Lomography for Newbies

Posted on by Bellamy


Lomography for Newbies
Preface: The exciting toy-camera artistic movement has exploded in recent years. More and more people are having a go. Some are experienced, expert photographers who want to lighten up and play without obsessing over detail, some are comparative film neophytes who are intrigued by brightly coloured, trendy looking toy cameras and the fabulous pictures that they can produce. The problem is, many of people don’t know where to start and are quickly put off by disappointing results. This article is formatted as a series of questions asked by a fictitious newcomer ‘@NEWBIE’ and answers given to him by our panel of contributors.

@NEWBIE: I’ve been keen about digital photography for a year now. I’ve seen a lot of cool pictures and cameras on the Lomography website and want to get into it. Can you tell me more about the concept of lomography versus traditional photography?

@TomWelland: Lomography offers people a community and guidelines to shoot by rather than just materialistic offerings. Their website is full of hints and tips as well as a number of competitions. Their golden rules offer a more bohemian style of taking photos “don’t think just shoot” being a main one. I think Lomography aims to afford anyone a chance of taking photos using simplistic gear rather than complex DSLRs.

@lenire: Lomography is a philosophy on photography. It guides the photographer in shooting a particular way and just being accepting of the results. This differs from “traditional photography” because it encourages the participant to take a photograph without concern for exposure or composition.

@ShellySometimes: In its purest form, the concept of lomography photography is about dispensing with any, often all, of the rules of photography and shooting in the moment. Literally, anything goes, and flaws are not only embraced, but encouraged, and sought after.

@ZDP189: The lomography movement started out with some art students recognising that photography had more to offer than imaging perfection and recognised genres and the following traditional artistic rules such as composition. Traditional results were often staid and lacking in spontaneity, originality and intuition. The students adopted cheap, imperfect cameras like the LC-A and just let the art flow uninhibited. Their guidelines are more like a manifesto, teaching newcomers to lighten up and express themselves. Those art students turned it into a successful business selling toy cameras and film, but the core philosophy is independent of any equipment, film, technique or brand.

@NEWBIE: Why do you do it?

@TomWelland: Lomography is what brought me back into taking photos, having a website with tips, reviews and thousands of photos helped my enthusiasm. I will say I used it as a gateway and soon found it limiting, which progressed me into more advanced cameras such as the Olympus RD, OM1 and eventually a Leica M4.

@ShellySometimes: Lomography was my gateway into film cameras – I bought my first one, a Holga 120CFN, in the summer of 2010, and the rest is history. For me, lomography was about finding answers to the question, “what happens if I…”. It was all about experimentation, and even though I shoot on a wider variety of cameras now, including a Hasselblad, that lomographic spirit definitely carries through in my work. I’m not afraid to try new things, and I always learn from the results, good or bad.

@ZDP189: I’m not even sure I can call myself a lomographer. I am a diverse photographer with an eclectic collection of cameras and I experiment a lot. The ones that come out looking run-of the mill are just ‘straight’ photography, but those that are particularly quirky and artistic get labelled ‘lomo’ (no pun intended.)

@lenire: For me, it’s a creative exercise. I spend most of my day staring at a computer, pushing buttons to make little dots change colors; and then when I do get to go out and take photographs, it is usually with a high shutter speed and an open aperture. Sometimes it is nice to sit back and visualize the photograph before I shoot with a slower shutter speed and a closed down aperture. This visualization has improved my work on film, and my digital work. Instead of happily snapping away and chimping on the back of my camera, I can now spend the time enjoying my work.

@NEWBIE: What camera(s) should I start off with? What are your favourites?

@coldkennels: This is like saying “I’ve never had shoes before. What would you suggest as my first pair?” Everyone’s going to suggest something different and for totally different reasons, but a lot depends on what sort of person you are. I’d advocate something fully-manual – any basic SLR – because I’m a control freak and I don’t think auto-exposure or fixed-exposure cameras can really teach you anything. But if you just want to burn through some film and get semi-guaranteed results, you can’t go wrong with an original (Soviet-made) LC-A. There’s a good reason an entire “movement” sprung up around that camera.

