Do Polaroids Develop Better in the Dark (The Truth Revealed)

Polaroid pictures have a distinctive, nostalgic charm that has made them popular once again.

You’ve probably wondered whether the development process of these instant photos is affected by the surrounding light conditions. Is it better for them to develop in the dark or the light?

Studies have found that, generally, Polaroid film develops better in dark or dimly lit environments. This is because the developing process is a chemical reaction, which can be interfered with by light.

However, even if you don’t have access to a completely dark room, there are still ways to protect your photos to ensure they develop properly.

By shielding the film from direct sunlight, you’ll prevent negative impacts on the final image, and the results will be more visually pleasing.

With this knowledge, you can now confidently take and develop Polaroid photos while understanding the importance of controlling the exposure to light during the development process.

So, go ahead and capture those special moments, ensuring the best possible outcome for your instant photographs.

Do Polaroids Develop Better in the Dark (Understanding Polaroids)

Here, you’ll learn about Polaroid cameras and films and how instant photograph development works with these devices.

Polaroid Camera and Film

A Polaroid camera is a type of instant camera that allows you to take photos and instantly produce a physical print.

The original Polaroid camera used SX-70 film, which was the first to produce self-developing, color instant photos.

Polaroid cameras and other instant cameras use specialized film packs, which have everything needed to develop the photos right inside the camera.

Instant Photograph Development

When you take a photo with a Polaroid or instant camera, the film inside the camera is exposed to light through the camera lens.

The light-sensitive chemicals on the film react to the light, creating an image. Once the photo is taken, the camera instantly begins the development process.

A series of chemical reactions occur, and the final image starts to appear on the film surface.

The first few minutes of development are crucial, as Polaroid film is sensitive to bright light during this time.

It’s essential to shield your photo from bright light immediately after it ejects from the camera and keep it in a dark place while it develops.

You should keep Polaroid film in the dark, away from direct sunlight (UV rays) for at least 90 seconds and continue for 10-15 minutes for the perfect development of the photo.

However, each type of Polaroid and instant film has its own development time and requirements, depending on various factors.

What Are The Effects of Light on Polaroid Development?

Exposure and Underexposure

When developing Polaroid photos, it’s essential to understand the role exposure plays in the process.

Generally, it’s best to develop your Polaroid film in a dark or dimly lit place, as the developing process involves a chemical reaction that light can interfere with.

However, you can still develop your Polaroid film if you don’t have access to a completely dark room.

Underexposed photos occur when there’s not enough light during the development process.

In this case, your photo may appear darker than desired, and details of your subject will be difficult to discern.

To prevent underexposure, ensure that your camera’s exposure compensation control is positioned in the middle. This will allow your camera to determine the best exposure automatically.


On the other hand, overexposure is a common issue when Polaroid photos are developed in bright or direct light.

Overexposed photos appear washed out, excessively light, or lacking in detail.

To tackle this issue, be mindful of the developing environment and adjust your camera’s exposure compensation control toward the black or darken position if your photos consistently come out overexposed.

Moreover, the first few minutes of Polaroid development are particularly sensitive to light conditions.

Hence, it’s crucial to keep your Polaroids out of bright light or direct sunlight during this initial development stage.

In conclusion, being aware of light exposure and the conditions in which you develop your Polaroid photos can significantly impact the final result.

By taking the necessary precautions and adjustments, you can ensure that your pictures come out clear, vibrant, and adequately exposed.

How to Develop Polaroids in the Dark?

Shooting Indoors

When you’re taking Polaroid pictures indoors, it’s crucial to consider the ambient light.

Since Polaroid film is sensitive to light even after being ejected from the camera, ensure your surrounding environment is dimly lit to allow the film to develop properly.

It’s also important to shield your photo from bright light immediately after it ejects from the camera. Keeping it in a dark place while it develops will help preserve its quality.

Dark Room Techniques

Having access to a darkroom can greatly improve the development process of your Polaroids.

In a dark or dimly lit room, the chemical reaction required for Polaroid development occurs more smoothly, ensuring better quality photos.

After your camera has ejected the film, place it in a dark area, such as a lightproof bag, pocket, or an improvised dark container.

