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Polaroid Image Transfers

Wedding Polaroid Image Transfer
Wedding Polaroid Image Transfer from slide film.

A very unique and artistic technique of photography is the Polaroid Image Transfer. The process involved the transfer of an image from slide film to Polaroid instant film, and then to watercolor paper. The process was very demanding, but yielded truly unique images that the wedding couple was thrilled to have.

Color reversal film, or color transparency film that is used to create slides, is also known as “chrome” a colloquial truncation of the legendary Kodachrome and Ektachrome monikers, which predates the homonym browser by over 70 years.

In addition to shooting black & white, infrared, and color films, I always brought a roll or two of slide film to a wedding. Anyone who has shot slide film knows it is unforgiving in its exposure latitude. In order to make a good Polaroid Image Transfer, you needed to start with a properly exposed slide.

With a properly exposed slide in hand, the next step was to transfer the image to a piece of instant film. Polaroid was the dominant brand in the day, and my choice was Polaroid 669. This film came in 10 exposures per pack and was the same instant film I used to test exposures using an interchangeable back on my Mamiya RZ Pro II. The film was readily available in the day and reasonably priced.

Polaroid Day Lab
Polaroid Day Lab

The device required to facilitate this step was a Polaroid Day Lab. It functioned like an enlarger, with the slide being projected onto the instant film. If you have ever used instant film (which is making a comeback by the way), you know that you throw the gooey piece away and keep the print after waiting 60 seconds for development. In this process the opposite is true, you throw away the print and keep the gooey part after a 30 second wait. This is where the fun starts.

During the slide to instant film transfer process, a piece of high quality watercolor paper (I used Arches hot pressed) was soaking in warm water. When the 30 second development time was up, the image was separated and the emulsion side was then rolled firmly onto the wet water color paper with a brayer for two minutes. If all went well, you had an original, artistic image when you peeled the emulsion side from the water color paper. After the paper dried, it was lightly ironed to flatten it out and then sealed with a clear spray for durability and longevity. Here is a gallery of some wedding Polaroid Image Transfers I created:

Slide film and instant film are still available, and the Day Labs can be found on leading auction sites.