How to Take Good Pictures with Fujifilm Polaroid While Traveling

February 24, 2024

Instant Camera, Travel

Polaroid at the MET

Have you ever wondered how to take good pictures with your Fujifilm polaroid whilst traveling? You already went through the hassle of taking that instant camera through TSA. You want to make sure it’s worth it, right?

I’ve been photographing with an instant camera since 2014 (5 instant cameras total since then)!

Read on to learn how to take good pictures with your Fujifilm polaroid on your adventures! 

Disclaimer: By clicking on my product affiliate links in this article and making a purchase, as an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting my blog, friend! 

Step 1: Find Good Subjects for Instant Photography

Besides from the basic iconic tourist spots, what are you supposed to take polaroids of while traveling? Hmm… that can be a hard one when you find yourself go-go-go on a trip. That’s why I recommend taking at least half a day to just explore with little to no time constraints. 

This allows you to experience the local area better. And most especially, it will allow you to sense the little things (we call them magic in-betweens here). 

What to Take Photos Of

Ask yourself these questions to get your creative juices flowing. 


Who are you experiencing this adventure with? Ex: Selfie with your travel buddy, portrait of your friend

Who are you at this moment? How does the scene make you feel? Ex: Your get-up, mood


What activity are you experiencing? Take it to the next level. Photograph the experience in different perspectives: up high, down low, up close, farther away. Ex: The food you’re eating, tickets to a first time activity

What emotions are you feeling? Can you showcase that outside of facial expressions? Use color, pattern, movement. Ex: Color of the sky, color of the beach towels, color of Rainbow Row, motion of cars flying by in New York 


When is this trip taking place? No, you don’t necessarily need to take a picture of a calendar or a clock (unless it’s Big Ben). Can you tell the “when” through the sun and how it forms shadows? Can you showcase the seasons by the trees and blooms? Ex: Long shadows, silhouttes, flower petals on the ground


Where are you? Is there something about this location that is unmistakably *not* your home? Ex: Seashells, flags, local’s outfits, the cobblestone pathway

How did you get there (plane, car road trip, boat, train, teleportation device, etc)? Ex: Jet plane wings, railroad tracks, water lapping against the boat

Step 2: Apply Artistic Principles to Take Good Pictures with Fujifilm Polaroid 

Taking polaroids is very much a nostalgic, sentimental moment to simply capture your adventure. However, you can step it up by treating it as an art form. I get it; you might not find yourself artistic. But, I believe we all have 1% of artistic bone in our bodies (Genesis 1:27)! 

Close your eyes and teleport yourself to 3rd grade art class (lol). What were some things your art teacher taught you about? 

Create Symmetry

  • Have your subject in the center of the frame with both sides equal and mirroring the other. This composition can create balance and attract attention to the main subject. 

Practice Rule of Thirds

  • Sometimes putting the subject in the center can get dull and overused. Try dividing the background into thirds and placing the subject into the first or last third of the division. You can divide the background horizontally, vertically, and even diagonally. 

Contrast your Subject with Their Background

  • You want your subject to pop. When the subject is white on a white background, the impact will be minimal. Try finding a colorful backdrop. If the subject is lighter, find a darker background. If the subject is darker, find a lihter background. Backgrounds don’t have to be the location itself; it can be the texture of the ground, the sky, the wall. Experiment with different backgrounds to practice how to take good pictures with a Fujifilm polaroid. 

Take Photos of Various Subjects and Angles to Keep Your Photos Interesting

  • I am definitely frugal with my Instax Mini film since there’s typically only 10 shots per pack. However, when I’m looking to tell a thorough story, I try to take Instax photos of various subjects and perspectives. (View step 1 above.)

Step 3: Learn What Settings Should I Use for My fujifilm Polaroid Camera

From my collection of instant cameras, both the Instax Mini 8 and the Instax Mini 70 have multiple modes. Here’s the Instax Mini 70’s 6 modes in depth: hi-key, macro, landscape, fill-in flash, selfie, timer. 

Instax Mini 70’s 6 Modes

  • Hi-Key: Hi-key in digital photography means the whites or skies are brighter with minimal dark contrast. Many wedding photographers I’ve studied shoot and edit this way to achieve a “light and airy” look.
    (Minor slip-up: In my video, we believed that the hi-key mode was for a scene that was already super bright. BUT it actually means that the scene needs to be brighter.)
  • Macro: Pick this setting for photographing a subject super close up (30-60 cm). This allows the camera to focus on the details even up close. If you don’t select this and you’re shooting closely within inches, your camera may have a hard time focusing. This could result in a blurry image.
  • Landscape: Use this setting when shooting a distant subject (3 m~∞).
  • Fill-in Flash: The regular flash will go off no matter which setting you’re in. However, fill-in flash will trigger a stronger flash for proper exposure in lower-lit situations.
    Flash can be used either for a “nostalgic film camera” look. It can also be used to balance any situation when your subject is in shadow and the background is extremely bright (back lit). 