This will help minimize exposure to light during the early stages of development.

Remember to experiment and find the best balance of ambient light and darkroom techniques to suit your photography style.

By paying close attention to your shooting environment and developing conditions, you can achieve optimal results with your Polaroid images.

Factors Affecting Polaroid Development

Now, I will cover the various factors that can influence the development process of your Polaroid pictures.

By understanding these factors, you can take steps to optimize the conditions for the best possible results.


Temperature plays a significant role in the development process of Polaroid films. The ideal temperature range for most instant films is between 55°F and 82°F (13°C and 28°C).

If the temperature is too low, the development process might be slower and produce underdeveloped or very dark images.

On the other hand, high temperatures can cause the colors in your photographs to appear washed out or faded.

To achieve optimal results, try to keep your film within the recommended temperature range during storage and development.


Humidity also affects the quality of Polaroid images. Excessive moisture can cause the film to stick together or result in uneven development, leading to streaks or blurry images.

Conversely, low humidity can lead to cracking or other damage to the picture.

Ideally, you should store and develop your Polaroid film in an environment with a relative humidity between 30% and 60%.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is another important factor in determining the exposure and, consequently, the quality of your Polaroid photographs.

A faster shutter speed will result in a darker image, while a slower shutter speed will produce a lighter image.

Because instant cameras, such as Polaroids, have relatively low dynamic range, it is crucial to choose the right shutter speed for your specific lighting conditions.

Using a flash can help provide enough light for proper exposure, especially in low-light situations.


The aperture, or size of the lens opening, controls the amount of light that reaches the film during exposure.

A larger aperture (smaller f-number) allows more light in, creating a brighter image, while a smaller aperture (larger f-number) lets in less light, resulting in a darker image.

When shooting with a Polaroid camera, it is important to select the appropriate aperture setting for your lighting conditions to ensure the best possible development.

If your images are consistently too dark or too light, try adjusting the aperture to achieve the desired level of brightness.

Tips for Improved Polaroid Development

Using Flash

When taking Polaroid photos, always use a flash. Polaroid film has a low dynamic range, and you only get one chance to capture a properly exposed image.

Using your camera’s built-in flash ensures that your subject is well-lit, reducing the risk of underexposed or dark images.

Optimal Camera Settings

Your choice of camera settings also impacts the quality of your Polaroid pictures.

When using a Fujifilm Instax camera, such as the Instax Mini 8, keep the following tips in mind:

  • The optimal distance for capturing well-lit photos in the dark is 3 feet away from the subject.
  • If taking a shot of something far away, set the shutter speed low. This requires a tripod or a stable surface to avoid blurry images.
  • Make sure your subject is at least 1 foot away to maintain proper focus.

Properly Storing Developed Polaroids

Once your Polaroid photos are taken, it’s essential to store them correctly for the best results.

Developing Polaroid photographs in the dark or a dimly lit room is generally recommended, as the developing process relies on a chemical reaction that can be affected by light.

After the photo has been ejected from the camera, shield it from light.

Keep in mind that Polaroid film remains sensitive to light even after leaving the camera.

Find a dark space, like a pocket or dark container, for your Instax film to develop without interference from light sources.

By following these tips and adjusting your camera settings to suit your environment, you can expect improved Polaroid development and clearer, better-exposed photos.

Common Polaroid Development Issues

There are several common issues that you may face when developing Polaroid photos, affecting their overall quality.

To ensure successful Polaroid development, it’s important to be aware of these common issues and their potential causes.

Color and Contrast Issues

Color and contrast issues in your Polaroid pictures can result from various factors, including exposure to light and improper storage conditions.

If your pictures appear faded, particularly with white or yellow regions, overexposure to light may be the issue.

When developing, it’s better to keep your film in a dark or dimly lit room as light can interfere with the chemical reactions in the film.

If your pictures lack proper contrast or show unexpected red light hue, this might be a result of flaws in the film’s dyes or exposure to strong light sources during development.

Keep Polaroids out of direct sunlight to ensure better development of colors and contrast.

Blurry Images

Blurry images can be an obstacle when trying to perfectly capture a moment on Polaroid film.

