Don’t shake it like a Polaroid picture

 Weird Fact #15: Shaking instant photos does not help them develop.


It was second nature to a generation of American amateur shutterbugs. Snap the photo, let the camera spit it out with that cool little mechanical whirring sound … and then violently flap the poor thing back and forth like a wet towel because God forbid we should waste valuable seconds waiting to see if Aunt Mabel finally had her eyes open in this one. Welcome to the world of instant photography.

Of course, younger readers are now chiming in with “Wait. What’s instant photography?” Well, back in the day, Polaroid had (“Wait. What’s Polaroid?”)….uh…they’re a company that made film which…(“Wait. What’s film?”).

Okay, you know what? Younger readers should just skip this column altogether.

Anyway, you are not supposed to waggle instant film back and forth to make the colors come out quicker. This particular myth developed (heh, developed, get it?) from the idea that instant pics dried quicker if you shook them. But later Polaroid film actually dried beneath a clear sheet and fanning had no effect. In fact, it could harm the photo, a fact Polaroid felt compelled to warn people about after the success of 2003′s “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (“Wait. What’s OutKast?”) which encouraged people to “shake it like a Polaroid picture.” (As I recall, it also advised listeners to be on their baddest behavior and lend the singer some sugar because he was in fact their neighbor but Polaroid issued no guidance on this point.)

Interestingly, even in the age of memory cards and digital photography, instant film is still made for the Polaroid camera by some diehard enthusiasts who picked up the idea when Polaroid, which, incidentally, is also still around, lost interest. With the goal of bringing back instant photography, the new company named their venture “The Impossible Project.”

Of course, what’s really impossible is to get people out of the habit of shaking the damned thing.


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