I’m definitely a Polaroid camera girl. For me, what I’m really excited about is bringing back the artistry and the nature of Polaroid. —Lady Gaga
As one body is tossed onto the cart, the presumably deceased man objects: “I’m not dead yet!” At which he is told he soon will be and that he should just lie down and die already.
Then, in true Monty Python fashion, they break into song.
Polaroid is the photographic equivalent of that old man; it just refuses to die, even though there is no longer any logical use for the once-popular technology. When Edwin Land introduced his first instant camera in 1947, he wowed the photography world with his amazing film that processed on its own. The impact was every bit as significant as digital photography would be some fifty years later. There wasn’t a serious photographer on the planet who didn’t snap a series of Polaroids to make sure the light and camera settings were correct before committing to film. Polaroids quickly became an indispensable part of the profession for anyone working in a studio. I shudder to think of the millions of Polaroid images scattered across studio floors that were eventually swept up and thrown away. If those Polaroids could talk …
Then came digital cameras and with them the ability to “preview” an image right on the camera. One knew instantly whether they had the shot or not. No waiting. No shaking. No suddenly discovering one had a bad packet of film (which happened too frequently). As the new millennium dawned, Polaroid’s days seemed numbered. Sales of both its cameras and films plummeted. Bankruptcy was inevitable and talk of the company’s demise just assumed that doors had already been shuttered and no one was left.
To some extent, creating a digital conversion to a Polaroid-type look seems, well, very anti-Polaroid. After all, having a Polaroid is all about the print, being able to hold something in one’s hands. Yet, for articles about the technology or perhaps just the uniqueness of the look, there are ways of re-creating most of the Polaroid film looks. You don’t want to try this on your own, though, unless you have more patience than I. Fortunately, you don’t have to be the brave explorer here. There are Photoshop™ actions all over the place that make it process much easier and, in this particular case, I suggest using one. I used one from rawimage which is available by clicking here. Be aware the link takes you to their page on DeviantArt. After running the action, we did a little burning around the edges to further “age” the image a bit and bring out the streaks that were inevitable with older Polaroids.
Keep in mind a couple of things. First, the actions require original images with strong lines and good contrast. I ran the action on a picture of a white wedding cake with a white topper and when it finished the topper had completely disappeared! Second, Polaroid images were not meant to be permanent. Don’t try to give them too polished a look or you’re missing the whole point. Polaroid was never a perfect film and the majority were inevitably thrown away. Don’t think the days of Polaroid are completely gone, though. They’re not dead yet.