Creative Polaroid Techniques Masterclass | David Miller | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Polaroid Workshop Intro

    • 2. Types of Polaroid Film

    • 3. Film + Temperature + Age

    • 4. Creative Damage

    • 5. Emulsion Lift

    • 6. Additional Creative Techniques In Post

    • 7. In Camera Effects

    • 8. Polaroid Lab Automated Collage

    • 9. Polaroid Lab Augmented Reality

    • 10. Wrap Up

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About This Class

Polaroid is a brand synonymous with instant gratification, fun, adventurous and personal photography.  It also has a lot of creative opportunities beyond simply snapping a quick picture.  We can create surreal, poppy works, large collages, interpret digital works, inject augmented reality and more with our Polaroids - this is the class that covers all of that.  Join me as I take you through:

  • the basics of Polaroid film, cameras and history...
  • creative techniques pioneered by the artists of the late 20th century...
  • 21st century innovations using the bluetooth features of the OneStep+ and the cutting edge digital media features of the Polaroid Lab
  • and more!


It’s everything you wanted to know about Polaroid photography but were afraid to ask!  See you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

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David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Cloud all... See full profile

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1. Polaroid Workshop Intro: Hello, friends. My name's David Miller, Phoenix, Arizona multimedia artist educator. Want to welcome you to this course on Polaroid Film and cameras? Polaroid is a company founded by Edwin Land in the mid 20th century. This was a particular formula of film that allowed for instantaneous results prior to the Polaroid concept. You had to have your film developed either by yourself or by a professional lab. The Polaroid that people are familiar with today is based on seventies formula, where there's a little hack it on the bottom of a square film format. And this packet contains chemistry that after you take the picture, it slides out of the camera rollers, crush this chemical and spread it across the actual film, developing it within 10 minutes or so. And then you have yourself a picture no lab needed. Now, Polaroid, as most people know, Polaroid actually went bankrupt in the two thousands, and the formula was bought by a company known as the Impossible Project. This European company generated their own film and their own cameras and eventually rebranded themselves as pilloried originals. The original Polaroid company, the one that went bankrupt, still makes cameras, but they are different than what Polaroid Originals camera makes. So if you go to a store target WALMART Amazon and you order Polaroid film and Plowright cameras, it's very likely that you're working with the Florida originals stuff, not the company that Edwin Land founded. Conversely, during this time of bankruptcy, Fujifilm had gotten their hands on the ability to make instant film. So there is a brand a Fujifilm known as the In Stacks. There's the In stacks mini film, The Insects Wide Film and now the In Stacks Square. So I've met a lot of people who mix up Polaroid and in stacks use those words interchangeably. It really shouldn't be used interchangeably. So we're gonna set aside the Fujifilm in stacks and talk mainly about Florida originals throughout this course. Now, my own personal journey with Polaroid is that most of my treasure, childhood memories, the gifts I got on Christmas, my first pets and stuff like that I still have the Polaroids of them from the early eighties in the nineties and high school, I did take a lot of Polaroids of my friends in that mid two thousands digital photography revolution. Polaroid was very hard to come by I did try the impossible Project material at the time was not a fan of it. And it wasn't until about 2010 that I got my instant film bug back on with the Fujian stacks material. I went through that for a few years. 2016. Jump back into Polaroid hard with the new Polaroid originals line, and now I have multiple, multiple Polaroid cameras. They all do different things. There's a lot of creativity that we can bring to our instant film that I think a lot of people overlook because that's not how Polaroid has been sold to them. Traditionally, Polaroid has been this like, easy to understand. You put the film in, you push a button, a picture comes out and that picture develops, you know, and for a lot of people that's supposed to be all there is to it. Um, but there have always been super creative Polaroid artists, particularly in the 19 seventies, when you could manipulate the chemistry. You could change things on the cameras. They understood you could put filters in front of cameras, and there's things you could do to the film long after it's already developed. So we plan on covering all of that in this class, I'm gonna talk about few different Polaroid cameras. I'm gonna talk about some new technology, including the Polaroid lab and the Polaroid originals APP. If you're interested in instant film and Polaroid, you're gonna get an awful lot out of this course. Let's get started. 