Instant Photography: Then and Now


Santa Fe, 1943. A 3-year-old little girl asked her Dad why she couldn't see the photograph that he had just taken of her. The Dad was challenged by this question - and within an hour he had cooked up an idea and scurried to a friend's house to discuss the possibility of a camera that would spit out the picture after exposure.

Edwin Land with the SX-70 and a snapshot. Photo credit:

The Roots of Instant Photography

The Dad in question is none other than Edwin Land – an American Physicist and the co-founder of Polaroid. He was also the inventor of polarizing filters for sunglasses and photography, as well as window shades and lamps. But he is best known for conceptualizing instant photography – a one-step process of developing and printing pictures in just a minute or less.

After meeting with his friend (a patent attorney) about the concept of a dry camera producing a picture right after it was exposed – Land started his experiments, working closely with a group of collaborators. It took them three years until Land unveiled the film at a conference in 1947. In the next year, they launched a camera and a film that produced sepia-toned images, followed by a black-and-white film which faced a fading problem – solved by a redesign and the addition of a plastic coating.

Land’s colleague Howard Rogers then started his fifteen years (!!!) of research on colored instant pictures. The color film was introduced in 1963, inciting an overwhelming sales of instant color cameras. Nine years later, the famous Polaroid SX-70 was presented to to the public – a single lens reflex instant camera that could be folded up to 1 inch thick. The company tapped Sir Laurence Olivier and modernists/designers Charles and Ray Eames to promote the SX-70.

An SX-70 advertisement by Eames:

The SX-70 was such a hit that Eastman Kodak was inspired to create their own line of instant cameras. However, Polaroid emerged victorious in the rivalry, suing Kodak for violating seven Polaroid patents.

Edwin Land. Photo credit:

Bankruptcy caused the Polaroid company to shut down, creating a furor among SX-70 loyalists.

Instant Photography Today

Meanwhile in Japan, renowned camera company Fujifilm got busy in their labs, designing a line of handy instant cameras that produced credit card-sized prints. Some of the models featured convenient functions such as a self-timer switch, Light/Dark controls that allow you to adjust the exposure 1 step brighter or darker, built-in Intelligent flash and sleek designs. You can find a selection of these Fuji Instax cameras at the Lomography Online Shop).

Lomography is also pioneering instant photography with its special accessories, designed to be used with certain cameras (the Diana F+ and the Lomo LC-A+). The Diana Instant Back+ and LC-A Instant Back+ offer the distinct effects of the Diana F+ and the Lomo LC-A+ in an instant.

Diana F+ Instant Back+ Gallery:

Dreamy, soft-focused instant photos.

Lomo LC-A Instant Back+ Gallery:

Colorful instant snapshots with vignettes.

When paired with other accessories and lenses designed especially for the Diana F+ and Lomo LC-A+ cameras, instant snapshots will yield astonishing, unpredictable results.

Check out the Instant Products in our Shop!

National Academies Press

written by shhquiet on 2011-07-13 in #news #instant-photography #instant #edwin-land #polaroid #lomography-instant-back #fujifilm


  1. jschussler
    jschussler ·

    great article! I've used polaroid film for a few years and I never knew that it started off from his daughter, so sweet. My 6 year old brother always wants to see my shots that I take on film because he's so used to the digital cameras so it's working in reverse nowadays :)

  2. shhquiet
    shhquiet ·

    @jschussler I liked that bit of info too :) So good that Mr. Land took on the challenge!

  3. jesuisz
    jesuisz ·

    for those who want to purchase film for their polaroid cameras (or even buy a polaroid camera) visit the impossible project !

  4. idledays07
    idledays07 ·

    Great job not mentioning The Impossible Project and their film. The SX-70 still lives.

  5. leandro14
    leandro14 ·

    Uh yah, seriously, no mention of Impossible at all??? Film for SX-70, 600 and Spectra cameras are in full swing again over at - it's good stuff!

  6. sudhashunmu
    sudhashunmu ·

    good shots

  7. blacksburg25
    blacksburg25 ·

    Is this a article about instant photography today and no mention of the Impossible Project?? A little bit of research won't hurt... They have the coolest instant film!

  8. lawypop
    lawypop ·

    instant happiness!

  9. olen
    olen ·

    Necessity is the mother of all invention as they say.

  10. bcartwright
    bcartwright ·

    Lomography and The Impossible Project are the Montague and Capulet of the alternative photography scene.

  11. strangelilgirl
    strangelilgirl ·

    Oh my gosh diddo on that last comment!

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