A Polaroid camera with a polkadot background and a glow around the image

Photography: How does a Polaroid camera work?

Say cheeeese then shake it like a polaroid picture! Explore the fascinating world of Polaroid photography and get inspired yourself.

Are you a photography fan? Do you enjoy taking photos and playing with filters? Nowadays with digital photography and phones at our fingertips, it’s never been easier to document all we see. But did you know that Polaroid cameras were the first camera to really master instant photography?

The Polaroid camera was created in 1947 by Edwin H. Land – he was a scientist and inventor with a passion for photography. It took Edwin 10 years to develop the first Polaroid instant camera – which allowed you to take and print a photo in just 60 seconds. Remember – back then, the shortest exposure time to take a photo was 15 minutes (and the longest was 8 hours!) – so this was a revolution for photographers!

Here’s one of the first Polaroid cameras. Reckon that could fit in your pocket?

At first the pictures that came from these cameras were black and white. It took another 20 years for Polaroid cameras to release instant colour photos which revolutionised the world of photography and how society was able to be documented.

The availability of instant photography provided an opportunity for people to capture more everyday moments, rather than photography and the photographs captured being a precious, formal thing.

Watch this video to learn more about the process and history behind Polaroid cameras

Feel inspired?

Set yourself a challenge to find the most weird and wonderful thing you could photograph at home! Here’s some cool polaroids from the V&A collection to inspire you.

Polaroid photo showing abstract colorful shapes
Just a quick random question – you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.

If you’re 10-15 years old, we’d love to know what you think of Mused so far…

It’s awesome! I’ve told my friends about it! 27%

It’s good – I’m enjoying it. 52%

It’s okay, could be better! 11%

To be honest, it’s not really my thing. 10%

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Polaroid photo depicting a dolls head next to a plastic container

These polaroids were captured by music photographer, Linda McCartney. Linda was known for photographing bands and musicians throughout the 1960s, and people respected her casual, behind the scenes glimpses of both the music scene and her own family life. Did you know that she became the first woman to have a photograph featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine?! Very cool.

What polaroids would you take that provide a glimpse into your everyday?

Polaroid depicting a child walking away from the camera wearing a white coat with hood up and red wellies

If you’ve enjoyed learning about how polaroid cameras work, why not check out how to make a video game next or take a quiz to find out how well you know female artists. Get that creativity flowing!