2. Types of Polaroid Film: So I sit here before you in my Polaroid original shirt here to talk about the types of film that are available for the Polaroid cameras. Today you have three main varieties. The one that will be most common to the new Polaroid user is I type film. This film is the cheapest of the three. It comes in color and black and white, and there's also a variety of borders. So a traditional Polaroid that people think of in their head has this white border. But you can get ones that are black that are done by graphic artists that are like specialty designs, limited editions. There's a whole wide range of Polaroid orders that can help enhance or take away from the uniqueness of your pictures. I type also comes in monochromatic, and once again you have a variety of borders to choose from. The next type of film is 600 and this is the film that was familiar people in the eighties and nineties when they bought Polaroid cameras. The difference between I type and 600 film is simply that I typed film does not have a battery in the pack, and 600 does 600 film has a battery inside the packed because three old Polaroid cameras and I have batteries, they needed to be powered by what was inside that film pack. So 600 films a little more expensive. Other than that, you can use I type and 600 film in any of the new Polaroid products, be it the Polaroid one step to one step plus full right now, any of their other specialty cameras or the Pillory lab, which is a printer. The only reasons I could recommend you buying Polaroid 600 film is one if it's the only thing they have in the store to if it has some kind of specialty border that you find attractive and you can't find that in I type and three. If you are working with some vintage Polaroid camera that you inherited that you owned for a long period of time that you picked up in a thrift store, those type of cameras do you need the Polaroid 600 field. Third type of Polaroid film available is SX 70 film and S X 70 is made specifically for the artsy old school cameras from the 19 seventies. You have the ability to frame your shots a little bit better and do manual focusing because those cameras had single lens reflex technology. That's where you see through the viewfinder. It goes through a mirror and out the lens. The other Polaroid cameras do not have SLR technology in them. They just have a simple viewfinder. You look through the viewfinder and presumably you're composing close enough to what your lenses actually looking at. That you'll get a good shot. So unless you own this SX 70 camera, it's unlikely that you're ever gonna want to purchase this film. The main difference between SX 70 and the other types of Polaroid film is that it is rated a different I so different film speed. It takes a lot more light to get a good exposure on an SX 70 camera than it would with the faster speed films of I Type and 600. That's a long, complicated way of me, saying it's unlikely that you're gonna utilize SX 70 film at all. If you do get in a sex 70 camera, you can use deployed 600 film within that s X 70 but you need Teoh. Use something to cut down the amount of light as it goes into your camera or hits the film and traditionally in photography. When you want to cut down the amount of light that comes into a lens, you could utilise something called a neutral density filter. This is basically sunglasses for your camera. There's also neutral density filters for 600 film again, This is only if you're gonna use a sex 70 camera. A lot of people inherit SX 70 cameras. Some people are like me and have a lot of respect for the fine art photographers of the seventies and, you know, went out of their way. It's by an Essex 70 camera, but I currently don't own one as fun as I found that camera. My ERA is definitely the eighties, the nineties on the modern day and the Polaroid cameras that utilize some of the newer technology that utilize double exposure autofocus integration with the Polaroid originals app. That's a lot of what's exciting about Polaroid to me today. Not so much about recreating the work of people nearly 50 years ago, 3. Film + Temperature + Age: one thing that all the Polaroid films have in common is that they have a chemical packet in that big part of the film that gets spread across the rest of the film when it goes through your Polaroid cameras rollers so that chemical packet is very sensitive to temperature if it's too cold out and I take my picture and I don't do anything to keep it warm, Uh, that photograph will develop a little bit on the blue side if it's too hot out as it is a lot in Arizona where I live, Uh, and I don't do anything to cool. That picture effort comes straight out of the rollers that it's going to develop this kind of ranges reddish hue. The good temperature to develop your film in is around the 72 degree mark so you can warm up film as it comes out of the camera by placing it in your pocket, placing inside your coat. You can cool down film as it comes out of your camera. By putting in an ice chest, put it next to some soda cans that are cold. There's also a filter set that you can purchase that has filters that will either warm up the light as it goes through