When I used to look at real polaroid photos, I could not help but think that they are not exactly square (I have a mild OCD, I would tell). After so many years my suspicion was proven correct: on the official Polaroid page specifying the exact dimensions of a polaroid, it says that the photo area is exactly 3.108 by 3.024 inches (even though, contradicting this, the bottom image shows the photo area to be exactly 3.1 by 3.1 inches, and 3.024 is not 3.1 even when rounded according to normal rules for rounding).

Why is this the case? Obviously it is such a trivial matter that nobody else seems to be bothered by it. Still, why was this extremely weird decision made by Polaroid?

Polaroid makes money off of selling ink, so they should have made one side 3.1 inches, and the other one slightly larger than 3.1 inches. And still, the opposite is true.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be surprised if there is any significant technical reason. Which probably means the answer is "you'd have to ask the people that made the decision"... \$\endgroup\$
    – twalberg
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ If i remember correctly. The paper was square but the image was not, there was some space on the paper that housed the chemical pack. The pack was burst when pulling the paper out and the chemicals then developed the image. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really understand the question... Why are Polaroids not square... Well, why should they be square? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlaskaMan Please put your answers in the answers section, even if they're short and Criteria for determining if a post should be a comment or an answer You've put anyone who wants to actually write a correct answer in the undesirable position of seeming to plagiarize your comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aleksandr Polaroid made money by selling film packs. They made more money using less ink per photo than they would using more ink per photo if they charged the same amount for each filmpack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


I agree with osullic's sentiment, "why should they be square?" Here are a few observations that may help you feel better about their not being perfectly square:

  • There are no perfect squares. With good vision or glasses, the corners can be seen to be dull and the edges uneven.

  • Tighter engineering tolerances are more costly to produce. This was a film for the masses, and a 2.5% deviation from square is close enough.

  • If you measure enough Polaroid images, you'll probably find that there's more variation than the page you reference indicates.

  • Image aspect ratio is arbitrary, whether "square" or not. Consider that FujiFilm Instax is provided with a few different aspect ratios.

    Instax Film


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