One common cause of blurry images is camera shake during the exposure process. To prevent this, make sure you hold the camera steady or use a tripod for better stability.

Another possible cause for blurry images might be issues with the autofocus system in your camera.

Always double-check that the camera’s focus is set correctly before taking a shot to avoid disappointment later on.

Film and Chemical Flaws

Sometimes, the source of poor picture quality lies within the film or its chemical components.

Bubbles, marks, or other flaws on your pictures might be the result of imperfect film or chemical reactions gone awry.

This can be due to old film, damaged supplies, or the film not being stored in ideal conditions.

To reduce the likelihood of these issues, take care of your film by storing it properly and using it before its expiration date.

By keeping these factors in mind, you can increase the chances of your Polaroid development process running smoothly and yielding high-quality pictures.

How Can You Ensure The Polaroid Longevity

Preventing Fading and Aging

To prevent fading and aging of your Polaroids, it’s essential to protect them from direct sunlight and bright light.

Prolonged exposure to sunlight may cause irreversible changes to the film chemistry, leading to fading and discoloration of the images.

Keep your Polaroids in a dark environment for proper development, away from any sources of direct sunlight.

Keep the Polaroids in darkness for at least 90 seconds, followed by 10-15 minutes to ensure perfect development.

You should also be mindful of the environment’s temperature and humidity. Storing your Polaroids in a fridge can have a positive effect on their longevity, as it helps slow down the aging process.

Just remember to place them in an airtight container or an album to prevent moisture damage.

Proper Display and Storage

Displaying and storing your Polaroids correctly plays a vital role in maintaining their quality over time.

When choosing a display method, opt for archival-quality materials such as acid-free albums or frames, as these will help preserve the integrity of the images.

When it comes to storing your Polaroids, a flat surface in a dark and cool environment is ideal.

You can place them in an album, ensuring each photo is separated using archival-quality sleeves to prevent them from sticking together or transferring any chemicals between them.

To summarize, protecting your Polaroids from the damaging effects of sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and humidity is crucial for ensuring their longevity.

Utilize proper display and storage methods, such as acid-free albums and frames, to keep your Polaroids looking their best for years to come.


How long does it take for Polaroid pictures to develop?

Polaroid pictures usually take around 10 to 15 minutes to fully develop. It’s important to keep them out of direct sunlight during this time to ensure the best results.

While waiting for your photo to develop, you can place it in a dark pocket or another shaded location.

How can overexposed Polaroid pictures be fixed?

Unfortunately, once a Polaroid picture has been overexposed, there’s not much you can do to fix it.

To avoid overexposure in the future, make sure to adjust your camera settings according to the lighting conditions and shield the photo from bright light as it ejects from the camera.

What are the best exposure settings for Polaroid cameras?

The best exposure settings for Polaroid cameras depend on the specific camera model and the lighting conditions.

Many Polaroid cameras have a built-in auto exposure system, which adjusts the shutter speed and aperture automatically for the best results.

To achieve optimal results, consider using an external light meter or consult your camera’s manual for guidance on exposure settings.

How to take good quality Polaroid photos in low light conditions?

Taking good quality Polaroid photos in low light conditions can be challenging but is possible with a few tips.

To capture better images, consider using a tripod to minimize camera shake and allow for longer exposures.

You can also try adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation settings to let more light in.

Finally, if your camera has a built-in flash, make sure to use it wisely to avoid harsh shadows and illuminate your subject.

Why are some Polaroid photos too dark?

Some Polaroid photos may turn out too dark due to underexposure, which can occur if there’s not enough light in the scene or if your camera settings are incorrect.

To address this issue, try brightening the lighting in the area you’re shooting or adjusting your camera’s exposure settings.

Additionally, ensure that your film is being stored and developed under the recommended temperature range, which is between 55°F and 82°F (13°C and 28°C).

What is the proper method to develop Polaroid film?

The proper method to develop Polaroid film involves keeping the film in a dimly lit or dark environment during the first few minutes of development.

As the film ejects from the camera, shield it from direct sunlight and place it in a dark place, such as a pocket or a shaded location.

Wait for 10 to 15 minutes for the picture to fully develop. This process ensures that your Polaroid photos develop with the best quality and clarity possible.