Compared to our luxurious, aesthetic-driven contemporary uses of the instant camera, back then, common folk and photographers alike used Land's invention for professional use on an almost daily basis. Here is how people of then used the instant camera.
For professional, high-end photography
Today, it's probably rare to find contemporary photographers get exhibited through their instant photographs, not when smartphone photographs get ahead of them first. Unless you're Andy Warhol or David Hockney, you're best sticking to your analogue film if you want to get exhibited.
But in the good old days when instant cameras of all shapes and sizes were available, the instant medium was also a professional's choice. Look no further than with Ansel Adams, the most renowned landscape photographer of our time. He used Edwin Land's Polaroid SX-70, the camera synonymous to the digital in our time.
“I’ve always considered the Polaroid process as an intensely creative one, not only because of the inherent beauty of the material, which has, if you want to speak photo-scientifically, a linear scale and cannot be duplicated by any ordinary print. But it also has the element of immediacy. You see exactly what you’re getting. When you’re making a picture under static conditions, you can make an immediate correction. Or if you’re working in fast situations, once you have one picture you know what the others are going to be. There is a new aesthetics involved in this immediacy, and that’s what I think is so important.” -- Ansel Adams
Many of his black and white images were used with instant print, and he was instrumental to developing the 8x10 black and white film.
You also have filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who found art and poetry with the instant camera. Although his instant prints are rarely seen, they are highly artistic, the majority of them very similar to his cinematography.
For ID cards & passport photos
How we're treating our smartphones today was how people treated the instant camera. It was the reliable companion for quick needs, say getting an ID photo or completing passport requirements. The first instant portrait was introduced in 1965, thus changing the passport photo business.
Passport portraits were serviced in shops, and they were sold as 2x2 Polaroids, meant for inserting the image inside the passport. The formal event of passport photography has been rushed into a five-minute errand.
For police work
Forensic photography has been around since the late 19th century, take what you will with the likes of Alphonse Bertillion or Weegee for a more modern example. What surprised us the most is that by the mid of the 20th century, police officers have already taken up the role as crime photographers as well. The authorities relied on the instant camera for documenting their scenes of crime.
While there's a lack of police photographs on the virtual archive (they're obviously confidential!), it's been reported by the LA Times and the Hawaii Police Department that the authorities indeed use instant cameras.
For production continuity
The script supervisor is the member of the film crew who oversees the continuity of the project or film from the story down to the tiniest accessory. The person notes all the elements such as the wardrobe, props, dressing, hair, make-up, and actions of actors, making sure they follow the script. They're often the hardest-working person on set, and is the most responsible for continuity.
So, when the instant camera came to be, it was heaven-sent, and every script supervisor will tell you how thankful they are with the instant camera. Here are some of "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" script supervisor Ann Skinner's instants.