The Instant Camera & How It Works 

An instant camera uses self-developing film in order to create a chemically developed print shortly after the picture is taken. The first consumer-friendly instant cameras and film were pioneered by Polaroid Corporation with various other manufacturers following.

On a basic level, film captures patterns of light using chemicals. A camera briefly exposes the film to the light coming from a specific scene for a small fraction of a second, and wherever the light hits the film, it begins a chemical reaction. An instant-camera developing process combines colours in the same basic way as film, however the developing chemicals are already present in the film itself.

One of the chemical developers turns the exposed particles into metallic silver. Three different dye developers containing dye couplers then treat the film. The three different dye colours are:

  • Cyan (a mix of green and blue light)
  • Magenta (a mix of red and blue light)
  • Yellow (a mix of green and red light)

Each of the dye-coupler types react with one of the colour layers in the film. In ordinary film, they attach to particles that have been exposed whereas in colour slide film, they attach to the non-exposed areas.


An American inventor named Edwin Land introduced the first commercially viable instant camera to the world in 1948. The camera was the ‘model 95 Land Camera’  and this came a year after he unveiled the instant film in New York City.

The new instant camera was extremely successful for Land’s company, the Polaroid Corporation, and in 1949, the company made more than $5 million in camera sales! Over the following 50 years, Polaroid Corporation carved out its own special niche, selling millions of their instant camera and more than a billion rolls of instant film!

As of 2017, the company Polaroid Originals continue to make film for several models of Polaroid camera. In more recent years, a number of other companies have created and innovated new models and features of their own takes on instant cameras, including Fujifilm, Lomography and Leica.

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