Etsy artist reveals how she adds ‘Instagram filters’ to Polaroid photos

Cherie is a mother and an artist who runs her own Etsy shop where one of her most sought after items are her Polaroid photos. Cherie uses a classic photography technique to show how people filtered photos back in the day before Instagram.

Cherie creates moody, ambient, cool-toned photos with pop culture references, like Dr. Frank-N-Furter and “Hocus Pocus.” The Washington D.C. area mom started using film in the ’90s and has been a photographer since. After losing her job in the pandemic, like lots of other millennials, she joined TikTok to share her artwork

Each of Cherie’s projects uses a process called an emulsion lift.

“People don’t really get the point of doing it anymore, so I usually describe it that it was a way to make your pictures look like they were filtered before Instagram and filters existed,” Cherie told In The Know. 

It’s a film manipulation technique where you separate the top layer, which contains the image, of a Polaroid to adhere it onto to paper or another substrate. 

“I will either use a Polaroid camera or the Polaroid Lab printer to print an image,” Cherie told In The Know. “Once the picture is developed I will cut off the frame, remove the plastic cover and submerge the backing/emulsion in hot water. After a few minutes, the emulsion (image) will come off the backing and can be moved on to watercolor paper, glass, plastic, etc. I will either leave the image as is or add to it with colored pencils.” 

One of the artist’s most popular emulsion lifts is a monotone photo of rocker Stevie Nicks. with over 113,000 views.  

Cherie placed the photo of Nicks in a hot water bath, then used a paintbrush to peel the ultra-thin image off its backing. Once removed, the photo has a grainy, warped and wrinkled effect. No editing app or advanced tech necessary.

If you enjoyed this article, check out how this artist honors big life moments with preserved flowers.

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