@TomWelland: There are a number of offerings from Lomography; some more flexible than others. I would use the LC-A+ or ideally an original LC-A which is simply a better made camera despite being 20 or so years older. I would avoid anything with a plastic lens (which rules out most of them). Saying that, they do have fun cameras such as the limiting but fun Supersampler that takes 4 photos per negative on a timed delay.

@ShellySometimes: I’ve shot both Holgas and Dianas, as well as a wide variety of other toy plastic cameras, and while I definitely lean towards Team Holga, you can get some amazing results with any and all of them. My best advice? Spend some time on Flickr or the Lomography website. Look at the results you get with different camera and film combinations and see what appeals to you most. Decide what will be easiest for you to shoot: 120 or 35mm film. Do you think you’ll be shooting mostly indoors, where you’ll need a flash, or outdoors? Take all these factors into account and that will help guide you toward the best camera for you.

@lenire: It all depends on what you have access to. Personally, I am a big fan of the Holga 120 because I love the look of the negatives. However, if you do not have access to a local lab that can develop 120 film for you it can become expensive very quickly.  If you can find a local lab that processes medium format film, stick with them; there is a wealth of options for you to choose from in the 35mm arena which is easy and affordable to develop. Hit up your local flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores. You should be able to quickly find a little range finder or SLR for under $20 and that should be a great thing to start with.

@ZDP189: Just remember, as with all photographic art, it’s the content, the story it tells and the emotion it elicits that makes or breaks the picture, not the special effects and camera gear.

@NEWBIE: Heck, this is proving expensive. Toy cameras aren’t exactly priced like ‘toys’, film is expensive and hard to find … and lab costs are going to eat me alive!

@ShellySometimes: It can seem expensive in the beginning, but read up on tips and tricks on frugal photography, and you’ll be surprised by how cheap this endeavor can be. For example, a Diana Mini camera shoots half frame images, so in theory you could get 72 exposures from a single roll of 36 exposure film! The Film Photography Project sells a new medium format camera, the Plastic Filmtastic Debonair, for only $19.99. You can buy new fresh film for as little as $2 or $3 a roll. Learn how to develop your own black and white film at home – after the initial outlay, it’s really cheap, and super easy to do!

@TomWelland: Buying direct from Lomography will prove expensive so let eBay, Gumtree, and Craigslist be your friend. Before you jump into and purchase spend some time on their website and flickr or tumblr and look for photos you like. Most shots there will include the type of camera it was taken on. Film can be expensive but that’s why most people end up buying in bulk; try a few films and when you find one you like search around for bulk deals.

@lenire: Thriftstores, flea markets, junk sales: these are your friends. In the past 40 years, thousands of film cameras have been sold and now are ending up in junk stores because “they don’t make film anymore.” Some of these cameras are actually really nice, and can be found at a reasonable price. The vast majority of the cameras on my shelf were obtained for under $10. A few of my nicer cameras were around the $50 mark, but that is at the highest end of my collections. The old mechanical cameras of the 60′s were built like tanks and should still be in working order today.

@coldkennels: The one thing I will say is play it smart. eBay can be great for picking up bargains, but avoid getting into bidding wars – you’ll end up paying over the odds. Also, a lot of things on eBay seem like bargains, but are of dubious condition, and while expired film can be a great way of saving money, it can also be a complete waste of time if it hasn’t been stored properly. I think what I’m trying to say is the old adage “the poor man pays twice” is especially true when you’re searching eBay late at night.

@NEWBIE: I’m rubbish at this! I shot seven rolls and none of my photos look anything like the ones I see on the net. Some didn’t come out at all. I have none, *ZERO* that I’m proud of. How do you even get the camera to give a usable exposure? It only has a fixed aperture and a single shutter speed!

@TomWelland: I hope you weren’t expecting to be great right away. Seven rolls in the grand scheme of things barely counts as a warm up. The thing to remember with film is that you’re playing with ratios. I would be happy these days to get 5 good shots back from a roll of 36. Practice makes perfect; this is not digital shooting, but the results are more rewarding. Stick with it and perhaps message people about their photos to ask the settings they used.