How to Take a Good Polaroid Picture of Yourself

  • Sellfie: The Instax Mini 70 has a selfie mode and a selfie mirror. The handy mirror allows you to view how you’re framing your face. The Instax Mini 70 camera also allows you to extend the lens for your selfie. Make sure to hold the camera securely to avoid blur. 
  • Timer: This camera can be set to take 1-2 images on a timer in a row! The best thing is that it also has a simple tripod mount at the bottom.

Choose the Correct Setting for the Distance 

Pick the right setting and move approximately the right distance to guarantee that the camera senses your subject correctly and focuses. For example, the macro setting listed above is specifically for photographing subjects up close. 

How can I take a picture of a phone screen with my Instax Polaroid camera? It’s possible that choosing the macro setting would work, but you are risking screen glare and blur. 

I list down at the end how to print polaroids using the Fuji film Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer to print iPhone screens if desired. (Wondering why in the world would you want to take a photo of an iPhone screen? I did too, haha, until I remembered that I tried to photograph myself holding Google Maps as I adventured through Central Park alone, because I was so proud of that moment.) 

Step 4: How do I Get the Best Polaroid Lighting?

How to Take a Good Polaroid Picture Outside: Sun Placement 

One thing to keep in mind is that you cannot edit a polaroid as well as a DSLR raw image. With a digital raw image, you’re able to play around with a lot of pixel detail. With a polaroid, it’s harder to manipulate dark shadows and bright highlights after shooting a scene. 

Because of this, similar to an iPhone camera, you need to practice how to take polaroid pictures in the sun. It’s better to take a polaroid of a subject with the subject facing the sun. This means that the sun is behind you (the photographer) or at your side (45*). This allows for the front of the subject is being hit with light instead of being backlit. 

It’s an interesting difference because whenever I photograph couples, I try to keep them backlit with the sun behind them and later pull up the shadows in Lightroom. This technique does not work for polaroids as the image data is more limited. 

Soft Lighting for Polaroids: Take Instant Photos on Cloudy Days for Even Results.

I’ve photographed so many weddings where the bride and groom are initially anxious because the wedding day is cloudy. However, I always assure them that having cloud skies is actually a good thing! Clouds naturally diffuse the harsh sun, giving a softer effect. That’s the same principle for polaroids. 

When taking Instax camera photos on a cloudy day, remember to still apply the artistic principles from Step 2. One of the key principles to apply is to create contrast against your background since cloudy days need that extra “oomph” without the sun. 

How to Take a Good Polaroid Inside: Using Flash 

The flash on the Fujifilm Instax polaroids fire/go off automatically. Sometimes, however, you may be too far away from your subject in order for the flash to reach it. Step a little closer or just make sure to shoot in even natural lighting, preferably in light shade. 

Can you take polaroid pictures in the dark? You can, but it’s not guaranteed that it will be in focus since the camera will have a terrible time figuring out what is what. It’s helpful if you have at least one source of light, even if it’s just a phone flashlight. 

Taking polaroids inside a room with the lights dimmed should be fine as there is enough ambient light for the instant camera to sense the subject and fire the flash.

How Do I Take Good Sunrise or Sunset Photos with Fujifilm Polaroid?

Trying to take good pictures of the sunrise or sunset with a Fujifilm polaroid is tricky (just fyi, to prepare your expectations!). Because the Instax is limited in what it “sees,” the sky is usually blown out when it’s lighter out, and it won’t be able to capture all the colors you’re seeing. 

The most important thing to note when photographing the sunrise or sunset is to place to the sun in front of the subject (behind you) as previously mentioned. I knowww; it’s easy to forget if you’re so used to shooting during golden hour (nearing sunset) with the sun behind your subject. 

But, if you forget to place the sun in front of your subject when using a polaroid, you’ll have a very underexposed foreground and a black dot in the sky where the sun is. 

Another thing I’ve noticed with cloud photos is that when the clouds are more robust and cumulus (puffy) and there’s more dark folds, it’s easier for the Fujifilm polaroid to capture compared to wispy, white airy clouds. 

Step 5: Troubleshoot 

Why is My Polaroid Not Taking Good Pictures?

  • Shaky Hands: Maybe you drank too much coffee or just need to practice the art of not breathing while shooting something, haha. Because the polaroid doesn’t have an adjustable shutter speed like a DSLR, you must keep your hand steadier when shooting. Make sure to let anyone using your polaroid not to move until the polaroid prints out. However, tbh, a functioning polaroid should not require loss of breath for more than one second. If it does, maybe your Fujifilm polaroid is having other issues like—
  • Wrong Distance: As listed above, you’ll need to make sure you have the right setting selected for your distance and actually be approximately at that distance. It’s possible that you’re standing too far or too close to your subject. If you’re too far out, the flash, which illuminates the subject, might not hit the subject.
  • Broken or Covered Flash: If your flash is broken, it’s possible that you don’t have ample light to illuminate the subject (similar to what could happen with your distance being too far out).
    If you accidentally cover your flash with an object or your fingers, little to no minimal light will travel to your subject.
    If you are intentionally looking to reduce the brightness of the flash, you can try placing a translucent piece of tape on top of the flash. Make sure not to cover the hole beside the flash that is most likely the light sensor. 
  • Broken Internal Light Meter: I bought the Instax Mini 11 (released 2020) refurbished a year ago, and a lot of my recent polaroid prints have been so blurry at differing distances. It’s possible that the light meter inside is not working, thus making the previous owner put it up for sale (sigh). 

