The fairy lights are twinkling, the smell of roast beef makes your stomach growl, and the highly- anticipated gifts sit patiently under the already wilting Christmas tree. Holiday cheer is everywhere so, naturally, you wish to capture the magic of the moment. Out comes your trusty insta camera. Polaroid photographs are the trend now. A click later, a little boxed-shaped sheet is whirling out but the smiling faces of your family are not yet visible. You start mindlessly shaking the photograph, almost like second nature, until your wrist hurts. Well, what if I told you that shaking Polaroid photographs is not only unnecessary in the development of the image but might actually harm it in some instances?

Ever since receiving my Fujifilm camera, I have wondered why people shake their Polaroid photos after taking them. I would always shake my photos because that is what I thought I was supposed to do, but I never understood the reason why. I was always confused because shaking the photo never seemed to really do much. Why am I doing this if it does not help my photos develop faster? It’s fun to shake my photos, but why am I actually shaking it?

With all the advancements in digital technology, there is something truly nostalgic about using the Polaroid camera. I did not personally grow up using an instant camera but I did use disposable cameras often. I would take it on field trips and vacations with my family in my early childhood. The downside to disposable cameras, however, is that you can only view the taken photo once it is developed. Who has the time of the anymore? My favorite thing about the Polaroid camera lies in its main selling point – providing instant physical copies.

The only reference that I had as a potential answer to my inquiry as to why we shake instant photos is the Outkast song “Hey Ya!” because of the famous lyric, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”  As fun and catchy as the song is, it does not really explain why you should shake a Polaroid photo after it is printed.

So, to answer my question, I did a little research. It turns out that shaking it did have a purpose when the Polaroid camera was first manufactured. The Polaroid Corporation was established in 1937 and was founded by Edwin H. Land, an American scientist. When Polaroid cameras were first released. They used a peel-apart film. When a person took their photo with this film, the photo would still be wet due to chemicals. So, people would shake their polaroid pictures to make the drying process go faster.

Polaroid camera’s popularity in the late 1900s and early 2000s came to a screeching halt with the rise of new digital options. Today, Polaroid cameras, which consist of Fujifilm Instax cameras and new cameras from the Polaroid Corporation, actually do not require you to shake them.

Shaking them could, in some instances, cause damage or distortions to the picture as a rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause ‘blobs’ in the picture. The instant polaroid cameras use an integral film, which is an instant film. The film that we are using now is covered in clear plastic and does not touch air. So, you can still shake your polaroid picture all you want, but it won’t actually do anything for you!

The best thing that you can do is leave it alone and protect your photo from sunlight. Keeping your photographs out of the sun is actually pretty important! If it is exposed or developed in sunlight, it could redden due to overexposure. Trust me, I speak from experience. I insist just patiently waiting the suggested 15 minutes for the film to fully develop.

While shaking your instant photos may be fun, not only is it unnecessary but sometimes even damaging. So save yourself some time and wrist pain by leaving your Polaroid photographs alone.

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Tatayana Allen

By Tatayana Allen

Editorial Fellow