@coldkennels: Yeah…. see what I said above about your first camera. The Holga (and, to a point, the Diana) work fairly well because you can burn through a 12 exposure roll of 120 film in no time, meaning you can “control” exposure simply by using the right film speed for your lighting conditions. Once you move into 35mm – where a roll might last anywhere from a day to a month – you’re stuck with one exposure value for an extended amount of time while the light’s changing around you. You’d generally be better off with something with auto-exposure or a fully manual camera. I’d like to add, though, that what you see on the net is the edited down version of someone’s negative folder. Some of those guys shoot ten rolls or more EVERY WEEK. It’s quite easy at that point to pick out a few good ones and give the illusion of some real mastery over an aesthetic that prides itself on its randomness and spontaneity.

@ShellySometimes: There’s a learning curve when it comes to any new skill, and this is definitely true of film photography. Even though I had shot digital for ages, I had a lot to learn when I first picked up a film camera, and it took a while to get results that I liked. Now that I’ve been doing it for a couple of years, I STILL get frustrated with my results all the time – I am my own harshest critic. Know that the person who is posting 20 amazing shots may have shot 20 rolls of film to get them, or spent 20 minutes post-processing each one of those images. And it could be that, to get the look you are striving for, a more manual camera is going to be the ticket for you.

@ZDP-189: Shoot. Shoot like you have OCD. Carry a camera at all times and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes your worst mistakes turn into your most captivating images. It takes time and experience to be able to deliver good results every day. Good photography is hard to achieve and working with a camera that has a limited ability to deliver accurate exposure and focus is actually a lot harder than with a ‘normal’ camera. No matter whether you’re skilled or not, be a ruthless editor and only show your best images.

@NEWBIE: My photos look boring. They just come out like disposable camera photos. How do I get those effects like saturated colours, heavy grain, weird purples, colour shifts and those characteristic toy camera colour effects?

@coldkennels: One of my biggest complaints with lomography as an “artistic movement” is that it’s like a modern CGI blockbuster: all special effects and no substance. Don’t let all those funky effects get in the way of the fundamentals of photography – a boring out-of-focus photo of your cat is still a boring out-of-focus photo of your cat, even if you shoot it with a Holga and cross-process it.

@TomWelland: It’s possible you are just using rubbish film. Don’t expect amazing colours from something as bland as Kodak Gold. For the best results you need to start investing in films such as Kodak Portra and the like.

@ShellySometimes: You can experiment with expired film; there are also all kinds of interesting films out there, including infrared and redscale. Some people even experiment with altering their film before they even shoot it by exposing it to heat, liquids, or light. A lot of people will share their technique when they post a photo on Flickr or the Lomography website; you can try to replicate what they do for similar results. Of course, never forget that someone may have applied a significant amount of post-processing to an image once it’s been scanned to their computer; that will definitely alter the original look of a film.

@ZDP189: @ShellySometimes mentioned redscale. Redscale is the reversing of the film so that the wrong side of the film is exposed. It originally was an accidental occurrence that might come about when a colour film was sloppily respooled from one cartridge to another. By shooting through the back of the film, the orange mask filters the light giving it an orange mask. Also, because the image is focussed onto the backing material and not the emulsion, the image is softened. The image is also reversed. Lomography sells redbird film that is supposedly redscaled, but I am doubtful that it is true redscale, if only because the results usually come out better than redscaling my own film.

@ZDP189: Some cameras allow you to make double exposures. This is easy to do, but harder to make look good until you know the trick. Keep in mind that you’re laying light on dark, so if the bright parts of one image lie over or under a dark part of another, the light always burns through. Or you can just wing-it and random overlays look good too.

@NEWBIE: Tell me more about cross processing, please!

@TomWelland: Cross processing (or ‘X-PRO’) is a common technique used by lomographers to give the colours in your pictures enhanced punch. It is simply processing a slide film in C-41 rather than E-6 chemicals or vice versa.

@ZDP189: Cross processing replicates mistakes that can happen in the lab, when they used the wrong developer for the type of film. Processing slide film as negative film is the most common and most effective. It messes with the colours and contrast. Search flickr for cross-processed images for examples of how each film will come out. You can also process most negative and slide films in black and white developer to give grainy black and white images, or negative film as slides.

@ShellySometimes: I’ve had mixed results with cross-processing; because of that, I don’t tend to do it very often, although it’s fun to try. Generally, you shoot slide film, which is E6, and then have it processed as color negative film, which is C41. Slide film, however, is much trickier to expose properly, and it’s very hard to get it just right in a camera with no aperture/shutter speed control. Once it’s cross-processed, those overexposed images really just don’t look good. I’ve had the best results with film shot in a manual camera.

