polaroid sepia

When this was introduced in 1994 we fell in love with it, and we have been using it on and off ever since, whenever we can afford it or (better still) whenever we can persuade Polaroid to give us some. In the late 1990s they gave us a great deal of recently outdated material and a lot of the pictures on these pages were shot with that.

The small camera originals -- the actual image area is about 31/2 x 41/2 inches, a bit under 9x12cm -- have a jewel-like quality, and in an attempt to preserve some of that we have made the 'screen filling' versions just 500 pixels long on their long side.

One of the things we love about Polaroid Sepia is the way it changes the way we see. We are almost in the situation of the pioneers of photography, photographing things because we can, and because they are there. It is permanently on the verge of being discontinued so it needs all the support it can get.

Wall of Death

Any 'Wall of Death' attraction is bound to look old-fashioned, but you need to look quite hard to see that the bicycle leaning against the steps is implausibly modern: we all see what we expect to see. Hand-held MPP Mk VII, 150/4.5 Voigtänder Apo Lanthar (Roger).




It's ideal for nostalgic photography, even when the use of sepia isn't really appropriate. The Austin Atlantic convertible, left, was one of a number of late 1940s and early 1950s cars that were made for the American market, which didn't take them up. Riley made another.


Austin Atlantic

Photographed at the Minnis Bay car show; we lived in Minnis Bay on the Kent coast from 1992 to 2002. MPP Mk VII, 90/6.8 Schneider Super Angulon. Roger hand-held the camera.


For photographing re-enactors Polaroid Sepia is pure magic too, both for the sake of the pictures and because you can hand them out to people and make friends really fast. You'll see that in some of the hand-held shots there are light areas to one side, a result of an imperfect match between the MPP Mk VII and the Polaroid back (we modified the former with a file) but in a way these imperfections add to the impression of the slightly wobbly technical quality of old., whether you are talking about the dawn of photography or snapshots from the 1900s to 1950s.

Wild West re-enactors

Roger again used the MPP Mk VII and 105/4.5 Apo-Lanthar for this hand-held shot.



We've also used it for pinhole photography, as in the shot of the Tudor House below and for still lifes, again below. Although it looks (and let's be honest, is) expensive, it doesn't look quite so bad if you compare the cost with shooting, developing and printing conventional films. Even so, it's very easy to blow a 20-sheet box, or even two boxes, in a day.




Tudor House, Margate

Shot with a Rigby pinhole camera,


Leica, gun, map

One of Roger's 'narrative' still lifes, shot (as far as he recalls) with our Linhof Technikardan and 210/5.6 Schneider Symmar.


Like most Polaroid emulsions, Sepia is quite tender and picks up scratches and dirt easily, and you need to be careful to pull the sheath out fully or you'll get a black line at the edge of the image. It is also sensitive to fingerprints, especially before it is fully dry. Be wary of letting anyone (especially publishers!) handle your originals: protect them with glassine negative bags (again, only when they are fully dry) and preferably send scans rather than originals.

Development time and temperature have a considerable effect on both density and image tone, but rather than trying to standardize too much, we tend to regard these variations as part of the charm of the material. You can however control the 'style' of sepia to get lighter images, more yellow, in the style of the 1880s, or darker, browner images in the style of the 1920s, by varying exposure and development.

go back to the sepia gallery menu or the gallery or the home page

© 2006 Roger W. Hicks