your lens, or cool it down as it goes through your lens. So those air options to you if you find that your pictures are coming out to blue or too orangey. Another thing that can really affect the chemistry of your Polaroid film is if it's old or if you didn't store it correctly. I have found that most of the Polaroid film I've ordered from amazon dot com has not been stored correctly, and it has is weird color caste, probably from sitting in a warehouse on refrigerated. If you were to go to an actual camera store, you will find the Polaroid film is in the refrigerator, and it's a fresh as it possibly can be for you to use. When I buy Polaroid in bulk, I will store it in the fridge until it is time to take it out and make my shots. As long as you can keep that chemistry fresh and intact. That's to your benefit. So when you know you're headed out for a shoot, you go to your fridge, take out the film, let it go to room temperature. If you are gonna get in a hot car, make sure that Polaroid is in the most air conditioned space. Don't leave in a trunk for a week because your pictures are gonna come out incredibly strange colors. Whatever kind of Polaroid fill you in a purchasing is an expensive product. It's not worth it to have all your pictures end up in the trash simply because you forgot to store it correctly You. 4. Creative Damage: so besides the variety of film choices, there's a lot of the things we can do with our pictures. Teoh make them more unique, individualized to our own personal style. More than just a picture taken on the camera. Want to introduce some special effects? Want to introduce some fun into what we do? Some of those things are camera specific, and we'll get to those a little bit later. But I want to talk about things we can do once you've already taken a picture. So, uh, these photos have a little bit of scaling. They have a little bit of damage to them, and this one it almost looks like a spark for electricity. And the reason for that is because when they came out of the camera as soon as they came out of the rulers, I would give them gentle Ben's all over the place. I would bend the back and the front, and the consequence of this is that the chemistry, which has been kept in this little packet here and smushed across the film by the rollers in the camera, now cannot access certain points or is bent away from those areas on the picture and a lot of the times I'm doing portrait work with people, so I have a person center framed. But it's very easy for me to bend the edges of the film and get this scaling this creative damage as it goes all the way around and got a lot of really interesting results over the years. A lot of the times when I shoot Polaroid and people, I actually ask them to not be as crazy with their posing as they might do if this was like a fashion shoot, the more casual and normal they are, the more interesting. The contrast ing effect is in my opinion. And the same goes for all of the special effects that I'm about to tell you guys about the more spare and minimalist your set up. When you take the photo, the better the effect looks. Overall, it doesn't clash with a bunch of trees or cars in a parking lot. Of course, my opinion is the most photography. Be better off. It was minimalist and spare anyways, but when working with special effects as we are, it functions so much better if you keep the elements near photo very simple. Now I've done the damage on this photograph by bending it, but you could be more radical, right? When the film comes out of the camera and utilize something hard, like metal key fork to do some extreme damage to the picture. Or the very least, make sure that chemistry doesn't spread all over the place where it's supposed to be for your Polaroid. I've heard of artists who would try to instantly freeze sections of their Polaroids, alter the colors or the way the chemistry interacts with material. This creative damage can really only be done at the moment. The Polaroid ejects from the camera that film is still light sensitive, so you're supposed to keep it in the dark area, is supposed tohave, hand over and put in a pocket, flip it over so son isn't hitting it and messing up the development. But it's the actual chemistry spreading across the image happens very quickly within 10 seconds. That thing is already starting to solidify, and no amount of bending or grinding with a fork is gonna make much of a difference at that point. To do this creative damage technique, you need to do it within the 1st 10 seconds of it coming out of the camera 5. Emulsion Lift: Once your picture is developed, you have the option to do another technique called the Polaroid emotion lift. This used to go under the name Polaroid transfer. When I was younger, we had a little different kind of Polaroids that would peel apart. So there were two kinds of transfers you could do. Then one involved this gooey side that you could slap down. But because it doesn't really exist these days, I'm not gonna go into too much detail about that one whole array. Demotion lift involves taking apart a fresh Polaroid, meaning one that's less than 24 hours old. And you essentially take that Polaroid apart, lift off the film emotion, and then place it on