I love the Fuji Instax Mini 12. Once you get the hang of it, its an easy camera to throw into your pocket to take photos of friends and family. Part of the fun of film is taking chances, so don’t be afraid to try out new things and experiment as you learn how to shoot with the Mini 12.
Step one is to put fresh batteries into your camera. Open the side panel by sliding it down. Don’t worry if it feels a bit crunchy – this isn’t the best battery door on the planet so it can be a pain to open and close.
The camera comes with AA alkaline batteries, which you can use, but I recommend using rechargeable lithium AA batteries if at all possible. If you don’t use your camera on a regular basis, they will often leak and ruin your camera. So either make sure to always take out the AAs after using (which I find hard to do), or use rechargeable lithium AAs which will just peacefully lose charge instead of ruining your Instax Mini 12.
Once you have the batteries installed, now it’s time to put film into the camera. The Instax Mini 12 uses Instax Mini film. Do not use Instax Square, Instax Wide, or Polaroid film – those formats will not work with this camera. Instax Mini film comes in color and monochrome variants (which is my favorite) with wide variety of border colors. All work great with the Instax Mini 12.
You’ll know your camera has no film by looking into window on the back. If there is no visible yellow line, the camera is empty. If there is a visible yellow line, you can look at the dial below to check how many photos remain. When it says zero, you’re good to take out the old cartridge. (Note that if there is no film in the camera at all, it will likely have an S in the counter – that’s why you should check the window first)
Open your pack of new film and set it aside. Then, open the back door compartment of the Instax Mini camera. Remove the old pack if there is one in there.
Now, place the new pack of film into the camera so that the yellow mark aligns with the other yellow mark on the back of the camera. If you don’t see a yellow mark on the film cartridge, you may have it in backwards – there is only a yellow mark on one side. Once the cartridge is inside, close the camera. You’ll feel some resistance as you close it. This is totally normal.
After the pack is inserted, turn the camera on by turning the ring around the lens to ‘on.’ Hit the shutter like you’re taking a picture to eject the dark slide, which is the black paper cover that protects the film from light. If you forget to do this step, you may be surprised by a dark slide ejecting from the top instead of a photo when you go to shoot a picture.
While you’re taking photos, be sure to keep the back closed until you’ve shot the entire pack. Exposure to light will ruin any photos that haven’t been exposed yet.
Taking a Regular Photo
To take a regular photo of an object further than 2 ft/60cm away from the camera, turn the ring around the lens from ‘off’ to ‘on.’ When the orange light is solid, you’re ready to take a photo. It may blink momentarily to let you know the flash is still charging up.
Frame your subject in the viewfinder, then press the big shutter button on the front of the camera. The flash will go off, and then the photo will be ejected from the top slot. Let the photo eject completely before pulling it out. Also, despite what Outkast tells you, don’t shake the photo to ‘dry’ or ‘develop’ it. Just set the photo aside and the opacifier layer will fade away to reveal your photograph in approximately a minute or two.
When you’re done, set the camera to ‘off’ to collapse and protect the lens.
Taking a Closeup Photo
‘Closeup’ mode is for objects 1.5ft – 2.5ft away, or 30cm – 50cm for my metric friends. You’ll likely want to use this for a single headshot or to take a picture of a pet.
To enter closeup mode, turn the lens ring past on and over to ‘closeup.’ If you’re looking through the viewfinder while doing this, you’ll notice that the image slightly changes. This is the viewfinder compensating for the slightly different framing that a closeup shot requires.
Look through the camera, frame your subject, and hit the shutter button on the front of the camera. The image will pop out the top. Once you’re done, set the camera to ‘off’ to collapse and protect the lens.
Taking a Selfie
Closeup mode is also selfie mode on this camera. The focusing distance for closeup is the same as taking an arm’s length self portrait.
To take a selfie, turn the ring from off, past ‘on’ and to ‘closeup.’ The orange light on the top of the lens will go solid indicating that the flash is ready.
Hold the camera out as far as your arm can reach. If you hold the camera too close to your face, it may produce a blurry image.
There is a small mirror next to the lens. Compose your image using that mirror, and when you’re happy with the framing, hit the shutter button. The camera flash will go off and then the image will eject from the top of the camera.
As with the other modes, once you’re done, set the camera to off and put the camera away.
If you’re trying to take a photo of a small object like a flower and you’re noticing your photos are out of focus, most likely you are too close. Unfortunately, this camera has no ‘macro’ mode, so there’s no easy way to fill up the frame with a small object by getting extremely close to it.
If you are getting out of focus selfies or portraits, make sure you’re not too close to your subject. Even in ‘closeup’ mode, it’s easy for the camera to be too close to the subject to focus. Hold your arm out as far as you can when taking selfies, as erroring on the side of the camera being farther away rather than too close will help get more shots in focus.
If your subject appears dark or underexposed, you may be too far away. The flash on the Fuji Instax Mini 12 struggles to reach subjects across a room, so it may help to get a bit closer.
Finally, if there is no orange light when you turn the camera to on, you likely have a dead battery. The lens will still pop out, but nothing will happen when you try to take a photo. Also, if the orange light is continuously flashing without ever going solid, the batteries may be too weak to power the flash. Either way, the easiest troubleshooting step is to replace the AA batteries or even just reseat your existing ones by taking them out and re-inserting them.
That’s it! You’re an expert on your Instax Mini 12 now. I recommend picking up some of the black and white monochrome Instax Mini film to play around with, as I think it is more flattering for portraits than the blue hues of default color Instax Mini film.
If you enjoy instant film photography, you can also explore larger formats like Instax Square and Polaroid which will give you more detail and control over your images. There’s a whole world to explore with film, so I’m glad you’re giving it a shot!