Polaroid Photo Boxes are an easy way to store your instant photos safely. They are inexpensive, stylish, and more compact than most other archival methods.
In this review, I’ll talk about the enemies of Polaroid frames when it comes to preservation, a few common ways of extending your Polaroids’ life, and how Polaroid Photo Boxes perform in comparison to those methods.
Hint: They’re crushing it!
What can damage Polaroid frames over time?
Polaroid film is very sensitive to UV light and doesn’t have the same archival qualities as roll or sheet film.
I learned this the hard way when I found my emulsion lift browning after hanging it on my sunny wall for three weeks. While the image is still there, it’s no longer as crisp as it used to be. And if I kept my work in the sun any longer, it may’ve faded entirely in a matter of months.
✪ Note: All Polaroid photos fade from sun damage, but emulsion lifts may be even more susceptible as they have no protective layers.
Polaroids are also sensitive to dust. While it may not be noticeable at first, tiny scratches can appear on the transparent plastic layer in front of your photo as the frames rub against dust particles. Though it may seem benign, scanning your photos will reveal the scratches and the dust, which are a pain to fix.
Other contaminants, like oil and dirt from our fingers, can leave residue on the frames that may stain and deteriorate the photos due to the mild acidity and other chemical reactions.
The good news is that well-kept Polaroids can last for decades. I still have photos of my late grandpa from over thirty years ago looking like new.
I also have a photo of me that was taken three decades ago that still looks good. This image went through a lot as my family moved countries — with all the changes in humidity, shuffling, etc.
Some of the colours (especially the shadows) have faded slightly and are starting to shift towards green. But I bet it’ll last another century before fading completely.
FYI: This photo was exposed on the original chemistry Polaroid formulated before they went bankrupt. Impossible Project, which took over the last remaining factory, has since recreated it.
Archiving with Polaroid Photo Boxes.
Polaroid has been making archival boxes designed specifically for their frames for many years. They are made from nearly indestructible cardboard that’s excellent for transportation and safe storage. I was also able to confirm with Polaroid that the boxes are archival-safe.
Polaroid Photo Boxes are made to be the exact size of the frames, which minimizes movement and rubbing — good for preventing scratches.
But my favourite part of using them is how easy it is to archive the images and move on. Previously, I tried to organize my Polaroids in an album, which took time and effort; the end result turned out to be piles of Polaroids in random places around the house getting exposed to the elements. Scrapbooking was fun for the first few years, but I soon grew tired of it.
Quickly tossing photos into the box is easy; it saves the frames from UV, dust, and exposure to other contaminants.
Each box stores ~40 photos.
These boxes are compatible with all Polaroid frames, except large format 8x10 (but you already know this). You may also keep your Polaroid Go, Instax Mini, and Instax Square frames in them — but not Instax Wide.
As with all the storage methods described in this article, you should let your photos fully dry for 2-4 weeks before stashing away.
Other ways of storing Polaroid photos.
If you’ve got the time and the patience, scrapbooking can be a lot of fun. You can tell the story of your adventures with photos, text, and drawings.
Many watercolour paper albums are safe for Polaroid film storage. I used sticky corners to fix mine in place. On their own, they won’t keep the dust away from your film; thus, you may want to store those albums in a box.
Shoeboxes/random boxes. You can store your Polaroids in any dark place that isn’t too humid, too hot, or too cold. But piles of photos can still get scratched up as they shuffle around and can be hard to keep organized.
However, you should ensure that your boxes (same as scrapbooks) are archival-safe. Meaning that they are acid-free and don’t contain any chemicals that can react with Polaroids over time. Many shipping boxes are not archival-safe.
Polaroid Photo Albums make organizing and viewing the photos easier, but they aren’t as compact or economical as Polaroid Photo Boxes. The albums, like scrapbooks, take some mental energy to work.
You can also display your Polaroids behind an archival glass when exhibiting. The glass will filter the UV radiation, but given that there are eight frames in each film cartridge, you may quickly run out of wall space if you use this method exclusively. Beware of plastic glass frames — they will not prevent sun damage.
How much do Polaroid Photo Boxes cost, and where to buy them.
Polaroid Photo Boxes sell for $9.99. They are available online via the links below. Some off-brand storage solutions may also be found there — I advise you to ensure that they are archival-safe. Some plastics may deteriorate your photographs over time.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Polaroid Photo Box purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!