Behind The Scenes Shooting a Ballerina with 20x24 Polaroid Film

Instant photography done slowly

While instant film may be experiencing a resurgence in popularity thanks to the Impossible Project and the popular Instax cameras — but there are not many who are brave enough to attempt to use large format instant film. But photographer Douglas Dubler has done just that, shooting an incredible image series of a ballerina on 20x24-inch Polaroid film.

The images were shot as a cover piece and feature article for Digital Pro Photo magazine, and the process recorded on video by John Reuter. At ISO1200, Dubler explained some of the shoot, saying:

Borrowing the aesthetic from my shoot with ABT prima ballerina Irina Dvorovenko, I created that Dega-esque effect by using a hand painted backdrop from my friend Charles Broderson. Since the Polaroid material tends to be a little flatter in contrast I configured my Broncolor LightBars to give me a boost in contrast and at the same time the power (32,000 wt./sec) I needed to shoot the giant camera at f 45. We shot three different types of Polaroid film, 1 B&W and 2 color, choice being made to favor the subject.

Shooting f45 requires a substantial amount of light, and with film that size, there's a huge amount of planning and posing that goes into each shot. But the results speak for themselves, and the instant film means that it's just a few minutes wait between taking the image, and seeing it in its full size and glory. No peering at a computer screen, or developing film and printing. And watching the video below, there's something magical about the reveal each time they pull off the backing paper from the print.