@coldkennels: One thing to bear in mind is that the cross-processed “look” – despite what some people may tell you – is largely determined by the post-processing. When you see rich, super-saturated and vivid colours, 99% of the time that will have been “helped along” by Photoshop (or even the lab scanner, if your lab produces prints/scans for you). Many E6 films, when cross processed, just turn into an overwhelming mass of one colour. It’s up to the lab tech, the automated scanner or the photographer to turn that into a colour-balanced image.

@lenire: Truth be told, I have only cross processed one roll of film since I started shooting film; it was some cheap slide film I had gotten to take with me to NASA HQ to take pictures of the rockets they have laying around in rocket park. To me, X-PRO is something that can be done, but should be planned for. When you cross process film, the colors go wonky and I was excited for this. It gave the photos a very interesting look, with the antiquated rockets as the subject matter. The color shift from blue to green; which can occur when cross processing film made the rocket ship look slightly alien; and I hate using this word but it looked very “retro”.

@NEWBIE: I asked my local lab to cross process and print sprockets from a 72 x 33mm sprocket rocket negative and they said “it couldn’t be done.” What now?

@ZDP189: Hunt about and find a lab that will do it (Lomography offers this as an option). I scan mine at home on a film scanner. I scan directly off the glass and crop to include the sprockets. It’s time consuming but easy. There are other ways too; the one above was printed that way by optical enlargement. I then scanned the print. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

@coldkennels: I’m sure that if you ask around on Twitter, people nearby to you could point you to a lab in your area that’ll do it. That’s one of the benefits of the internet; an instant community at your fingertips.

@ShellySometimes: There are lots of options online, if you can’t find a local lab that can handle the film as you wish. If you think you’ll want to do a lot of photos like this, it might be worth investing in your own film negative scanner and printer, so that you can scan your own images and make whatever prints you want!

@NEWBIE: Why do people seal up light leaks? Isn’t that the whole point? Most of my light leaks end up ruining the shot; how do I do it ‘properly’?

@ShellySometimes: Not everyone shoots for light leaks intentionally – I always make sure to seal up my Holga cameras, for example, to avoid them. If you want to do them “properly”, experimentation is key. I’ve known some people to poke teeny little holes in the backs of their plastic cameras, and others that will ever-so-slightly pop open the back of their camera every few shots to let some light in. Experiment and play around until you get results that you like – even then, know that it will be hard to have them be consistent every time. Light is a tricky thing.

@TomWelland: You can’t really do it properly, it’s a happy (or sometimes unhappy) mistake. Light leaks typically only appear at the beginning of the roll, if you’re getting them all the way through the roll your camera is leaking light and it will continue to affect your shots until you fix it.

@ZDP189: I don’t know of a proper way either. If it happens, I evaluate how it affects the artistic value and then use or discard the image. The idea of a manufactured “light-leak effect” wouldn’t sit right with many anyway.

@NEWBIE: I understand that the idea is to shoot without thinking, but when I do that maybe one in a hundred of my photos ends up looking cool. How do I improve my batting average?

@coldkennels: By taking your time. Successfully shooting without thinking is a myth. In fact, there’s a certain truism in photography: the fewer shots you take, the more good shots you have. I see it myself; when I’m shooting a 36 exposure roll of 35mm, I get far smaller percentage of “keepers” compared to 12 exposure rolls of 120. I would imagine that shooting large format – with two shots per film holder – would improve that even further. Also (and this is more of an ideological point than a photographical one) what would you rather was responsible for that one in a hundred – your own judgement or some random act of faith?

@TomWelland: Perhaps try a different camera, film or subject. Start paying attention to your settings, if nothing else your photos should be well exposed and in focus. Nail the basics then the more interesting shots will come. Don’t get too serious about your “work” though. Remember to have fun, they are called toy cameras for a reason. Go out with your friends, enjoy yourself and sneak a few shots. No one likes a set up “look at us we’re having fun” shot so make sure you actually have fun.

@ShellySometimes: Let’s answer this question first: what about that maybe-one-in-a-hundred photo is cool to you? Do you like the subject matter? The composition? The colors of the end result? Look at your photos and think about the ones you really like – why do you like them? Once you have a better sense of what appeals to you, shoot more with that in mind. You don’t have to stop “shooting without thinking” if you don’t want to – but it will help your hit rate to be a little more methodical, and to have a better sense of what end result appeals to you.

