Tips & Techniques

If you don’t have experience with large-format cameras or darkroom developing, using an Instant Box Camera might seem like a daunting task. Rest assured it is easy. It only requires a bit of practice and basic understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO and developing chemicals. All of this is explained on this page with explanatory videos.

How to take a photograph with an Instant Box Camera

For those who have never used a camera like this, or have no paper negative experience, here is a simple step-by-step guide on How to Shoot with an Instant Box Camera.

Aperture and shutter speed settings are like any other manual camera. The big difference is the ISO, as photo paper is not very light-sensitive compared to film or a digital sensor. Ilford Multigrade is about ISO 4. If you pre-flash the paper (expose it to light in advance to get better tonality) it is about ISO 8. That means the camera is best used in daylight or with studio lights, otherwise your exposure times will be very long.

In this video we use FOMA Multigrade with a Foma Y filter at ISO 3. Using filters helps to create a more even tonality. Darkroom paper is not made for daylight photography. In particular, the sky and other blue lights tend to be burned out. Using a filter can balance that. Multigrade Filters from Foma or Ilford both work well.

The chemicals you need are regular black and white darkroom chemicals. We don’t use a stop bath in the Instant Box Camera. Consequently, your fixer will dilute quicker. You can use any type of developer, but some tests have shown that slow developing works better for a good tonality.

As shown in the video, focusing is done via the focusing rod outside. Once the focus is set you mark the position with a clip.

Loading the paper from the light-tight paper box to the paper holder has to be done in complete darkness. You get used to it :).

Once you have exposed the image and developed and fixed it you should rinse it quickly before placing it on the negative holder. Photographing the negative to create the final positive is the same process; just make sure to wash the image for a while in a bucket or tray.

Both resin-coated (RC) and fibre-based (FB) papers work with the Instant Box Camera. There might be a slight difference in ISO from RC to FB paper, even if you use the same brand. Developing and fixing times for FB papers are also longer.

Aperture and Shutter Speed

Aperture and Shutter Speed work in exactly the same way with the Instant Box Camera as for any other camera. If you use the lens we included in our package, the lens cap acts as shutter.

ISO and Filters

Photopaper is less light sensitive than film material. It ranges from around ISO 2-6. If you use multigrade paper you should use filters. These filters will reduce the light sensitivity as well.

Using direct positive paper

It is possible to skip the second step of photographing the negative by using direct positive paper. With this medium you create unique positive images. The paper is a little more expensive but it has unique aesthetic features. It is high-contrast, meaning it will create strong black and whites. You can pre-flash the paper to create more tonality in the grey area. Pre-flashing means exposing it to light before shooting. We had good success by exposing it to 3 seconds f16 with our Durst colour enlarger, but the exposure time changes depending on your equipment, so doing your own tests is advised. The ISO range is around 3, and maybe 4 or 5 when pre-flashing.

How about colour direct positive photography

You can shoot colour with the Instant Box Camera, but it is more labour-intensive and requires some experimentation with filters.

RA-4 paper is made for the darkroom and not for shooting in daylight, so the colour balance is off, with too much cyan and blue. We have to use filters to compensate for this. What filters depends on what light conditions you have. If you shoot with a studio light it will always be same. If you keep changing the light outdoors you will need to start experimenting.

A good start is the 85B Tungsten conversion filter. We use the very affordable Adox Snap-on, which comes in the size of our Instant Box Camera lens. We also use a UV filter. Maybe you already have one from an old camera. From there it is all about experimentation with yellow and magenta filters, as you can see in the video. Good results can be achieved with Ilford Multigrade filters 0+1, film correction filters 85+85B, and combinations such as 85 + 85B + 85C + 81C + CC20M.

The chemical combination allows us to transform this RA-4 negative paper into a direct positive paper. We need black and white developer (we use Kodak Dektol), a stop bath (we use Adox Adostop) as well as the RA-4 developer and RA-4 Blix (we use the ones from Adox). In between comes a lot of washing.

Have fun.


Montages are really what make the negative/positive process so special. Once you get a negative you can add whatever you want to that negative in order to create a montage. It could be a frame, messages, or cutting out parts of other photographs. The frames or image elements have to be negatives as well. If you use words they have to be written reversed. The video below explains more.

Hand – Colouring

Hand-colouring your images can be a lot of fun. There are a variety of techniques available. Fibre-based paper with a matt or pearl finish works best with oil colours but you can also use resin-coated papers with a matt or pearl finish as you can see in this video (Fomaspeed RC Satin). You can use watercolour, oil paints, crayons or pigment paints. Depending on the paint, you can apply it with a brush, a cotton swab or your finger.