Do Polaroid Cameras Work In The Dark? 5 Night Photo Tips

By Mark Plummer •  Updated: 10/14/22 •  6 min read
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Polaroid cameras are a step away from the others, especially when discussing today’s digital world. A Polaroid gives you what none of the others can, which is an instant photograph of the shot trying to be remembered.

That is awesome for most of you, but many wanted images captured at night. So, do Polaroid cameras work in the dark?

A Polaroid camera has many adjustments, even the older style ones. It can be used to take good photos at night if set correctly, with the flash turned off or removed. The camera will need some light to create the image in the photo, but a flash will ruin the idea of a night photo. 

Do Polaroid Cameras Work In The Dark
Do Polaroid Cameras Work In The Dark?

A good quality Polaroid camera can easily take pictures in the dark. Obviously, if the surroundings are pitch black with no light coming in, there will be no way that an image can be taken. Some methods help improve the quality and clearness of a dark photo. Let’s take a look and find out.

Using Polaroid Cameras In The Dark

It is a common misconception that you must have the flash on when taking a photo in the dark. Not just any flash, either. It needs to brighten the entire landscape you are taking the photo in.

This may make the picture easier to see, but it completely defeats the purpose of taking a shot in the dark because it will not appear to be at night.

Using Polaroid Cameras In The Dark
Using Polaroid Cameras In The Dark
  1. Adjust the settings to indoor because this will give you the best shot indoors or out.
  2. Turn off the flash or remove it from the camera if it comes off. If you have a model that does neither, put some tape over the flash.
  3. Adjust the exposure setting toward the light. This will allow the camera to pick up more of the surrounding light to give a clearer picture.
  4. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera. Night shots will have a slower shutter speed, meaning the camera needs to be more stable for extended periods.
  5. Choose targets that are not moving. The more stationary it is, the better the photo will turn out.

Taking a picture in the dark is much different than a daytime shot. If you want to maximize the image quality without taking from it the fact that it was shot in the dark, you will need to adjust the settings within the camera. 

If you are unfamiliar with all the settings, you may want to look at your owner’s manual or go out and play around with them until you have an idea of how it all works.

Backgrounds Matter When Taking Night Photos

Taking a night photo means that the camera will depend upon the light from your surroundings unless you have the flash on.

If the object you have in the sight of the camera is directly in front of a source of light, the picture will turn out with shadows and a glare that may make it impossible to see the main object.

Backgrounds Matter When Taking Night Photos
Backgrounds Matter When Taking Night Photos
  • You must have a light behind you, shining toward the object.
  • There must not be any direct sources of light behind the target.
  • There should be a stationary background to prevent any blurs.

The camera’s light to pick up the object should be behind you. 

When it is, the camera will use it to see the object and ensure that the picture is not black which means that you will be able to have a shot that was obviously taken in the dark but one that can still be viewed without squinting to see what it is.

Distance Matters When Taking Dark Pictures

The Polaroid cameras are designed for closer pictures rather than distance. That is not to say that you cannot get a good view of the full moon, but it is better to keep the targets closer.

It is hard for the camera to pick up objects that are far away in the dark because the lighting of it will vary from the foreground, creating a shot with shadows, blurs, and bright spots.

Distance Matters When Taking Dark Pictures
Distance Matters When Taking Dark Pictures
  • The target must be at least a foot away from you.
  • The object in the viewfinder should be within 10 feet.
  • The optimal distance for dark pictures with a Polaroid is 3 feet away from the target.
  • If taking a shot of something far away, such as the moon, the camera will need to set the shutter speed low, which means you will need to have a tripod or a steady hand.

The distance of the main objects in the picture will significantly affect how the dark photo turns out. Once again, if you want any chance of obtaining a good quality photo that can be seen, ensure that there is plenty of light behind you and that the object is within the perfect distance.

If you are trying to capture an object far away, such as the moon or stars, it will be necessary to play around with the settings on the Polaroid. The shutter speed will need to be turned down, as will the aperture. 

Plus, you will not want any other light to detract from the shine of the moon, so it may be challenging to take an excellent moon picture when you live in a city. However, if the area between the moon and you is dark, it should still be a good shot.


Taking pictures in the dark has always been something that people want to do. There is nothing quite like the night skies on a clear winter night, except for maybe the shot of a sleeping child awkwardly situated on the couch they were sitting on.

There are endless reasons why the dark is an optimal time to use your camera, capturing photos that would not usually be available.

When you are trying to use a Polaroid in these conditions, you will need to ensure that the settings are where they need to be and that there is enough light in the area for the camera to actually pick up the target of your photo.

Make the adjustments before you need them. That way, you will not miss the shot of a lifetime.

Mark Plummer

Mark Plummer is a co-founder and blogger on Instant Cameras. Together with his wife, Susana, and daughter Scarlett he loves capturing special family moments with his Instax Mini 11. He is passionate about sharing knowledge and tips on Instax and Polaroid cameras through the Instant Camera Blog.

Keep Reading