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How Does A Polaroid Camera Work?


Photo courtesy of ME!

A special request from Midnight Pearl, and a quick post, because finals.

Though the themes change, every UIC Radio gathering, party, and event is visited by our office Polaroid. These are the huge plastic cameras that immediately print a photo which develops in front of your eyes. It’s old technology that is just as fascinating today as it was in its origin: Edwin H. Land dropped out of Harvard and invented the first polarizing chemical in 1926 when he was a freshman. He went on to develop specially tinted glasses for the army and navy, 3-D glasses for movies, and finally the classic toy-your-dad-reminisces-about, the Polaroid Camera in 1943.

Above is a picture of Pearl and me, taken on our Polaroid. After it’s loaded into the camera, the entire photo card is actually transferred between two rollers. On the back of the card is a tiny bubble of plastic, containing a reagent that will react with the photo paper and heat produced in the camera.


The back of our photo. The reagent is held in a sealed plastic bubble. 

The rollers press the reagent onto the light-sensitive layer of the paper and cover the negative image that the camera had captured.

Courtesy of

The photo paper on top is made of different layers which react with heat differently, causing different colors to appear on the photo paper.

Courtesy of

The photo card will then peek out of the top of the camera where you can retrieve it and watch as natural light develops the image! Non-vintage versions of Polaroid cameras usually run between $100-$120. A packet of film costs between $15-$25. These classic machines make wonderful memories and are a blast to use. The strong plastic coating and materials used to create the complex photo card add to its durability, inspiring the true phrase that Polaroids last forever.

Courtesy of

That’s all for this semester! Any curiosities about my blog or potential ideas? Post them below in comments! I’ll see you in the fall. H.A.G.S! Heh heh…


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