another substrate. Something like watercolor paper. So let's look at a little bit of that process. Using a photograph I shot of an antique doll going to go ahead and cut around, and this backing peels right off. No Exacto blade needed nothing a little bit. Uh, my doll offer there, but mostly it's intact. Just like have some warm waters. Stick it in. What? I'm gonna transfer these guys onto iss Simply appear Bristol board. What? I'm gonna transfer these guys onto is watercolor paper here. As I get that white stuff off, you can see the crackle that's happening to my Polaroid. Have added some boiling water to speed up the process. You that really helps break the bonds between plastic sheeting, which is the top of your Polaroid and the image behind it because the water is incredibly hot. I'm just using a brush. Push it off. Okay, skin is loose. It's really lose. It's all over the place. Here's our plastic sheet from the front of the Polaroid. My goal is to get skin in the right direction. Haven't facing up so I can slide this right underneath it. Get in position. When I pushed down in certain areas with my brush, comes really easy to see those details. 6. Additional Creative Techniques In Post: another fairly destructive technique that you can do with your Polaroids is to expose them to the elements for long periods of time. So I'm going to show you some photographs that I simply submerged in a bucket of water for believe 2 to 3 weeks. Uh, some of these did not change a lot. Some of them changed radically. And if I had made incisions into the back of the Polaroid the same way that I did when I did my emotion lift, that water would have seeped in there and created more chemical alteration than these 2 to 3 weeks of sitting exclusively in water. And then there's the film collage technique. I have a lot of collages actually behind my head right now. Most of these are in stacks rather than Polaroid. But this is a method of assembling a greater gestalt picture than just the single image that you take on your Polaroid camera. Ah, little bit later, I'm gonna tell you about the Polaroid lab and how that can automate the process of creating collages. But they're two very famous artists that were involved in Polaroid collages. David Hockney, also known for his paintings, he has done gigantic Polaroid collages, many of which are in this very strict grid format, and I can only imagine the cost of creating such a thing. I just want to mention Lucas Samaras, who took a more chaotic approach to his collages. He would elongate a figure across multiple images. That approach is a little more closer to what I have tried to execute in some of my own work, because they feel like a collage is an opportunity to not conform to a rectangular square frame, which most artwork in museums seems to do. Whether or not a painter could paint on something besides a rectangular canvas throughout history, many have elected to go for this rectangular format, and my thoughts are the collage is meant to evoke chaos, fractal patterns, randomness in life and randomness in decision making, and you certainly can force it to be in a rectangular grid. But this is your opportunity to make our work that doesn't conform to that, so why not take advantage of that 7. In Camera Effects: so those are some creative options you have if you are working with pictures after they're out of the camera. But within the camera, we have a lot of cool options as well. So Polaroid originals camera line generally consists of the one step, too, which is an updated version of a classic Polaroid camera, the one step they have polar right now, which is a little bit more expensive and has auto focus and double exposure features. And they have the one step plus, which is Bluetooth, and interacts with a Polaroid app to do a lot of special effects. The one thing I know you can do on both one step cameras is you can remove this part of your lens and put on a filter holder and utilized Polaroids filter set. It has multiple colors, and it also has little prism. So when you take pictures, you can get this unique effect, and it's not like holding a prism over your camera. It's it's an actual product that attaches directly onto it to get the kind of images I'm showing you on screen right now, double exposures are one of my favorite methods for getting kind of surreal works in my Polaroids. What a double exposure is is you're taking two pictures on one piece of film. Now. Those two pictures could be pretty much the same thing with just a little bit of a camera shake. A little bit of a vibration between them. It could be a person and a texture. It could be a person and energy. It could be that person in one position than you foot the camera upside down and take another iteration of it. So you have to the same person. But as I was saying about the creative damage, the bending the film, the simpler your backgrounds are. When you're doing double exposures, the clearer the final image is. In the end, if you are creating incredibly chaotic random art, then by all means completely ignore my suggestion to you. So I'm showing you a few photos that I took of a model in a house that had two completely different colored walls as backgrounds, and the plan was