a mountain is an easy way to get the beautiful colors in the sky behind your subject, while at the same time avoiding lens flares.


3. Keep Your Subject Still

This is a very simple but useful tip that we sometimes forget when shooting on a Polaroid camera. Nowadays, even the cameras in our phones do an amazing job of capturing the moment in focus in automatic mode while our subjects are moving around, at least with plenty of light.

To get the sharpest photo possible, have your subject strike a pose and be as still as possible while you’re the correct distance away. As long as you are also very still when taking the photo, your picture will be focused beautifully.

4. Get Creative With the Composition

The best and worst part about shooting on a Polaroid is the incredibly expensive film. On Polaroid’s website, an eight-pack of color i-Type film is $16.99 at the time of writing, making it around $2 per photo. That’s a lot of money, but it makes you think more creatively while taking each shot.

Think about where to position your subject. Would a high or low angle look better? Maybe shooting through some nearby flowers would make for an interesting foreground. This is the best part about shooting with a Polaroid camera; it makes you think harder about photo composition, more so when taking pictures on your phone or DSLR with a seemingly infinite amount of storage.

If you’re still having trouble, check out these rules for composing a photograph that will help bring your portfolio to the next level.

5. Choose a Colorful Background or Foreground

The color science of Polaroids is one of the best things about them, so use that to your advantage. Instead of positioning your subject against a bland background, whether that be a brick building or a white picket fence, get more creative with where you take the photo.


Shoot your model against some flowers that go well with their outfit. Autumn is the perfect season to get creative with Polaroid pictures due to the red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaves surrounding you. Experiment with shooting through branches or placing a colorful leaf slightly in-frame for a unique depth of field.

If you are taking indoor photos, colorful RGB lighting, string lights, or neon signs can produce some very cool effects.

Still feeling stuck? Here are a few simple genres of photography you can try with your instant camera.

6. Experiment With Different Polaroid Film

Polaroid makes some very unique film, and you should try all of them out. Plenty of them simply have colored frames, such as its black and gold iterations, while it also has round frames that encourage you to experiment with composing your shot differently.

The black frame is perfect for making colors pop, while the gold frame is great for accentuating photos taken at sunrise and sunset. Even the white frame is good to experiment with; it gives you the freedom to draw on it, write down the date the photo was taken, and other fun notes.

7. Shoot in an Area With Lots of Light

Polaroid cameras need a lot of light to get sharp images, hence why they come with fantastic flash. You have the option to turn the flash off, but this should only be done in extremely sunny scenarios, such as on a beach with lots of reflective surfaces. In most cases, keep flash on and shoot away from the sun.

Shooting in harsh sunlight can still be challenging, so we gathered some tips that should help.

In new Polaroid cameras, such as the OneStep+, you can change the shutter speed, exposure, and aperture in the mobile app. With digital cameras, it’s much easier as you can see a preview of your image on the monitor while you change these settings. With a Polaroid camera, there’s a bit more guessing that needs to be done.

If getting your subject in focus is a priority, turn the shutter speed up higher and compensate with more lighting.

8. Position Your Subject Slightly Off-Center

This may sound a bit counterintuitive when it comes to composing your shot, but things are a little trickier on Polaroid cameras. The viewfinder, even on newer Polaroids, is about half an inch from the lens, so what you see in the viewfinder is not exactly what the final photo will look like.

To deal with this, you can move your subject slightly more to the left than what is shown in the viewfinder, or move yourself. This will take a bit of trial and error before you’re used to it.

The Perfect Polaroid Picture Takes Practice

It may take a while before you get some beautiful shots, but that’s what instant cameras are all about. You won’t get the best focus, colors, or lighting in your first week of having your Polaroid camera, but that’s okay.

Though the film is expensive, it’s worth it to keep shooting over and over again to get comfortable with the various techniques we talked about. Enjoy your instant cameras and happy shooting!

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