Polaroid Films – Quick and Easy Fix (Part 1)

If your Polaroid films look strange after you’ve taken a shot, good news is, you are not alone. Over the years, we have handled thousands and thousands of inquiries on why their Polaroid films look so weird. The first question that usually comes to mind is: “Is my camera broken?” The short answer to this is: “Probably not, especially if the film ejected from your camera fully.”

What is causing the weirdness?

Well, first of all, let’s identify the problem. Did the film fully eject from your camera? If your answer is YES, keep reading. If the answer is NO it got stuck in the camera, then there’s another issue. What does it mean for the film to fully eject? Here’s a simple test: If you did not need to tug the film out of your camera, you’re good. The film should be dangling at the exit slot. Now let’s look at the pictures.

Issue: Blue streaks on Polaroid films

polaroid film blue streak

This is by far the most disturbing problem with Polaroid films at the moment (2019). We started seeing this in 2017 just after The Impossible Project changed its name to Polaroid Originals. There are several theories of why and how this happens, and we have no way of verifying. According to Polaroid Originals themselves, they say that it is an Opacification failure.

Moreover, they say cleaning rollers will help, but we are dubious about the effectiveness of this method. Well, there’s no harm trying though.

What we did notice is that these blue streaks occur randomly. Sometimes, you never see them in a pack. Sometimes, you see them in every picture. We think it varies from batch to batch, pack to pack. And there is no evidence showing that it is affected by temperature or humidity. It might be affected by sunlight though. Using a shield might alleviate the problem, but only marginally.

We haven’t seen this issue on black&white films. So if you want to check if it’s the camera, try using black&white film. I can say with certainty that it’s not a camera issue.

Tip: There is no known cure. Try using a film shield maybe?

Issue: Yellow or Purple cast on Polaroid films

Polaroid film has traditionally been a victim of color temperature. From the most early days to The Impossible Project to Polaroid Originals, most pictures I’ve seen have been on the reddish side (low color temperature) rather than the bluish side (high color temperate). You can find a color temperature diagram below.

Besides color temperature that affects the picture, sunlight or strong light in the first few seconds of development also affects the film. That is why some Polaroid cameras have a built-in film shield.

Tip #1: Shield your Polaroid films

Remember to shield your Polaroid film as soon as it comes out and avoid sunlight for the first few minutes.

Tip #2: Use a flash

Electronic flashes are designed to have color temperatures of around 5600K. In other words, during the few milliseconds when the flash fires and the shutter is open, the ambient color temperature becomes 5600K, and the picture becomes less yellow. If you are using a Polaroid SX-70 and need a flash, I recommend the Mint Flash Bar.

color temperature chart

Tip #3: Control the temperature

Temperature has always played a big role in Polaroid films. Read this page extracted from The World of SX-70.

The World of SX-70 temperature

I like the fact that temperature affects Polaroid. It would be boring if it didn’t. Chemistry 101, heat speeds up a reaction. We know that we are dealing with real chemicals here and not digital pixels.

Tip #4: Watch where you store the unopened packs of film

If you have a fridge in your house, store your unopened Polaroid film packs inside, but don’t freeze them. On a side note, don’t store them in dry boxes or dehumidifiers, or else the chemicals might dry up.

Tip #5: Use color filters

The most obvious method if your pictures turn out yellow, is to use a blue filter like this one.

Got more questions about weird looking pictures? Feel free to comment below. Also check out Part 2.

16 comments

  • Hi MiNT team –

    It is possible to fix the blue streaks on Impossible/Polaroid film. Like they say it comes down to shielding the film (it’s not a problem with your camera or rollers) – but, a regular shield isn’t enough to get rid of the problem entirely.

    I shoot one of your SLR-670S cameras. When the camera is open, I take an opaque black microfiber cloth (the kind you clean laptop screens with), and I tuck the edge of it between the top of the plastic flap (where the camera name is printed) and the bottom edge of the metal bar with the lens. This means that the cloth is shielding the entire compartment where the film will come out and go through the rollers, not just once it hits the rollers like a normal film shield would. Once I shoot, I don’t remove the film for a few minutes (5min is usually enough) – just leave it hanging out of the film slot underneath the cloth. Voilà – not a single streak!

