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How To Fix A Dark Polaroid Picture

Nothing beats the charm of Polaroid pictures. Something about the square frame gives photos a lovely, vintage feel. But taking Polaroid photos can quickly become frustrating if the photos turn out dark. After all, when you’re using an instant camera, you can’t simply edit the image after taking a picture. You need to try other techniques in order to edit the image.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to fix dark Polaroid pictures. We’ll also give you some useful tricks on how to take the best pics using instant cameras.

Why Are Your Photos Dark Or Underexposed?

Before we talk about how to fix a dark Polaroid photo, let’s first talk about why they turn out that way in the first place. Here are some possible reasons:

You Need To Use Flash

In most cases, photos turn out underexposed because there’s insufficient light. Instant cameras thrive in bright and sunny environments.

If you’re shooting indoors, it’s best to use flash. Some models of Polaroid cameras, like SX-70 cameras, don’t include a built-in flash, so you need to purchase it separately. Make sure your fingers aren’t covering the flash when you take a picture.

Aside from that, you need to remember that the flash needs to charge between each take. If you see a red light in the viewfinder, that indicates that the flash hasn’t been fully charged. If the red light is off but your camera is still not flashing, it’s possible that the battery in the film pack needs replacement.

You're Choosing The Wrong Setting

If you’re used to taking photos on smartphones or digicams, you don’t have to worry too much about the camera settings. If the image looks alright on the screen, it will most likely look the same once you take the shot.

Unfortunately, you can’t say the same when you’re using a Polaroid or another instant camera. Always be careful with the brightness adjustment dial. Practice with different levels of light before your shoot.

While experimenting with different settings, check the built-in light meter. If this meter isn’t accurately reading how much light is available, you might need to get the camera repaired.

Additionally, if your subject is in a large room with plenty of empty space behind it, you need to adjust the camera’s exposure switch. This will lead to brighter photos.

The Subject Is Against The Light

The background can also play a role in how your photo will turn out. Make sure your subject’s back isn’t against a light source or else you’ll end up with a shot full of shadows and silhouettes.

Similarly, if your subject is in a big room with a wide empty space behind them, the background will turn out dark. Switch the brightness dial towards white for better results.

The Polaroid Film Is Old

When shooting a night scene, you need to use fresh film. Older films become less sensitive to light over time.

If you do have a stash of Polaroid films, make sure you’re storing them in a cool, dry place. They should be kept in a room that’s between 55 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Those who store their films in the fridge should let them go down to room temperature before use.

You Shook The Print

Most people think they should shake Polaroid prints while they’re developing. But in general, it’s not advisable to do so. Shaking can cause the film to separate prematurely and may cause your picture to have dark spots.

Your Shutter Speed Is Too Fast

Shutter speed in photography refers to the speed at which the shutter closes. The faster it is, the less light the camera takes in.

When you’re shooting in a dark room, you need a shutter speed of 1/60 and an aperture setting of f/12.7. This will prevent your photos from becoming underexposed.

Keep in mind that if you slow down the speed, the picture might turn out blurry. To avoid this scenario, ask your model to keep a steady pose or and use a tripod, if available.

How To Brighten Up A Dark Polaroid Photo

Polaroid Originals don’t produce negatives. So, making enlargements or copies of Polaroid photos isn’t easy. In fact, it was once thought of as an impossible project.

Thanks to modern technology, though, you can now enhance Polaroid prints to your liking. Here are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: Check If The Picture Can Be Brightened

Most images can be fixed or edited to become brighter. However, if the original image is pitch black, you can’t use photo editing software to brighten the image.

Step 2: Scan Your Image

Once you’ve determined that your image can be edited manually, you need to take a high-resolution scan of your image.

There are two ways to do this.

1. Using A Flatbed Scanner

Scanning your Polaroid pictures is the easiest way to produce a digital copy. You can lay down several images on the scanner to save time. Make sure none of the pictures overlap.

Next, review your scanning software’s settings. Set the resolution to at least 600 PPI or more to capture more information from your pictures.

Finally, scan your images then save them in TIFF format. This format prevents your images from losing quality after saving and editing.

2. Using A Mirrorless Camera With Macro Lens

This method takes a little more effort but produces a more hi-resolution image compared to using flatbed scanners.

Using your mirrorless camera with max exposure, take a photo of the Polaroid image. Save the picture in RAW format, so that the camera saves all the data captured by the sensor.

Keep in mind that Polaroid images have shiny surfaces. To avoid reflecting light, you need to be in a bright, sunny environment. Make sure your hands or camera are not casting a shadow on the picture.

Step 3: Open The Image On Your Computer

Once you have a digital copy of your Polaroid image, open the file on your computer. You can use any photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Picasa, or Pixlr.

Crop the images so that only one Polaroid print appears on each file. Save all files in TIFF format.

Step 4: Brighten Up Your Image

It’s time to adjust the exposure of your digital image. On the Adjustments tab in Photoshop, select “Brightness/Contrast.” Drag the pointer to brighten up the photo.

Step 5: Adjust The Levels

The next step is adjusting the levels. This will help ensure that your images have dark shadows and bright highlights.

Under the image adjustments tab, click “Auto levels.” If you’re not satisfied with the results, you can manually adjust the levels.

Step 6: Adjust The Color Balance

The next step is color correction. Most polaroids tend to turn yellow or green over time. Thankfully, you can fix this easily by picking “Auto Color” under the Adjustments tab.

If your photo editing software doesn’t offer the option to correct the colors automatically, you will need to do it manually. Select “Curves” or “Color Balance” and reduce the yellow or green tint.

Step 7: Sharpen The Image

Adjusting the sharpness allows you to really appreciate the fine details. Check if your version of Photoshop has the “Unsharp Mask” option. This comes with an image preview so that you can easily see the difference while adjusting the settings.

Step 8: Resize And Save Your Image

The last step is making sure that your edited image fits standard print formats. Since Polaroid prints come in a square shape, you might need to adjust the height and width.

Before saving, make sure that the resolution is 300 PPI for print. If you’re only going to use the images for the web, 72 PPI will be enough.

Final Thoughts

Using a Polaroid camera requires some photography skills. You need to check if there’s sufficient light and use the correct exposure setting. This gives you a higher chance of taking a good photo with dark shadows and bright highlights.

Still, if your image ends up underexposed, you don’t have to worry. Just follow the steps on our guide and you can fix dark images with ease.

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