The Polaroid portrait

These are some of the Polaroid portraits I took while I was away last month.

Nine times out of ten I get the shot on my first attempt, meaning I usually only expose one Polaroid, but sometimes that doesn’t work out and I take two or three (I did this with Bindu’s portrait below – I thought I wanted a more serious shot, but the one I liked best? The first one, of course :)

What I like most about taking a Polaroid portrait is how the combination of the camera + film + moment means I slow down and so does the person I’m photographing. I tell them to relax and close their eyes while I focus, then ask them to look at me/the camera, holding my breath as I wait for the right moment to press the shutter button. Sometimes I’ll say something silly to make them laugh; sometimes i don’t. Sometimes I ask them to think about someone they love. I can feel that they trust me, and that the camera is a part of me; by only taking a single shot there’s none of the awkward intrusion you get with a digi, when you’re firing off 10, 20, 30 frames like a machine gun.

There’s just one clunky vintage camera, and me and my held breath.

And nine times out of ten that is enough.

[from top: Bindu, Tammy, Meghan, Christine, Lisa, Bindu, Melissa, Liz]

Posted on 07-10-2010
28 responses
  1. Monique

    These Polaroid portraits are stunning. Well Done.

  2. Miss Isabell

    these are absolutely, breathtakingly stunning. Such emotion! (as always, you rock).

  3. Nanette Gordon-Cramton

    Love the gorgeous, warm skin tones. You captured these beautiful women amazingly.

  4. Rosie Grey

    Great images! I always dread taking portraits as I don’t dare asking people if they mind my taking a shot. And I wouldn’t know what “commands” to give so that I can catch what has drawn me to their faces (if that makes any sense to you now…)!

  5. Ashley

    These portraits are so beautiful! But what I’m really stuck by is the way you described the photographic process for you. How you breath, slow down, relax and help the subject do that too… I think it’s a great thing to remember for all types of photography, and really, all of life!

  6. fiona

    Lovely and revealing pictures. Time to come out, don’t you think?

  7. Lisa

    To me, that is the essence of photography. And that connection? The essence of life. You capture it all so beautifully.

  8. Katherine

    gorgeousness x 8!

  9. Victoria Matthews

    These are so beautiful. Amazing work, Susannah.

  10. steph

    So lovely Suzannah…each & every one of them!

  11. Kat

    wow…what beautiful portraits…just lovely!!

  12. karen d

    these are some wonderful portraits Susannah.. and nice to see these lovely faces again

  13. xanthe

    oh wow, they are all stunning. total magic :)

  14. Meghan

    You are magic, Susannah. Pure magic. Honored to be on this post. xo

  15. Catherine Denton

    They seem so natural. You captured the simple beauty.

  16. Hej Melissa

    I’ve always loved faces! And I love the idea of only having single shot. Thank you for sharing these Susannah.

  17. Charlane Killough Griffith

    so very gorgeous – all of them

  18. Neil

    Are you saying that because of the unique way that the camera works, you actually can get a difference response — a more relaxed feeling — from the subject? Or is it that you feel different with the camera, so it rubs off on them?

    both, really. the camera doesn’t work in a unique way – film cameras always feel a bit different to digital because you tend to be less trigger happy and take LESS shots (to preserve your film) – but only taking a few shots certainly feels calmer for both photographer and sitter. but yes, i certainly feel calmer using my SX-70 – but that maybe that’s just me – Polaroids are my zen :)

  19. Catalina

    They are just prefect pictures! you see the light inside this people as well



  20. stacy

    I’m thinking a Polaroid Portraits book should be in the works soon. These are seriously stunning. It’s like you are a minxy magician and your polaroid is your magic wand.

  21. Astrid

    Your polaroid portraits are amazing!

    I have an award for you, here: :-)

    Happy weekend!

  22. Milena Widdowson

    Susannah, the portraits are soooo special; so full of energy, of personality, of magic.Wow!

  23. Jen

    I saw these yesterday and love, love, love them.

  24. jojo

    look at these gorgeous women! i love these susannah!! such lovely work and moments captured. i love hearing how the first one is (mostly) always the best! xo

    (btw. i was unable to just post with my email… said post was missing or something weird…)

  25. Jan's camera

    Susannah, your portraits are beautiful.

  26. Kathryn

    these are wonderful!

  27. Blue Perez

    Magical portraits.

Comments are closed.