Getting Creative with Polaroid Transfers

Simple, artistic processes that do not require tons of equipment

by Kathleen T. Carr

Steps II
Steps II
© Kathleen T. Carr
All Rights Reserved
One of the great things about both the image and emulsion transfer processes is that you don't need a lot of expensive photographic equipment and supplies, or a darkroom. Transfers have been dubbed �kitchen art� because you can do them on your kitchen table. In my own work, I actually use more kitchen implements than photographic ones.
You also don't need to have a background in photography to get started, since the basics you learn are very simple technically. It does help to start with good images (35mm slides for slide printers, or 4x6 prints for the Daylab Copy System), but a wide variety of subjects and images will work beautifully.

Choosing a Method
Many people think that you have to have a Polaroid camera to make Polaroid transfers. There are actually several ways to expose your image onto the Polaroid film. Here's a rundown:

Island Paradise
Island Paradise
© Kathleen T. Carr
All Rights Reserved
Daylab or Vivitar slide printer for 35mm slides (or a Daylab 120 for medium format transparencies); Daylab Copy System for 4x6 regular and 4x5 digital prints; Polaroid camera that takes peel-apart film, or a camera that takes a Polaroid film holder, or Polaroid "back."; or a darkroom enlarger to project the print onto the Polaroid film.

I find that using a slide printer, or the Daylab Copy System for working with prints, is the easiest and most versatile method of creating image and emulsion transfers, especially to start with. The equipment is very affordable, can be set up just about anywhere, and you can make as many versions as you like of a single image from a 35mm slide or 4x6 print. Each transfer is unique, since the Polaroid negative - not your slide or print! - is destroyed in the process.

An added bonus for me in using a slide printer, or the copy system, is that I can draw upon images from my archives of work in 35mm slides and prints, giving me a vast range of subjects from which to work. In fact, when I initially viewed some of my slides, I knew that a straight color print would not adequately communicate my experience when photographing the image.

I have discovered that in many cases, the image or emulsion transfer process (and sometimes both) better convey what I had wanted to express. In addition, as a photographer I'm delighted to create images without having to work in the dark, or always at the computer.

This article has been excerpted from a lesson in Kathleen T. Carr's online course at
Polaroid Image and Emulsion Transfer

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kathleen T. Carr
Photography Instructor: Kathleen T. CarrKathleen T. Carr is a fine art photographer, author and teacher. She received her B.F.A. (cum laude) in Photography from Ohio University in 1970. She then studied photography with Minor White at his home in Arlington, Massachusetts. Minor's work had a strong influence on Kathleen's visual perception and approach to photography. She subsequently worked for Aperture, a fine photography quarterly and book publisher. After spending seven years at the Findhorn Community in Scotland, creating audio-visual programs, multi-media shows, publicity materials and books, Kathleen was staff photographer for the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. She started and owns Carr Classics, a fine photography card company that showcases her Big Sur photography.

Kathleen's photographs have been published internationally in numerous books and periodicals, including PhotoVision (featured artist), American Art Collector, Outdoor Photographer (featured artist), National Geographic Traveler, Islands, Esquire, and Decor (featured artist). Several galleries and private dealers represent her work.

Her books include Polaroid Manipulations: A Complete Visual Guide to Creating SX-70, Transfer, and Digital Prints, Polaroid Transfers: A Complete Visual Guide to Creating Image and Emulsion Transfers (Amphoto Books), and To Honor the Earth (with Dorothy Maclean, HarperSanFrancisco).

Kathleen has been leading photography workshops since 1984 on topics including beginning photography, Polaroid and digital transfers, beginning Photoshop for photographers, and digital Infrared. In addition to teaching for BetterPhoto, she offers one to seven day workshops and private sessions in Hawaii, Montana, California and other locals.

See her Pro BetterPholio: