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Polaroid Not Developing Properly: 5 Reasons Why (And Solutions)

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There’s something genuinely magical about instant cameras. In a world where digital photos dominate our lives, the absolute satisfaction of holding a freshly printed image in your hands is a nostalgic delight. 

These cameras capture memories in real time, providing instant gratification that digital photography can’t replicate.

But let’s be honest, even magical experiences can sometimes hit a few snags. 

Polaroid Not Developing
Polaroid Not Developing

As a fellow Polaroid lover, I understand that facing development issues can be frustrating. In this article, I will: 

  1. Dive into the five most common problems that can result in your Polaroid not developing, 
  2. Answer frequently asked questions, and 
  3. Share tips to overcome these challenges 🙂

Why Is My Polaroid Not Developing?

There are several reasons why your Polaroid might not be developing. Overexposure, insufficient lighting, expired film, camera malfunctions, and temperature issues can contribute to this problem.

Why Is My Polaroid Not Developing
Why Is My Polaroid Not Developing?

To ensure your Polaroid develops properly, use adequate lighting, check film expiration dates, maintain your camera, and use it within the ideal temperature range.

As a side note, here’s what to do if you’re wondering why is my polaroid flashing red?

5 Reasons Why Your Polaroid Film Is Not Developing

Overexposure is the most common reason a Polaroid picture doesn’t develop.

5 Reasons Why Your Polaroid Film Is Not Developing
5 Reasons Why Your Polaroid Film Is Not Developing

Still, several other factors can affect the quality of your Polaroid. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your next Polaroid will turn out just how you want it to.


The primary reason (in my experience, at least) for white or washed-out Polaroid pictures is overexposure. Overexposure happens when too much light reaches the film, causing a loss of detail and washed-out colors.

To avoid overexposure, be mindful of your surroundings and lighting conditions.

When taking photos outdoors, avoid direct sunlight or extremely bright environments. If your camera has adjustable exposure settings, you can experiment with those to find the ideal photo balance.

Insufficient Light

One common reason for a Polaroid not developing is inadequate lighting. Instant film requires a good amount of light to produce a well-exposed image.

One common reason for a Polaroid not developing is inadequate lighting
One common reason for a Polaroid not developing is inadequate lighting

If you’re shooting indoors or in low-light conditions, your Polaroid might not receive enough sunlight to develop properly. Try using the camera’s built-in flash or switch to a well-lit area before taking your shot to remedy this.

Film Expiration or Damage

Expired films can also cause development issues. Over time, the chemicals in the film can break down, leading to inconsistent or non-existent development.

Always check the expiration date on your film packs and store them in a cool, dry place to prolong their lifespan. If you suspect your film is expired, replace it with a new pack to ensure better results.

Correct handling of your Polaroid film is also important and, being honest, loading the film into a Polaroid camera can be challenging. Fear not! Here’s my guide on How Do You Refill A Polaroid Camera?

Blue streaks on Polaroid films

One possibility is that you may have set your camera incorrectly – if the light meter isn’t calibrated correctly or the exposure time is off, it can cause streaky images.

These blue streaks are often from small areas where the chemical layer didn’t have enough time to mix and spread when the image was captured.

If you have blue streaks on your image, try troubleshooting the issue by checking the expiration date on the film, calibrating your light meter, and checking the instructions.

Yellow or Purple Cast on Polaroid films

For a few reasons, your Polaroid pictures might have a yellow or purple tint. One possibility is that you’re using film that wasn’t stored properly. All film is sensitive to temperature and humidity. When the film has been kept for too long, the chemicals can degrade and produce a discolored image.

Another possibility is that you’re using incorrect camera settings. If the white balance or exposure time is off, it can cause the pictures to have a yellow or purple cast.

Try a new film pack if you’re experiencing any of these issues.

If the problem is still present with the new film, check your settings against the recommended ones. In a worst-case scenario, you might need to have the camera repaired.

Camera Malfunction

Sometimes, the problem lies within the camera itself. Issues with the camera’s internal components, such as the film ejection system or the rollers responsible for spreading development chemicals, can result in photos not developing.

Inspect your camera for any visible damage or debris affecting its performance. If you cannot identify the problem, consider contacting a professional for repair or advice.

Temperature Issues

Temperature plays a significant role in the development process. Extreme cold or heat can affect the chemical reactions needed to produce a clear image.

Ideally, you should use and store your Polaroid film at temperatures between 55°F and 82°F (13°C and 28°C). If you’ve been using your camera in less-than-ideal temperature conditions, try adjusting the environment and see if it resolves the issue.

How To Fix A Polaroid Picture That Didn't Develop

How To Fix A Polaroid Picture That Didn't Develop

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

To fix a Polaroid picture that didn't develop, ensure your camera functions appropriately and inspect the film cartridge and rollers for any issues. Please verify that you've stored the film under proper conditions to maintain its quality. If the problem persists, test your camera with new, unexpired film, and consider seeking professional assistance if necessary.


