The Phoblographer Answers: What Is the White Part of an Instant Film Photo?

Ever wonder why your Polaroid and Instant Film photos have that border?

It’s always really nice to see your Instant Film Photo and the natural white border it has, but did you know there’s a scientific reason for this border? Yes, while the beautiful border on your Polaroid or Instant film photo is cool, there’s an important reason why it’s there.

Believe it or not, products from Fujifilm and Polaroid Originals are actual film. You know, that stuff that needs development? Most people don’t think of it as film, but it really is.

Essentially, the way that Instant film photography works is through chemical development. With regular film, you need to take the images into a darkroom and develop it with chemicals. With Instant film, all of that is pre-packaged into each shot. When the images come through the camera roller, the emulsion chemicals spread through the photo. That’s why it takes time for the images to develop and show up.

With Polaroid ZiNK paper, you’re not getting a film photo development. Instead, the images are printing via chemicals in the paper. So if they look like they have that border, there’s a reason why: they’re trying to emulate a look, but it’s actually fake.

With previous iterations of Instant Film, the user needed to peel apart the image to get both a negative and a positive. The chemicals then were built into the packet with one side containing the chemicals while the other had the positive image. On top of all this, you’d need to do this in mildly warm temperatures. The colder the chemicals are, the more likely they are to freeze. You also don’t need to shake your Polaroid or Instant Film photo. In fact, you’re just going to mess with the chemical development if anything.