One of the first alternative processes I learned, and one of the easiest so far, the Polaroid Transfer is an all-time photo-demo favorite. This semester, I noticed there aren’t too many good tutorials for making Polaroid Transfers, and it’s definitely the kind of process which gets easier with a few basic tips. So I collaborated with one of my students, Rachel Abbot, to document this year’s demonstration.
Polaroid transfers have a unique visual style that is a little ghostly, a little impressionistic, and often very moody. Needless to say, it’s a fun way to spice up found slides and staged photos. With a few readily-available supplies, we can make a whole bunch of transfer prints.
**This is an old Polaroid Land Camera that takes old pack film, the kind of film that you have to peel apart. Cameras like this will only cost you $5+ on Ebay or at a secondhand shop.**
- Expose the slide film, it can be a little overexposed. Using a red/warming filter when shooting can improve the image as red dyes tend to get lost in the transfer process. Obviously if you are shooting with a Polaroid camera you will skip this step.
- Soak watercolor paper (Arches hot-press 140-pound watercolor paper works well) in warm water briefly until it is soft (at least 1 minute.) Remove from water and let it drain. Place on a flat surface and pat dry (do not rub.) A squeege also works very well.
- Insert slide and start the Polaroid development process in the Daylab slide printer. It is also possible to shoot straight from the Polaroid camera - the film will stay ladent until it is pulled. With either the camera or daylab pull the film through the rollers using a straight, smooth motion to distribute the developer evenly; don’t stop halfway! After about 12-15 seconds, pull the two sides of the Polaroid sandwich apart quickly.
- Place the “negative” Polaroid sheet face down on the prepared damp paper. Roll the brayer on the back of the negative pressing firmly, be careful not to let the negative slide around on the paper. It helps to keep the paper warm, a hair dryer works well.
- After about 2 minutes, (experiment - time depends on paper and room temperature) slowly pull the negative from the paper. If the image starts to peel or lift excessively, try starting from another corner.
- Polaroid chemistry is very basic, it is advisable but optional, to neutralize it. Soak the transfer in a weak acid, such as a vinegar. This also intensifies the colors. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Soak the print for no more than 60 seconds with some agitation. Then wash in running water for 4 minutes and allow to air-dry.
Polaroid Image Transfers–Book, Holly Dupre
Image Transfer @ Polaroid.com
AlternativePhotography.com : the polaroid image transfer process
Polaroid image transfer (1), Silverprint
Flickr: Photos tagged with polaroidtransfer
**Photographs by Rachel Abbott, Tutorial by Sarah Wichlacz