  • Polaroid Camera
  • New Polaroid film which has not expired


  • Bench or table


  1. Ensure the camera is functioning properly.
  2. Inspect the film cartridge and rollers.
  3. Verify proper storage conditions for the film.
  4. Test with new, unexpired film.


1. Ensure the camera is functioning properly

First, ensure your camera works well to address a Polaroid picture that didn't develop. Check for any visible damage, debris, or mechanical issues affecting its performance. If necessary, consult a professional for repair or advice.

2. Inspect the film cartridge and rollers

Next, examine the film cartridge and the rollers responsible for spreading the development chemicals. Ensure they're clean and free of any obstructions that could interfere with the development process. Gently clean the rollers if needed, following the manufacturer's guidelines.

3. Verify proper storage conditions for the film

Proper storage conditions are crucial for maintaining the quality of your Polaroid film. Keep your film in a cool, dry place and avoid extreme temperatures or humidity exposure. This will help preserve the film's chemical integrity and improve the chances of successful development.

4. Test with new, unexpired film

Lastly, try using new, unexpired films to confirm that the issue is unrelated to the film itself. If the problem persists even with a new film, consider seeking professional assistance to further diagnose and address the issue with your camera or film.

How long does a Polaroid take to develop?

The time it takes for a Polaroid to develop depends on the film type used, typically 10-20 minutes. Temperature, humidity, and lighting can also influence development time.

To ensure optimal development, follow the guidelines for your specific film and maintain consistent environmental conditions during the process.

How long does a Polaroid take to develop
How long does a Polaroid take to develop?

Explanation of development times for different film types

The time it takes for a Polaroid to develop can vary depending on the kind of film you’re using. For example, Polaroid 600 and i-Type films generally take 10-15 minutes to fully develop, while Polaroid SX-70 films can take up to 20 minutes.

It’s essential to refer to your specific film’s instructions for accurate development times.

Factors that affect development time

Several factors can influence the development time of a Polaroid picture, including temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions.

Colder temperatures can slow development, while warmer temperatures speed it up.

Similarly, high humidity can also affect development times. Always consult your film’s guidelines for optimal conditions and recommended development times.

Tips for optimal development

To ensure optimal development for your Polaroid pictures, follow these tips:

  1. Shield the photo from light as it ejects from the Polaroid camera, and place it face down on a flat surface.
  2. Allow the image to develop undisturbed, and avoid bending or shaking it.
  3. Keep the photo in a consistent temperature and humidity environment during development.
  4. Be patient and resist the urge to check the photo’s progress too soon, negatively affecting the final result.

How To Fix A White Polaroid Picture?

How To Fix A White Polaroid Picture
How To Fix A White Polaroid Picture?

To fix a white Polaroid picture:

  1. If needed, check your film’s expiration date and replace it with a fresh pack.
  2. Ensure you take photos in well-lit conditions or use your camera’s built-in flash.
  3. Shield the picture from light as it ejects and store your film at appropriate temperatures to optimize development.

Let’s look at each of these steps in a bit more detail:

Check film expiration

One possible cause for a white Polaroid picture is expired film. Always check the expiration date on your film packs and replace them with fresh ones if necessary. To prolong the lifespan of your film, store it properly in a cool, dry place.

Proper lighting conditions

Lighting is crucial for obtaining a well-exposed Polaroid picture.

Ensure you’re taking your photo in a well-lit environment or using your camera’s built-in flash to provide adequate light. This can help prevent washed-out white images from developing.

Shielding the photo during ejection

As your Polaroid camera ejects the photo, it’s essential to shield it from light to avoid overexposure. Cover the image with your hand or a dark cloth as it exits the camera, and place it face down on a flat surface.

This allows the picture to develop without exposure to unnecessary light, reducing the chances of a white image.

Storing film at appropriate temperatures

Maintaining the proper storage temperature for your Polaroid film is vital for optimal development. Keep your film at temperatures between 55°F and 82°F (13°C and 28°C) to ensure the best results.

Exposure to extreme cold or heat can compromise the film’s chemical reactions, leading to white or overexposed images.

Recap of common Polaroid development issues and solutions

In this article, I’ve discussed several common reasons for Polaroid development issues, such as insufficient light, film expiration, camera malfunction, temperature problems, overexposure, and improper storage conditions. 

I’ve also provided tips and solutions for fixing white or undeveloped Polaroid pictures and ensuring optimal development times.

The unique charm of Polaroid photography lies in its unpredictability and the instant gratification it offers.

Don’t be disheartened by occasional development issues; use them as opportunities to learn and grow as a photographer. 

Embrace the process, experiment with different techniques, and, most importantly, enjoy the creative journey that Polaroid photography provides.

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