I was going to shoot her against each of these walls with a little bit of overlap and then color theory tells us that when you mix colors, you're going to get, Ah, third color. And that's exactly what happened here. To get the model to be the same size in both photographs, I put a long piece of tape on the edge of my Polaroid. I attached that flurry to a tripod, and then I measured out her distance with that piece of tape. So when the model is against while a and the piece of tape is, let's say, five feet long, we stretch that from the Polaroid to her chin cameras on a tripod so it doesn't change height. Take the photograph, and then when the model goes to the next wall, we once again measure out the distance on the camera and do our second exposure. So those double exposures are things you can do on both the polar right now and deployed one step plus beyond that deployed. One step plus connects to Polaroid originals app, and through that application, you not only have access to control these double exposures, but you have remote control. You have light painting. The rationale for light painting simply is that in a dark environment, you can use flashlights, light brushes, fire car headlights, all these other kinds of light sources to maneuver around a photograph or a person or an object. And because the shutter is open, it's capturing that motion in a very painterly way. Light painting is an easy concept that is not that easy to execute, and the reason why it's difficult to execute is simply that you have no way of measuring what's the correct exposure when you're working with the's small artificial light sources. Each one of those photographs is an experiment, and it's an experiment that either to execute when you have digital photos that don't cost to $3 each time you take a picture versus the limited number of Polaroid shots you have in each pack. It is a lot of fun to do, though, and I highly recommend anybody who hasn't tried like painting to give it a shot. Also, within that app, you have a portrait mode not too dissimilar from the portrait mode, which is available on iPhones. This simply focuses on the facial features and softens the background behind your subject and lastly, within the polar originals app as far as the ones that plus goes, you have full manual controls, which simply means that if your pictures are coming out with a shutter speed or an exposure level that you're not satisfied with, you can take control of that and not rely fully on what's automated within your camera. 8. Polaroid Lab Automated Collage: So we've talked a lot about things you can do with Polaroid cameras and Polaroid film. Let's talk about making Polaroids without using a camera. This is the Polaroid lab. It is a printer that you place a smartphone on and through the Polaroid app on your phone, you can select images that were shot digitally shot with your phone were from scan negatives. Whatever image you have, it doesn't even have to be. A photograph necessarily could be drawing. When you have that image on your phone screen, then you place it on top of this guy, and it reads the exposure automatically. You have a few exposure choices within the APP, but other than that, uh, it flashes three times down here, you push this button and outcomes your Polaroid prints. This means that you can create multiple iterations of the same image, something that I think some instant film purists kind of frowned upon. But as an artist who sells my work, I find it wonderful. The images that you print on the pole or a lab on Polaroids have a little bit of a different character to them. I'll show you a couple side by side on screen, see if you can tell the difference. To me, it's a little bit of a painterly quality, possibly because it's being seeing through the glass on the cell phone or possibly because of the characteristics involved in whatever camera. I shot the original on things that have a filter on them and look nice as a digital photo look worse as a Polaroid photo. So my recommendation to you if you want Polaroid prints toe look as natural as possible. Don't put any kind of filtration in light room. Don't do a lot of adjustments printed as naturally as possible. Now if all you could do was just print copies of existing photos. I mean, that would be cool, but you can go a few steps further using the Polaroid lab. One of the functions within the APP is the ability to create photo collages and not just any photo collages but a variety of photo collages spreading your image across to Polaroids . Three up to nine. And they have variations on those collages, from very chaotic to kind of ah, rigid David Hockney esque style collages. One downside to this is it's still working from the image on your phone screen. So that little 2.5 inch image that is showcased on here is what's being spread across nine Polaroids. Potentially, that's gonna lead to a very low rez look and image. Not so bad if you're intending on framing and hanging in your house, or as I have my glorious display behind me on clips but getting close to it, the image really does not hang together very well when you spread across that many individual Polaroids. 