Four months ago I discovered a new kind of picture taking, one of Instant Gratification, allowing me to hold the finished product of my attempts at mastering a visual image in my hands shortly after creating it. I’ve experienced moments of intense joy when a winner appears before my eyes.

Fire Hydrant

Lesson Learned: Using the beautiful light during magic hour can produce incredible results.

And then there are those other moments, you know the ones, where your vision doesn’t quite match up to the final outcome. In other words, “I just wasted my money on that #*@%?!!”

Dried Fruit Major at the Back
Traffic Polafail
Lessons Learned: A Polaroid’s slider is there for a reason.
Bright outside? Slide it to dark. Dark outside? Slide it to light.

These extremes, from the highs to the lows, are simply part of the process. After all isn’t that true for most growth? We experiment. We try. We succeed. And yes, we also fail. Kinda like anything new in life really. The thing is, I often find beauty in my failures. It has me wanting to learn more, to solve the puzzle and figure out where I went wrong. Yes, I’ll freely admit, this comes with many moments of head banging against the wall screaming “NOT AGAIN!!!” But I’m finding that for me, at least, my learning curve comes more from these failures than from immediate success. Apparently I haven’t achieved that distinction yet where  I get it right on the first try. But who does really? This whole process of figuring out my well-used, once-loved polaroid cameras reminds me a little of my first attempts at learning hot-shoe flash…dismal failures all…but that’s an entirely different post on its own.


Lesson Learned: Seeking out textures creates a much more interesting portrait. Polaroid film seems to love any type of rough surface.

But I digress. In the spirit of growth and learning (and probably impending insanity), I decided to start another 365. of film. of Polaroid film. I did say insanity didn’t I? I’m still questioning my motives for starting this project while I’m already working on another, but deep down I know that once my curiosity is piqued, if I don’t figure it out for myself, I’ll keep wondering what I gave up by not trying at all.

Major Looking Out
Lessons Learned: Seeking out interesting framing creates magic with Major.
Oh and having treats on hand helps too.

Am I jumping on the band-wagon of what’s cool and hip right now? Maybe, but it makes my heart sing and gets me excited and has me plotting out all kinds of new ideas for my photography. You can’t put a price on that, or at least I try not to when creative inspiration is my livelihood. At any rate, it’s usually about figuring out how to get the most of what I have before splurging on something new. This being said, I freely admit that you can’t experiment with Polaroid, or any film camera for that matter,  if you don’t have film.

Manayunk Homes
Lesson Learned: The viewfinder in my cameras do not always give me exactly the crop that I see. Leave a little wiggle room when possible.

With that in mind, I still ask myself why on earth would I ever want to do something so costly and time consuming as this? Like many things in life, it didn’t start out that way. It just kinda happened. After buying a few packs of film to shoot at christmas, i ended up catching a killer flu and didn’t load my first pack until New Year’s Eve in my as-yet untested Impulse. In fact, I only loaded it in celebration for feeling well enough to share a tiny bottle of champagne with my husband at midnight, and on the hopes that the camera really might work. The impulse fired away, although poorly that night, so on january 1st I thought I’d try again in daylight. I shot another the next day, and again…well, you get the picture.

Jen Mom
From Where I Soak From Where I Stand
Lesson Learned: The Impulse requires a great deal of light despite the flash. Leaving the slider on light helps.

Truthfully though, at the start my original intention was to explore my growing collection of film cameras shooting with a different camera every month beginning with my three Polaroids and then working my way through my old film cameras. Eventually, one month lead into two and with the generous contribution from The Impossible Project of a free “replacement” SX70 One Step complete with two bonus packs of film after I couldn’t get mine going (YIPPEE!!!), well, it certainly seemed like it could be possible to shoot even more.

City Block

Lesson Learned: The Polaroid community is very helpful. When you put out a call of distress, you never know who is listening and willing to help. After posting on Vine about how my new-to-me SX70 OneStep quit mid-eject, The Impossible Project offered me a test pack to check the battery, and then a “replacement” new-to-me camera which arrived complete with frog tongue…for free!

Here we are 81 days later, and I’m still going strong working my way through more packs of film, learning to understand how my cameras react to which lighting conditions and excited to see what else I’ll shoot in the future. Once it gets warmer and I’m not locked into shooting close to home, Ill move further afield with my pola-explorations. Of course, if I had Debra’s cold clip, this might not be an issue! I have an upcoming journey to San Francisco, and I rather love the idea of capturing it on polaroid outside of just shooting my one shot a day.

Manayunk Canal Factory on the Towpath
Lesson Learned: The same camera shooting with the same film can have completely different results on the same subject in similar lighting conditions. This is the canal from each side of the bridge shot two months apart.

So as I move through the year, my project might change. Evolve into something else. Grow into a new experiment. I could embrace my mom’s old 35mm Minolta and fall in love again like I did when shooting with it in the 11th grade. (Fortunately I got the batteries out before they’d done any major corrosive damage.) But for now, me and my three Polapals will keep clicking along. One exciting exposure at a time.

Bookcase with Light Leak

Lesson Learned: After having my film pack stuck in a dead camera, it is possible to move the film over from one battery back to another. You might loose a shot or two, but with the ones you save, some cool light leaks might happen!

As with any personal project, I have outlined some “ground-rules” for how I’d like it to progress. The past three months of shooting (with above said failures), have helped me lay down a few parameters:

  • Only 1 Polaroid a Day. I’ve found that when I shoot more than one for the wrong reasons…because of a polafail…i usually get more of the same. So if the results are unsuccessful, call it a day and move on.
  • Try to learn from your mistakes.
  • When in doubt, seek advice. Kirsten’s post 5 Tips for Polaroid Beginners is one I refer back to again and again.
  • If failure is eminent due to the limitations of my cameras in certain lighting conditions, don’t waste the shot, save it for tomorrow.
  • Consider starting a Polajournal to take note of which camera likes what lighting conditions to avoid making the same mistake repeatedly.
  • Sometimes showing up with a pack of film and a polaroid camera is a better “hostess” gift than bringing a bottle of wine!
  • Once you get a handle of the basics, consider purchasing some film packs with fun frames…there’s an art form to this as Lindsey shared with us last month!
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience!

Lesson Learned: Resting the camera on something and holding my breath while shooting helps to keep my camera steady in low light.

Are you in the midst of a special film project? A 365 like mine? Jolanda Boekhout is also working on a Polaroid 365 project too. I’ve been following along with her work in our Film Friday Flickr Group.

78/365 Snuggling

78/365 Snuggling by Jofabi

Or perhaps a 52 weeks like Meghan and Celine? Have any polaroid tips to share? Tell us in the comments so we can all grow and learn together. And don’t forget to keep putting your work in our Mortal Muses ~ Film Friday group so we can see what you’ve been shooting!

Holly ~ Soupatraveler