Give It Time to Develop. 

It’s also possible that you’re not allowing your polaroid printout enough time to develop in the shade. To try insuring the best color saturation and contrast, try keeping your developing film face down in shade. 

While the Fujifilm Mini Instax Film is small like a business card, it’s possible that you might bend it by accident. This can cause breakage and defects as it develops. To avoid this, store your developed film polaroids in an envelope or the back of a journal. Here are dotted journals and sketchbooks I’ve adored over the years!: 

  1. Softcover journal I bring when traveling
  2. 256 Page Hardcover Pastel dotted journal with back pocket (thick): I use this for my daily journaling and devotions! 
  3. 160 page Hardcover dotted journal with back pocket (slim): I’ve had a total of 4 of these over the years before transitioning to the thicker version above. 
  4. Blank brown sketchbook with back pocket: I have two of these, one sketchbook for Abby Joy Studio and one for graphic design clients! 

Step 6: Experiment 

As you learn the basics of how to take good pictures with your Fujifilm polaroid on your adventures, consider stepping out of the norm (still something I need to try too). 

  • Experiment with Double Exposure: I’ve never tried this trick but as I’m reading about the Instax Mini 90 which has this possibility, I’m so intrigued! I might upgrade the Instax Mini 11 to this and try it out for you! Stay tuned.
  • Try Colored Fujifilm Instant Film 

Step 7: Convert Your Polaroids into Digital Photos

Perhaps you took a picture on the wrong setting and you want to brighten it up, or maybe you want to fix an overexposed polaroid. 

Or maybe, you have mastered how to take good pictures with Fujifilm polaroid and just want to share prints with friends or Instagram. 

By scanning your polaroid prints, you can do a little bit of post-processing/editing in Lightroom or Photoshop if you desire. I personally don’t edit my polaroids as much since I like the colors that naturally come with film but watch my video if you want to learn how to edit consistently with your desired editing look.

  • Take an iPhone Photo Holding Your Polaroid Print! I don’t typically scan my polaroids as I’d prefer taking a photo of the polaroid with my iPhone to create context of my travel. The background can be the subject you just photographed, an activity you’re participating in, the people you’re experiencing it with, a texture. Experiment with different backgrounds for unique instant photos—the possibilities are endless. It’s a little cliché, but I love it! It gives a sense of the space or size of whatever you’re experiencing. 
  • Scan them into your computer. I scan my polaroids at 300 dpi or higher; our printer (HP OfficeJet 6950) can scan up to 1,200 dpi which I’ve done before for crispness for the web. 

However, scanning at this size does make the file size larger so if you’re able, choose to increase sharpness for web and social media using a program like Photoshop, Lightroom, Apple Photos. 

You can also use a phone scanner app like Google PhotoScan for high-resolution, glare free scans. 

Use a Polaroid Printer Instead

Forget to bring your Fujfilm polaroid on your trip? Want to learn how you can use a polaroid to take a picture of a phone screen or TV screen? 

I will say this. Even though I have a polaroid printer for any photo on my phone, I still prefer the anticipation that comes from a regular Instax. But, if you forgot your Instax cameras or just want to print a specific screenshot (I see those saved loved letters) or Google Maps, using the Fuji film Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer will do the trick. Using the printer will allow you to add all sorts of cropping, editing, bejeweling. 

Tip: If you’re printing using the Fuji film Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer, it tends to print on the brighter side. I recommend lowering the brightness within the Instax Mini Link app.


Learning how to take good pictures with Fujifilm polaroid while traveling is a blast!

Traveling with a polaroid or instant camera can be so much better than digital or phone cameras. There’s something magical (and somewhat stress-inducing, lol) about holding your breath, composing the shot, clicking, hearing the printer whirr, and waiting for the reveal of your treasure. Who needs 100 trigger-happy shots of the same thing on your iPhone when you can have that 1 beautiful, purposeful photograph that tells the story with an instant camera?

Thank you for reading this article; it means a lot! I hope you learned a lot of practical tips to help you take good and better pictures with Fujifilm polaroid. Go ahead and leave a comment below of what you’re excited to capture on your next adventure! 

Remember: Travel isn’t only for Instagram; it’s about the experience. Photographing your trip should *not* be overwhelming. Travel photography should be fun, inspiring, relaxing—and a great way to remember your experience!

—Just Abby Joy 

just abby joy

just abby joy



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