Updated April 2020
Way back in the day, I started this website as a place I could keep always-accessible notes for myself about Polaroid cameras. In that grand tradition, this guide is primarily a reminder for myself, as I shoot large format once every few months and I always need a reminder. As a result, it’s not quite as thorough and authoritative as my other guides at this point.
If you’re interested in shooting large format Polaroid, you can buy new film directly from Polaroid. You are, however, on your own when it comes to securing the developer and camera itself though. eBay is probably your best bet.
So with those caveats, let’s jump in on how to shoot large format Polaroid 8×10!
Prep Polaroid Cartridge
Large format cartridges require some assembly before shooting. One is essentially constructing a giant version of the traditional Polaroid cartridge, one picture at a time.
1. Make sure film has been room temperature for several hours before shooting.
2. Open cartridge bracket.
3. Slide in film, make sure lip locks in at the top. Don’t pull too hard or film will be exposed.
4. Close cartridge, make sure it’s flat.
5. Pull out bottom paper lip. May take some force.
Set up and Use the Camera
1. Unfold the camera.
2. Open aperture of the lens.
3. Use a light meter to set aperture, shutter speed. Polaroid Originals color film is 640 ISO/ASA speed.
4. Compose and focus image. You’ll need to use the hood in order to see through the back. You can use a magnifying glass to make sure focus is correct. Keep in mind that just because one part of the image is in focus, that another may not be. Large format is much more precise than other formats like 35mm. Make sure subject doesn’t move at all after everything is set.
5. Close aperture, trigger red thing on lens.
6. Insert prepped film cartridge in back.
7. Pull out darkslide up to the line. Do not remove entirely. Make sure lens is closed before doing any of this!
8. Take picture.
9. Push darkslide back into place.
10. Remove film from holder.
A normal Polaroid camera has rollers built right into it, but large format requires a separate machine to activate chemicals through pressure.
1. First, put in transparency, pod first, facing up. The silver side faces down.
2. Place cartridge over it, back up, arrow lip thing facing in towards the rollers.
3. Make sure it’s all snug and really in there.
4. Set timer to 4 minutes. This just alerts you, it doesn’t really do anything.
5. Hit white button. It works quickly. Just need to hit it, not hold it down. You’ll be able to tell if the image went through successfully, as if the transparency is still in the feed area, it didn’t work.
7. Remove picture, place somewhere to dry. Try to keep it in a flat, dry place. Old boxes of 8×10 Polaroid film are a good way to store images.
This film has a tendency to leak paste everywhere. Make sure to clean up the machine, rollers, and cartridge before moving on to the next picture. It’s easiest to clean while it is still wet. Windex seems to be more effective than water when combined with paper towels.
The paste that leaks from these images is toxic, so be careful with it. If any gets on your skin, be sure to wash it off quickly.
Thanks Roy Endsley for letting me use his 8×10 gear and teaching me how this all works! Roy does great portraits all over Chicago with his large format Polaroid gear.
Below are pictures of reference materials from vintage Polaroid packs of 8×10 and instructions from the Impossible Project.