    Admittedly, this is a huge pain, but it’s worth it to ditch the streaks. I hope this helps someone out!

    I’m not sure if this is feasible, but you guys might look into ways to build in light-blocking in the film ejection compartment (maybe some kind of seals/gaskets where various parts meet?), since it doesn’t seem like Impossible has had luck yet with developing a faster acting opacification emulsification reaction (no pun intended!).

    Love your cameras! All the best,
    moe

    • Hi Moe

      Yes I’ve heard that shielding helps, but there is no way to verify. It sounds more to me like a standard customer service answer from Polaroid. There is no harm trying though of course. Your microfiber cloth method sounds awesome too.

      I really hope Polaroid solves this issue quickly. Quite honestly we are getting a lot of inquiries, mostly blaming our cameras. But that is simply not true! I believe some time in the future they will fix it, because they have fixed it before. Good thing is, the cameras don’t grow old, and you can virtually use them forever. So now is actually a good time to get one!

      Check this fb post too:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/117852875570/permalink/10160912447895571/

      Cheers,
      Gary

  • Hi!

    Actually the blue streaks were also a part of the Impossible Project film. You can clearly see them from Dan Bullman’s Impossible I-1 and SX-70 videos on Youtube. As you may also notice, he has the earliest version of the I-1, which didn’t have a film shield. I also have the I-1, with a film shield. I leave my photos to sit under the film shield after taking them for about 30 seconds or so. After that I put them in a dark place (a drawer if I’m indoors). I have never had a blue streak with any of my cameras that have the newer Impossible/PO film shield (Impossible I-1, OneStep2 and OneStep+), which stays on the film rather than flip back when the photo has fully been ejected (Vintage 600 and Spectra cameras). The film shield is a quite powerful tool, so many people just flip it off the photo as soon as it ejects and try to shield it from light, but actually you can get much better results when leaving the Polaroid under the film shield for a bit longer.

  • Hello! I have a Polaroid Spirit 660 CL. I bought it from a secondhand surplus shop. The camera works, except the film gets stuck on the rollers and wont push through. Ended up wasting 4 films. Do you know how to fix this? I need a suggestion. This is my first polaroid, and I need help please!

  • I have a Polaroid land camera 335. When I take my shot and pull out both tabs and wait the correct time and peel it apart I get a very purple picture that does not have a proper square for the film it’s all mishapened, but does have reminance of the picture I took.

  • My Mint 2 flashbar does not sync with my Polaroid SX 70 camera. It appears the flash goes off just before the shutter opens. So all photos are dark. I have read that the earlier SX 70’s don’t work well with electronic flash. Is that correct? Mine is the first version but with a distant scale on the lens and focusing aid in viewfinder.

    • It should work with all SX70s. The earlier SX70s are the most common ones in the market, and if something goes wrong, there is a higher chance statistically that it will be an earlier model. That is my explanation for the common perception that earlier SX70’s don’t work well with electronic flashes. Although, it might be true that earlier SX70’s are more prone to failures, as with my experience. All I can say is, I’ve seen earlier models not syncing, and later models not syncing. But in general it works well.

      Try this.
      1) focus backwards
      2) turn the lighten/darken wheel to show more white

      See if that works. Dark flash photos may also be caused by sticky shutters and all sorts of miscellaneous errors. But you can use the tricks above to compensate.

      • Thanks for your reply.
        I took two shots one with the exposure setting in the middle and one on all white furthest round with focusing just beyond the subject. But both photos were equally dark and look like the flash was not lit when the shutter was open.

        • It seems to be the case that the flash was not lit when the shutter was open. I would advise you to bring it to an SX-70 repair shop to have it fixed. Or get a different SX70. You are right, the earlier models are less sophisticated and unreliable.

  • Hi I have an old Polaroid One Step that I have recently acquired. I bought new film for it and when first trying it they wouldn’t eject out of the camera. I found out that it was just the black film that was unable to eject because once I opened it and removed it the pictures were printing out like normal. Obviously that meant the film was ruined because of the light but I was wondering if it’s possible to open the film compartment and remove the black film myself in a dark room? Would that ruin the rest of the film if it’s in a dark room?

  • Such good tips! Polaroid pictures are a timeless classic and I hope they stick around for a long while still.

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