We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

Six fun photo hacks to try with an instant camera

Explore ways to up your instant camera game with our list of the best tips and tricks to manipulate your images
Women using an instant camera

Do you want your instant photos to stand out from the crowd? We've tried and tested some fun manipulation techniques you can try out at home with your instant camera.

From purposely overexposing your print to lifting your image onto a sheet of paper - there are countless ways to chop and change your instant photos.

Below we've attempted to replicate some of them to show you what you could end up with, so you can see if it's worth the extra effort and time.

Best instant cameras - we tested instant cameras from Polaroid, Kodak, Instax and Fujifilm to find out which is the easiest to use and produces the best photos

1) Leave your print on a textured surface

This technique is pretty self-explanatory, you just need to leave your photo to develop on a textured surface and the pattern from that surface will transfer onto your image. You can lay it on anything from gravel to sandpaper.

We laid ours on bubble wrap and applied some pressure at different points throughout development. As you can see above, this technique worked really well and requires almost no effort whatsoever.

2) Cover your lens with coloured gel sheets

Photos with a filter

If you want to add a coloured tint to your instant camera photos then coloured gel sheets are a cheap and easy way to do it.

It's the equivalent of an Instagram filter, but you're doing it manually. Simply place your gel sheet in front of the camera lens and snap away.

We've seen coloured gel sheets for sale on eBay.co.uk and Amazon, as well as specialist photography websites such as Essential Photo.

Tech tips you can trust - get our free Tech newsletter for advice, news, deals and stuff the manuals don't tell you

3) Double exposure mode

Check to see if your instant camera has the ability to do a double exposure as lots of newer cameras don't. If yours does then refer to the manual to see how to switch this function on.

We used the Polaroid Now which requires you to press the self-timer button twice.

This technique allows you to take one photo and then another completely different photo on the same bit of film, combining both.

The result is an ethereal image with multiple layers. It's best to have both shots in mind before you start so you aren't left taking photos of the nearest thing to you like we did.

4) Emulsion lift

Instant photo using emulsion lift

For this trick, you'll need two trays of water - one hot and one cold - a piece of card and a small paintbrush. Our hot water was heated in the microwave for one minute and 30 seconds.

  1. First, you'll have to cut the white border off your photo, discard it and put the image in the tray of hot water.
  2. Using the paintbrush lightly brush the white chalky backing off the image.
  3. Soon you'll start to see the photo coming away from the front plastic sheet. Use the paintbrush to lightly tease the photo off until it's completely separated from the plastic. Be careful not to tear the image, it's very delicate.
  4. Now slip the card underneath the image, brushing it out to keep its square shape.
  5. Pinch the image and card together and pull them out of the water together so the image is laying flat on the card in your desired shape.
  6. Now brush the image very lightly with some of the cold water to help set it.
  7. Finally, leave the card to dry and you'll have successfully transferred your instant photo.

We found we had to try this out a few times before (almost) nailing it. Even then we ended up ripping the image a bit.

We'd recommend having a number of different-sized brushes on hand to avoid rips and tears.

Despite having a few teething issues, we'd highly recommend trying this out as the final product has the potential to look really interesting. It's also a practical way to store your images.

5) Expose your photo

Instant photo that's been exposed

If you want to take a perfect photo with your instant camera then you shouldn't expose your print when it's developing. It should go in your pocket or a dark place.

However, if you want to add a sun-bleached effect to your images then leaving your print exposed to the light for 30 seconds isn't such a bad thing.

Ours turned out nicely with muted colours and a washed-out feel.

6) Submerge your print in water

Instant photo after been put in water

For this technique, you'll need a bowl or tray filled with cold water. We left our already developed print in the water for about 10 minutes. Then we removed it and let it dry.

This is a tricky one to get right because the water can tear the image if you're not careful. Despite our photo ripping, we still recommend this for the cool bubble effect you can see emerging - just give it a few tries first.

Read our instant camera reviews to find out which instant camera came top in our tests

How we tested instant cameras

Instant camera on a table

Ease of use

There isn't much to a point-and-shoot camera and the controls and functionality should reflect that.

We had two researchers carry out a range of standard tasks with each camera, with and without gloves on. This is to see how easy the cameras are to manoeuvre with restricted mobility.

We also gave the cameras a rating for their film development time, with those developing quicker getting a higher score than those that took longer.

Photo quality

We snapped away with the instant cameras in a dark room, a well-lit room and outside.

This allowed us to test the flash and how the cameras dealt with natural light as well as artificial light.

We then had our in-house photography expert, James Stringer, judge all the photos.