Get to know your camera
There are a huge variety of Polaroid cameras out there. Even within the range of Polaroid 600s there's a massive difference between models and their abilities. Outlined below are the three models that I personally possess however there are dozens of other (although usually rarer) models available for those willing to search.
The Polaroid One (featured below in silver) has a self timer mode and electronically controlled flash mode as well as an input for a tripod mount. The Polaroid One also has electronically controlled auto-exposure and does not allow for the manual adjustment of darker or lighter shooting modes.
The Polaroid One-Step 600 (black), is the model that you will come across most often. It has a central lever on the front of the camera allowing you to darken or brighten your exposure for different lighting conditions and two camera triggers (the front in red adds flash and the smaller black trigger fires the camera without flash).
Finally we come to the Polaroid Close-up (blue). As the name suggests the big difference in this camera type is that it features a close up mode rather then a 'fixed focus-zone' like the previous two models. This is controlled by the lever depicting two people standing and then a single person from the chest upwards. This model is, obviously, much better for the creation of close-ups or portraits day or night as it still contains the dual trigger flash control system of the Polaroid One-Step. This model, whilst a favourite of mine, does have its limits as there are no controls to darken or lighten the image and as such becomes more reliant on ambient conditions.
Read the instructions
If all else fails just make sure you read the back of the film pack. Film should be kept refrigerated when not in the camera (make sure to allow for at least 1 hour for the film to come back to room temperature before loading the camera however). ISO is roughly 640. If its cold outside film will be less reactive during the development process and as such needs to be kept warm so you don't underexpose.
It's not an exact science
Lets face it if you're shooting Polaroid because of it's unique and quirky style not so that you can create the same image you could achieve on digital. If you are you're on the wrong format.
It's also an imperfect process. If you shoot enough instant film you will come across batches that whilst within their use by date have been exposed to extreme temperature or simply gone through the factory process differently. This can enable you to create (with some luck) very interesting images, but also may mean that you're unfortunately out of luck with this batch of film.
Below is an example of where the emulsion (or the chemical which the image is exposed on to) has melted off the center of the frame.
Don't be afraid to play around with different instant films. The impossible Project makes a range of Duo-Chrome films that can be great fun to work with and come in a variety of combinations including, red and black, orange and black, pink and black, and my personal favourite the Third Man Record Black and Yellow Duo-chrome. The expired PX film packs are also available for those wanting to experiment with early prototype Impossible film.
DON'T shake it like a Polaroid picture!
This a popular (and dangerous) myth perpetuated by that popular music hit by Outkast. Shaking or bending your stil-developing images will only damaged them and the final result.
For those looking to get into or start their own Polaroid collection you can find cameras and accessories at the following;
Camera Electronic (Perth)
230 Stirling Street Perth or 2/324 Murray Street Perth.
Tel: 1300 790 230
Web - Here
330 Murray St Perth or Shop P146 - 100 St Georges Terrace Perth or 125 High St Mall Fremantle.
Shop R113 - 28 Broadway Chippendale or 3/285A Crown St Surry Hills NSW
Shop 050 - 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne
*Obviously I can't keep track of each stores day-today stock or pricing so I highly recommend doing a little bit of research before buying. In my personal experience Pigeonhole or Ebay tend to be the cheaper ways to obtain a 600 Polaroid, whilst Michaels Camera tends to have the best range of film types*