9. Polaroid Lab Augmented Reality: one of the cool features that you can only do through Ah, Polaroid Lab is you can introduce augmented reality to your instant film images. If you know a little bit about augmented reality, you might think it's kind of a gimmicky thing where you're putting, you know, Pokemon in a landscape or something like that. Um, I've had a few months to think about this, and I haven't done a whole lot with it up until this point. But this is a way of introducing secret messages, secret themes to the work that you make on instant film. And it could be a message shared between you and one other person who you allow access to your augmented reality archive. It can be a message that anyone with the poll right app can view. It's really up to you you're going to control who sees these secret augmented reality messages that go in your images. But I think the best way that we can explore what you could do with this function is to just dive right in, make ourselves some Polaroids with our phones, and the Glory Lab introduced augmented reality into each one. Let's hit the photos I have chosen work with for this project are of a New York City model named Cash Zoo of Shot Kasha a few times over the years, and these photos of her dancing were taken in a park in Brooklyn and then the material that I'm going to embed within the photos as augmented reality are kind of unique because they're stills from a video that we shot in 2015 and then I've been remixing this video over the years. I was working on a music video project and went back to this video, did some messing around with the video layers and ended up with some images I thought were pretty cool. So I pulled them as screenshots. As long as we're using new technology, I felt like embedding an image that was very surreal and strange. When you are doing the augmented reality process, it's going toe upload your embedded image or video to Polaroid Originals website so anyone could view with their phone. It's also gonna place this little code in the corner that might ruin the aesthetic of the original image for you. I totally understand here a purist my way around it is you simply need to make art that embraces new technology and barcode. And I'm using black and white so it doesn't stand out like it would if the subject matter were animals nature, so on and so forth. The final step to my process is once the Polaroid has come out of the glory lab, I like to bend the edges just to give some odd chemical flaring. I wanna watch out for bending around the barcode because if I did that, then I would ruin the polar originals app ability to read that barcode. I don't want to do that. So I'm gonna put all my chemical alterations on the other edges on the center of the Polaroid Hope that barcode stays intact. If I did a gallery show of this stuff and every single poll right I had on the walls had an augmented reality image embedded in it, then anyone who wanted to see those in the gallery show needs to have this app already pre loaded onto their phone. And I know that sounds kind of gimmicky and like it sucks because they'd have to have the app already there on. If they don't have WiFi, they might have a good opportunity. Download it. I will say that one of my favorite bands, You two, made a really good use of augmented reality on one of the recent tours they're opening song . Love is All We Have left involved this illusionary Bonanno that crept out over the audience . And anyone who had the app preloaded on their phone at the concert saw it. People who didn't I didn't quite get it where they could look on the neighbor's phone. I feel like most artwork already has some sort of encoded secret message to it, whether they're talking to a particular subculture, whether using graphic design elements that only some people understand, whether the using coded language and this really isn't that different, it's only a gimmick if you do something stupid with it is my approach to new technology. If you do something cool with it, or you do something that fundamentally revolves around ah riel concept that people have to deal with in their daily life, then it's worth exploring 10. Wrap Up: friends. I want to thank you for sticking through this course on Polaroid film. Uh, it's an expensive hobby for sure. The cameras don't cost very much, but the film definitely mounts in price. If you are a prolific shooter. That said, any time I have taken out my Polaroid camera and my digital camera and gonna shoot side by side of polar and digital images, the Polaroid ones are the ones that stand the test of time. To me, they have authenticity. They have physicality. They have instant gratification. And depending, if you're shooting color of black and white, they have really magnificent tones. Ah, lot of the models I photograph tend to like the floor. It's better because it makes them look more youthful. Um, it has collectibility to it. Many people would pay premium prices for polarized that they wouldn't pay for something like a digital print. Polaroids, I think, are synonymous with fun. I do hope my enthusiasm for the medium of instant film and specifically Polaroid is motivating you to get out there and be creative. Best of luck in any creative endeavor that you find yourself involved in. Talk to you next time