@NEWBIE: I was told that toy cameras are supposed to be quirky, but why do so many seem to fail in ways that make the camera useless, rather than contribute to creativity?

@ZDP189: LOL. This happened to me a few times. I bought a LC-Wide and an Instax Back. Heck it was expensive. I was expecting a quality camera with funky optics but the problem was the advance spindle was unreliable and a lot of the images were joined up and couldn’t easily be scanned. At first, Lomography wouldn’t replace it, and when they did, all the cameras in the store had the same problem. I don’t shoot roll film in it anymore. One camera repairer I know has a bench full of duff LC-As and is heartily fed up. He won’t even take any more for repairs. I bought a Belair and the thing won’t stay closed. Regardless of whether you buy the Jetsetter or a metal limited edition camera, the closing catches are made of cheap plastic. These quickly wear out and might even break off. The solution is to use a heavy rubber band. To be fair, Lomo cameras are a little better made than Holga. My Holga panoramic camera’s shutter mechanism fell off during the first test roll.

@coldkennels: I’ll second what Dan has to say other than the last piece: I actually find Holgas to be more solid than Lomography’s offerings. My ex was a big-time Lomographer; her Holga outlasted everything else she bought. The other thing you want to bear in mind is that generally the originals are of higher quality than the remakes; the original LC-A, for example, is much more solid and reliable than the LC-A+, which is much more solid and reliable than the LC-Wide. The caveat is that obviously the older Soviet equipment is subject to the ravages of time, so buy from trustworthy sources if you can (or – ideally – in person so you can see what you’re getting).

@TomWelland: They are cheaply manufactured cameras unfortunately. Don’t be fooled by thinking you can only have fun with a lomo-cam. There are plenty of brilliant entry-level film cameras out there. Look no further than an Olympus Trip for a perfect example, built to last, great lens and cheaper than most of the lomo offerings.

@NEWBIE: What do I do if I want more control over the process?

@TomWelland: Get yourself an SLR; there are plenty around to choose from. I would suggest popping into a shop to get the feel of them to decide which is best. They will all do the job so it all really comes down to personal taste on ergonomics and manufacturing properties. Personally, I love my Olympus OM1, there are plenty of great ones in the OM range but whatever you buy I would encourage you to buy mechanics rather than electronic.

@ShellySometimes: You can’t go wrong with a basic SLR, and you can find GREAT deals out there on them. My first SLR was a Mamiya Sekor 500TL – the camera and lens, together, cost maybe $20, and I still use it to this day. Other good cameras include the Olympus models that @TomWelland mentions, as well as several different Pentax cameras, including the K1000 and the Spotmatic. The biggest issue you might find on an older SLR is a nonworking light meter – no problem! Most of these cameras will still work just fine without batteries or the light meter, and honestly, not having one makes you work a little harder and, therefore, learn a lot more!

@Coldkennels: The SLR recommendations are good ones. If you want ALL THE CONTROL, you can buy yourself a scanner, start doing your own developing, and even set up a darkroom to do your own printing. That’s the exact route I took, and let me tell you – nothing feels better than holding a finished print in your hand after a long darkroom session.

@NEWBIE: Wait, so I can use a ‘proper’ camera like a Leica rangefinder or a Nikon SLR for ‘toy camera’ photography?!?

@TomWelland: A “proper camera” is one that will take photos. It’s a tool and don’t be sucked into the hype of the expense making you a “proper” photographer. I will like a photo regardless of what camera it was taken on. To answer your question though, toy cameras traditionally have plastic lenses and fixed focus positions, whereas cameras such as Leica (or rather their lenses) will produce images that are a lot sharper and have more depth in them.

@ShellySometimes: You can use any camera you want any WAY you want. Never be afraid to experiment and remember the age-old adage: rules are made to be broken. The worst that could happen? You’ll ruin a roll of film. The best thing that can happen? You’ll create an amazing image that you are proud of and learn something new at the same time.

@NEWBIE: Can I use a digital camera?

@TomWelland: Of course you can! You set your own rules and guidelines. Just enjoy whatever you do.

