We’re at a point where almost every single human in Australia has a digital camera. You’ve probably got a basic one in your hand right now in the form of some kind of smartphone.
Digital cameras are nothing if not convenient but in that ease breeds of a form of complacency.
There’s a reason Kim Kardashian famously took 6,000 selfies in 4 days just to get the most flattering snap.
It would be a slightly different story if every single shot was costing her a couple of bucks. That’s a $12,000 selfie right there.
But that’s the difference between taking photos on the run instantly and an actual Instant Camera, which requires shifting your brain into another world of photography.
We’re talking about a mindset where there’s no practice run but the results feel more authentic than anything you’ve shot before because you’ve had to slow down, be more thoughtful and think about what you want to convey.
We’ve based this guide on the new Leica SOFORT ($AUD399), which is the latest camera from the German optics house that marries the intelligence of digital technology with the tangibility of instant film.
However all the advice in this will hold you in good stead even if it’s your first rodeo with film photography in general.
So here’s how to zen out when the photography stakes are high. Time to get creative.
Throw A Shindig
We think it was Jane Austen who said, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that the more selfies people are taking a party, the less fun the party is…’
Don’t get us wrong, we love those action-flashed shots where our friends look like they’re in their own special zany ‘Hangover’ movie.
Except with digital you just know those shots are set up. This is because house-party photography by design is meant to be little flawed, a bit blurry and a slightly hot mess. It’s all about the moment. Conversely, digital photography by design is about negating those effects with the power of the ‘delete’ button. It’s the opposite of the moment.
So unless you have friends who were born with borderline Steve Buscemi levels of vanity then the temptation to try to take the shot until everyone looks just the right amount of hot-drunk will be your reality.
However, when you whip out you Instant Film camera you can be guaranteed of 2 outcomes. Either people will instinctively realise the stakes are up and to put their best face forward or (and this is the best) they won’t realise you’re shooting them at all, which is a bonafide recipe for images that tell more of a tale than 6,000 Kardashian selfies ever could.
With the Leica SOFORT you can set your camera to ‘Party’ mode which essentially cuts your thinking time down to nil and ensures a slightly slower shutter speed (but not as slow as ‘Night’ mode) with red eye reduction. Essentially less drama, more fun, better shots.
Be Inspired By The Outdoors
This is something we wholly subscribe to because you’ll get a variation of shades and colours to play with. While digital film has the benefit of ultra high pixel ratios for clear-cut image clarity for capturing those epic vistas, film is perfect for the small details.
Think: Digital tells the overall synopsis, film fills in the details.
Practice getting up close and personal with your subjects and make use of the details in leaves and earth. Or try cutting your subject in half but focusing just on their legs or their shadows.
The Leica SOFORT optical lense lets you tell the camera exactly how close or far your subject is. Close up setting is 0.6-3 metres, ideal for head portraits. Landscape setting adjusts for shots 3 metres up.
If it’s a cityscape you’re looking at, set it on ‘B’ or ‘Bulb’ shutter speed (easy to choose from the menu) to hold the shutter open and let the light in as long as you want. The result? Artful blur that captures the light (think of those night shots of cars that look like neon streaks).
Mix & Match Film & Digital
This is fun if you love yourself some landscapes but awesome to play with anywhere and with friends.
First snap grab your instant film camera and capture your subject (tell them to act out something a bit kooky – this’ll pay off later). Once your image is developed, grab your DIGITAL camera and set it to capture exactly the same background but hold the printed film shot in the frame.
If you’re using a Leica SOFORT set it to landscape setting by twisting the lens to ensure you capture the whole frame and not just pull focus on the printed shot
Film tends to perform better at 15-25 degrees celsius. If it means running back to your car or indoors to ensure a perfect development, so be it. It’ll be worth it.
Learn To Embrace The Mystery and Imperfections (AKA: Mistakes)
Finally you have to learn to appreciate the beauty in the imperfect. Not every shot will be a winner but it’s the stories behind the happy accidents that’ll make you smile when you look back years later.