Manipulating Polaroid ID-UV Film

jet by Dave Salinas


Hand manipulating Polaroid’s ID-UV is nothing new. In fact, I first learned of this technique from fellow JPG member SX-70 Manipulator’s story “Toxic Finger Painting” where he would manipulate his photographs to the point that they were abstract finger paintings rather than “normal” photographed subjects. After reading that article I instantly fell in love with the idea of manipulating instant pack film. I like to start with photographing subjects that I like and keep them as the focal point rather than having the whole print be an “abstract painting”.  My favorite way to photograph is to ride around in the comforts of my car searching for subjects in a spontaneous way. If you are doing this during the winter months the temperature may not be ideal for the proper development for pack film. I like to have the heater from my car on, as part of my process. When I finally find something worthy of a print, I wait to pull the print from the camera until I’m in my car. I like to carry a smooth cutting board to use as my flat surface for the print to be placed on. Keep in mind that any surface you use that has some texture may transfer that same texture to your print. After pulling the print from the camera I make sure its flat against the smooth cutting board and begin using my index, middle, and ring finger to apply a gentle even rubbing pressure all over the print. On some of my photographs, you can actually see the outlines and pressure points from my fingers. Depending on the effect that I want, I usually give more pressure on the edges to make sure the subject gets less effected than the other areas. This is where you have to be very careful as to not separate the negative from the print itself. By starting with light pressure and slowly working up the pressure in the areas that I want effected. I keep this motion going in even, long, and random strokes the entire duration of the developing time of the print. The more pressure you put on the film the more the effect will be. Being that all the ID-UV I use is long expired, I have to make sure the temp is nice and warm so the emulsion will be easier to move around. I like to blast my cars heater while I do this and give the unpeeled print some close up time with the vent of the heater for about twenty seconds after I have finished the rubdown process.

I find its easier to work with the emulsion at warmer temps, as it makes the print easier to separate from the negative. During the summer I don’t have to worry about the print staying warm during development because of the amazing Texas heat. As I shoot during the winter months, this step is essential for getting that watery look. When it comes to peeling the negative from the print, I do mine very slow. I like to start at one corner and work my way diagonally all the way to the opposite end. From time to time you get blotchy parts of emulsion on the film. I like to press the print and negative back together and give it a couple of circular smoothing out swirls with my fingers to make sure it’s not as blotchy. I like to scan my prints with the peel on letting it be well known that this is the real deal pack film print. The messy borders are nice and it’s more of personal preference,  but some of these chemicals are very old and are somewhat unpredictable; they are toxic and will stain your clothes. After the peel is done and the print is separated from the negative, I lay them flat to dry. Make sure they are not in an area where dust may settle on them during the drying stages. The more you do this, the more you will get the desired effect that you want. This came with about a packs worth of film on my learning curve, so be aware you may need some practice prints before you start getting the feel and desired effect. It’s a tricky situation because ID-UV pack film is becoming more and more rare with it being out of production.

I love shooting instant pack film. In a sea of Polaroid photographs I like to stand out by hand manipulating mine for that surrealistic and watery feel. I hope this brief “how to” will inspire some of you to break out your old Land Cameras and make some truly original instant print magic! I love the moment right before I peel a negative, the anticipation of what will appear is an awesome feeling. It’s this moment of surprise that makes shooting pack film so exciting.

Thanks to Ritchard Ton for inspiring me to try something different!