Update December 2021: I created a complete video guide that teaches you how to use the Instax Mini in 60 seconds.
The Fuji Instax Mini 11 is one of my favorite cameras because it is easy to use, affordable, and lots of fun. However, even as simple as it is, there is still a learning curve for all instant film cameras. This guide will have you taking photos in no time and explain exactly how to use the Fuji Instax Mini 11.
Step one when you get your hands on a Fuji Instax Mini 11 is putting in the batteries. Thankfully, this camera takes two easy-to-find AA batteries. If you buy the camera new, you’ll often get a pair in the box. Open the side compartment by sliding down and install the batteries according to the directions printed inside. Close the battery compartment and you’re good to go. You can tell the batteries are working by checking to see if the orange LED indicator on the front of the camera turns on when the camera is turned on (see how to turn the camera on below).
Get the Right Film
If you’re going to shoot the Fuji Instax Mini 11, you’re going to need film. Specifically, you’re going to need Fuji Instax Mini film. Instax Square, Wide, and any Polaroid format film will not work in this camera, as it is a different shape and size than Instax Mini.
Personally, I love the monochrome film, but you can find Instax in color and black and white on Amazon and just about anywhere that sells camera equipment. I recommend getting fresh, new film whenever you try out a camera, especially if it is a used one.
To load your new pack of film, first open the package it comes it. Open the latch that holds the back of the camera closed. There is a yellow mark in the upper corner. Place the film into the camera so that the yellow mark on the cartridge lines up with the yellow mark on the camera. The ‘open’ side of the film cartridge (the side with the notice that says not to push down on it) should be face down towards the lens.
After you load the film, turn on the camera. If the darkslide isn’t automatically ejected, go ahead and press the shutter to eject it. The darkslide protects the film from light before it is loaded into the camera, and you can throw it away after it is ejected.
Turning the Camera On
To turn on the camera, press down on the button next to the barrel of the lens. Pushing down on this button will push the lens forward, locking it into place. To turn the camera back off, simply push the lens back into the camera body, where it will snap back into the body, keeping it compact and easily storable.
When you turn on the camera, an orange LED indicator will turn on, letting you know the camera is ready to shoot. If the LED indicator stays dark, make sure you pushed the lens all the way out. If that doesn’t work, then the batteries may need replaced.
Thankfully, unlike some other Instax cameras, taking photos is easy! If your subject is farther than arm’s length away, just point the camera at them and press down on the shutter. If you are shooting a selfie or macro shot, hop down to the selfie mode section below.
Flash is automatically on and cannot be turned off. However, the really isn’t any reason not to have flash on for this camera. Instant film requires a ton of light to work well, and in any indoor scene the flash is critical to getting a good exposure. Don’t be surprised if the background behind somebody is dark compared to your subject, especially indoors. Also, if you’re indoors, if you’re too far from your subject and the flash can’t reach it, the image may be underexposed. When possible, outdoor daylight is optimal to get the best results from this camera.
Selfie mode (formerly known on older Fuji Instax cameras as macro or close focus) mode is useful anytime you want to take a photo of something closer than arm’s length. Hence the name ‘selfie mode’ – if you’re going to hold the camera out to take a photo of yourself, this is the mode you’re going to want to use.
Putting the camera in ‘selfie mode’ is easy. Just grasp the front of the lens and pull forward. It’ll pop out, revealing the words ‘Selfie On’ on the top of the barrel. Now you can just point and shoot your selfie. To turn this mode off, just push the front of the barrel back in. It’s often easiest to push the lens completely in, turning the camera off, then pressing the on/lens out button. The camera will default to non-selfie mode whenever it is turned on in this manner.
Selfie mode, as I mentioned above, is basically a close focus mode. If you need to take a picture of anything small or close, this is the mode you’re going to want to use.
Scanning and Next Steps
Once you’ve taken a photo, it’ll automatically eject from the top of the camera. You don’t need to shake the image or anything to ‘dry’ it – the image is completely sealed from the elements. The photo will emerge from the white opacifier (a chemical that protects film from light as it develops) as it dissipates, leaving you with an image after a handful of minutes. Fuji Instax emerges relatively slowly from the top of the camera, so be sure not to yank it out while it is still going through the rollers on its way out.
Congratulations! You have an image. The window will let you know how many frames from the cartridge you have left. Now that you have a photo, you may want to digitize it so you can share it online. The easiest way is simply pointing the camera on your phone at it, but if you want to really get the most from your photos, I have a complete guide to scanning.
Instax Mini is great for having fun with friends and shooting photos at events, but if you want to step up to a bigger format that’s optimal for more detailed artist work, I recommend checking out Fuji Instax Wide, or better yet, Polaroid 600. You can read all about both in my guides to buying Instax cameras and Polaroid cameras.
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