How To Keep Your Instant Film From Fading And How To Display It?

Instant film doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to longevity. However, there are ways to go about preserving your film and still getting to enjoy or display it. 

The best way to preserve instant film, is by keeping them away from light, heat, and moisture. To make them last longer, you will want to store them in a dark space away from sunlight. However, you can display them in darker areas or using UV picture frames to protect them.

Depending on the photo you took, you may want it to last forever and are willing to store it to keep that moment. However, there are also ways you can show off the photo, but there is still the risk of damage occurring. To find out exactly how to prevent your instant film from fading, and learn how to display it, keep reading. 

How To Keep Your Film From Fading? 

An image of 3 Polaroid Instant Films

If you properly store your instant film, then they can last for almost 100 years. Instant film is known to fade as years go by and begin to yellow in the brighter portions. There are precautions that can taken to help keep them from this fate. 

Exposure to Light 

Unfortunately, direct sunlight will damage any photos taken. This means the best location to store them, is in a dark space where they will not be damaged by the same light that can damage our own skin. Even if they are stored well in a dark room, there is always a possibility of yellowing in the lighter areas of the photo.

Do Not Cut 

It may be tempting to cut the photo to fit in certain frames, but never do this. It can damage them and cause them to deteriorate even faster. Not only this, but there are chemicals that could cause damage to your own skin because the chemicals inside a Polaroid are toxic. 

You can still take other measures to preserve them after cutting, but it will not look the same and the damage will most likely already be done.

Complete Dry Out, Pre-Storage 

Before finding somewhere for your photos, you will need to let them dry for several weeks. The recommended time frame is up to 30 days. This is to allow the chemical processes to halt so you won’t damage it further by touching the photo.

When you do handle to the photos, make sure you are cautious about where you hold them. Try to only hold the corner with clean hands or you may damage them with the oil on your hands.

The best place to store them is a photo album made specifically for instant film. These are usually the best quality to preserve them safely while preventing any damage some albums may cause depending on their materials.

Some people prefer sealing their instant film completely so that it will not be affected as much by the outside air. 

Proper Storage Location 

This may not be as simple as placing them in a box in the attic, specifically due to temperature and other variables. Instant film can not be stored in an area with high humidity or extreme temperature changes. 

The best place to store them is most likely in a closet that is on the main floor. Somewhere that is still dark, but has a consistent temperature. 

Make sure wherever they are put, that they are flat. Sitting them sideways can make them yellow faster than if they stay flat. 

How To Display Your Instant Film So Its Protected

The most difficult part of showcasing instant film, is the likelihood that it will be damaged from direct sunlight. Especially considering the most popular area to showcase photos is usually the brightest room in the house, the living room. 

There are countermeasures to damaging the photos if you do want to display them, but it may still involve the risk of them fading faster over time. There are also some options for those who do not mind if the photos fade over time.

Frames with UV Protection 

This is most likely the best option for openly displaying an instant film. It will help prevent the photo from being damaged by the sun while still being able to display it in a public area. 

While this method does work, there is still the worry of the direct light hitting the picture. Even with UV protection, with enough time the direct sunlight may still cause damage. The best place to showcase your instant film, even in this frame, is by putting it in an area that will not receive direct sunlight.

Albums 

This may be less popular because it is less visible, but it will also be your safest choice in terms of preserving the photos. The best place is to keep it in a dark room, but keeping it in an album will help keep it out of some of the direct sunlight for the most part.

This will allow you to keep the album in the living room if you would like to look through it whenever you would like. It would be best to keep it flat on a surface for the same reason I mentioned previously. Storing the photos on their side could cause yellowing in the lighter areas.

How to Display Your Instant Film Unprotected 

Displaying your images isn’t a common method to view instant film, mainly due to it causing film to fade and become brittle over time. However, some people enjoy the short term joy of the picture and don’t wish to preserve them over a long time.

Try a Garland Frame

This is a simple method for people who have a lot of photos they’d like to showcase. It simply requires a string, clothes pins, and an empty frame. You hang the string from one end of the frame to the other then hang the film up using clothes pins. 

The biggest con to this outside of no protection from light, is that the photos have the possibility of curling or becoming brittle.

A String of Fairy Lights 

This is another form of the previous method. Instead of a string and frame, you just string up fairy lights in your room. Then you attach your film with clothes pins intermittently. 

The biggest concern with this method is the fact the photos will be so close to direct light. This may cause some uneven discoloring and warping over time. 

One Big Mural 

This is another one that showcases a wide variety of film. You simply tape or use any other method to attach your film to the wall in a mural of photos. You can create shapes or just have a scattered array of photos. 

Like the previous methods, this would not provide an protection to the film that you hang up. Especially since it is on its side, you will most likely see yellowing over time.

The Tried and True Scrapbook 

The main reason this isn’t considered protective, is because some people will cut or glue the photos to the scrapbook. This, plus the fact that there is most likely going to be no protective shield over the film. 

This is most likely the most protective of the unprotected methods. The majority of the photos will be in a binder, which will keep them flat and in the dark.

If you are able to store this in an environment that works best for film, then you should be able preserve this for a decent amount of time. 

Digitizing Your Instant Film

Another option is to digitize your instant film so you can display a print of your instant photo. This allows you to store your instant print safely out of direct sunlight and humidity while letting you enjoy seeing the image on the wall or your desk.

Preserving Your Film by Caring for Your Camera

Sometimes the best way to have long lasting instant film, is by taking good care of the camera and film prior to taking the photo. This will give it the chance of lasting longer than if you let it degrade over time.

Use Proper Camera Storage 

Just like storing the instant film after the photo is taken, you will need to do so prior to using the film as well. Keeping the film chemistry preserved isn’t always considered until after the damage is apparent on the photo down the road.

You need to make sure the packages with film are stored unopened in a cold and dry area. Some people even store their film in their fridge until they plan on using it. However, you would need to allow it to return to room temperature once you plan to use it. This shouldn’t take too much time, but if you don’t remember to do so then your film may not perform properly.

Pay Attention to Film Expiration Dates 

Many people don’t realize that their film can go bad if not used. Due to the chemicals on the film it is best to use film within 12 months of the production date. You can still use the film after this date, but it may not perform or preserve as well as it should.

Don’t Skip Camera Maintenance 

You will need to make sure your camera is well maintained and clean. Specifically, the rollers that your photos will be going through need to be properly cleaned. If they aren’t cleaned, then there is the possibility of your photos not processing properly. 

It is recommended to clean the rollers even when they appear to be clean already. You should do this between each new pack of film you insert just to make sure. This can be done with a cloth with a little bit of water.

Use Proper Exposure 

This depends greatly on what type of camera you may own, but it is easy to have an over-exposed picture using instant film. This means a photo will come out much brighter than you may want which could also result in blurry images and more yellowing over time.

Only Use in Mild Temperatures

Just like preserving the film, it is best to take photos in certain temperatures. If it is too hot or cold then the photo colors or development time may be different than expected. 

Cold 

The colder it is than the more likely you will get a blue tint with less color contrast. In this case, make sure to keep your camera close to your body to stay warm and let your film develop close to you as well. 

Warm 

In warmer temperature’s your instant film will develop a yellow or red tint. This is the best time to keep your film in the fridge prior to leaving as they will most likely return to a normal temperature by the time you use them. Try to allow photos to develop in a cooler area if possible. 

Protect It From Light 

After you have taken the photo, you will want to protect it from any strong light sources. Specifically, if you are outdoors then you do not want your photo to be affected by the sun once it comes out. 

The best place to allow a photo to finish developing is in a jacket pocket, empty film box, or face down on a surface. You don’t want your film to be washed out from immediate exposure to light. Keeping it in the dark allows for sharper details and more contrasting colors.

Instant Film Cameras 

Another thing to consider when wanting to preserve instant film later on, is getting a quality camera and film. This is where good quality preservation starts, with a camera and film that are able to hold up over time.

Polaroid 

Polariod is the brand that everyone knows best and always goes back to. They are iconic for their camera design and instant photograph capabilities. This is the brand that everyone can look back on nostalgically.  

Polaroid Originals OneStep+

The OneStep+ is one of their most recent models that have taken the old design and mixed it with modern capabilities. These cameras have large prints that are most similar to how they used to look. It is made to be easy for beginners to use, but is still on the more complicated side and the film is on the expensive side.

Polaroid Now 

This is another newer model that can be compared to the OneStep+ and instax Mini 11. The main difference between the OneStep+ and the Polaroid Now, is that some of the features like Bluetooth are not included. 

If you are a beginner who isn’t interested in the OneStep+ due to its price, then this may work out better for you. It wouldn’t have some of the extra features, but that isn’t always necessary to have a good quality camera.

Many prefer this camera over Fujifilm’s instax Mini 11 mainly due to the full-sized film and boxy shape. Despite the modern desire to make everything smaller and thinner, some enjoy the nostalgic feel of holding a Polaroid. 

Fujifilm Instax 

When you think of insant cameras, this is one of the first ones you will think of outside of Polaroid. Fujifilm Instax produces a wide variety of instant cameras that typically cater to people who are beginners.

Mini 9 

This is a very simple camera that comes in a wide variety of colors. The prints are credit card sized, which could be either a pro or con depending on what you are looking for. Since it is so simple and direct to use, anyone can use this camera. This is a cheaper camera (and film), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying out.

Square SQ6 

This camera is run by CR2 lithium batteries that are said to last 30 film packs. It is designed similarly to the Instagram logo in hopes to tempt influencers into using it. This camera is specifically known for its use of Fujifilm SQUARE film

Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC 

This is the only camera Fujifilm’s makes that has a rechargeable battery. It has a retro design that many enjoy, while still having many of the modern functions that people prefer in a camera. 

Despite the retro design, it does include an LCD display screen to show your settings. It is still discrete, but also useful to show you more information. It also uses the Instax Mini film, which is the less expensive film that Fujifilm makes.

Leica Sofort 

Leica Sofort are most attractive because of the famous red dot logo. This camera is extremely similar to Fujifilm’s mini 90 above, but is much higher in price due to the Leica brand. It is a highly efficient camera that many hold in high-regard. The biggest con to this camera or brand, is that it is expensive.

Kodak Smile Instant Print Camera 

This camera is the same size and shape of a smart phone, but with a miniature printer and lens. This option allows you to take as many photos as you’d like on the camera, and go through them later on to pick which ones you’d like to print using the Zink instant paper.

The biggest con to this is that the prints aren’t as good as some of the other options. Not only are the prints not as great, but it has a limited battery life.

Final Thoughts 

Instant film can be fragile and somewhat hard to preserve while still getting to enjoy them. To fully preserve instant film, then you will need to consider not displaying them as much as you may want. 

There are ways to display an instant film relatively safely, but there are still precautions that need to be taken. However, if you just want to enjoy them temporarily, then there are many more ways to go about displaying your film.

Lee

My name is Lee and I love photography and learning. I received a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 2010 and have worked as a university professor for the last 10 years in addition to being a working photographer. I started this website to learn more about digital and film-based photography and to provide a resource for all of my students.

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