@ZDP189: While I love the organic and ‘honest’ look of film, in many ways, digital cameras are an easier path to predictable success. It gives you instant feedback. One example is the Lens Baby, which produces a wonderful soft selective focus look. Holga also sell their meniscus lenses in Canon and Nikon mount. I use these on a Canon full frame DSLR, although some modification makes for a better image. You can also get toy lenses for mirrorless cameras. I plan to convert my Lomography Fisheye II’s lens to fit on a mirrorless camera one day.  @SLRMagic offers a 26mm lens with a swirly periphery. I even made my own toy lens (see photo below). You can also employ special effects filters and prisms.

@ShellySometimes: You can use anything you want! I have a Holga lens for my Nikon DSLR, and I’ve had a lot of fun with that. You can even use the various filters, like macro and color, that are made for the Holga with it. Macro Holga lens shots on my Nikon DSLR are some of my very favorite images ever!

@NEWBIE: Do you think these effects mimicked in Photoshop or other digital post processing software really qualifies?

@TomWelland: Personally, I can’t abide overuse of post processing. Too many people use it to the point that if it was judged to win a competition, I think the award should go to Adobe not the photographer, as the software has done so much more of the work. You don’t need Photoshop to create decent photos, so don’t become lazy and rely on it.

@coldkennels: I’m in two minds about this. My gut reaction is no. I generally loathe all overly done post processing (see: HDR, compositing, etc.) – partially because some of them make my eyes bleed and partially because it just doesn’t feel like photography anymore. When you’re spending more time in front of a laptop than dealing with photographic materials, I’d call it computer imaging instead. But considering many lomographic images are reliant on scanning or post-processing trickery anyway, then hell, why not get your digital imaging on and have fun? Just don’t expect me to look at it or enjoy it.

@ShellySometimes: I am, for the most part, a purist when it comes to post-processing film images. I try to limit myself to only the sorts of tweaks that would be done in the darkroom – dodging, burning, cropping, etc. It doesn’t make sense, to me, to go through the time and effort involved in shooting film to then take a proverbial dump all over the image in Photoshop. But that’s me. Every person is different, and you should do what makes you happy and gets you the result you want.

@ZDP189: I must confess, the image above was all-digital and mimics Kodak Aerochrome, a technical film for highlighting vegetation on aerial photography images. I loath High Dynamic Range effects and fancy colour replacement and don’t normally do images like this, but the image begged for it, right from the concept stage. Even LomoChrome Purple is ‘fake’ Aerochrome, although it comes out like this right out of the camera.

@NEWBIE: What do you think is the essence of this art movement?

@lenire: The Ten Golden Rules and the desire to experiment are the essences of this movement. The core idea that I see, is the “photography should be fun rule.” I actually partially agree with this rule. If you are not enjoying it, then why are you doing it?

@TomWelland: yes, the Ten Golden Rules, it gives people guidelines to help them create that ‘lomo look’.

@ZDP189: These “Ten Golden Rules” that everybody’s going on about are (quoting from Lomography’s website):

Rule #1 – Take your camera everywhere you go
Rule #2 – Use it any time – day and night
Rule #3 – Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it
Rule #4 – Try the shot from the hip
Rule #5 – Approach the objects of your Lomographic desire as close as possible
Rule #6 – Don’t think
Rule #7 – Be fast
Rule #8 – You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film
Rule #9 – Afterwards either
Rule #10- Don’t worry about any rules

However, some of these rules are photographic guidelines and not really rules. The most important, but unwritten, rule is to only show off worthy images.

@ShellySometimes: Don’t think, just shoot.

@ZDP189: I think that @ShellySometimes sums it up better than the Ten Golden Rules: the essence of what Lomography is trying to get people to do is to shoot fast and free, not over thinking the process. Personally, I don’t agree with this approach and I find it doesn’t work for me. I am more technically inclined and methodical by nature and I like to pre-visualise the art that I plan to create. To me, the essence of lomography (lower case, not the brand) is to create art of a fun and carefree appearance and not be afraid of making mistakes because even beauty can be found there. Using imperfect photographic tools is relatively minor part of this.

@NEWBIE: If the essence of the art movement is creativity, and not trendy cameras, where should I go from here?

@ShellySometimes: You can go anywhere from here. Learn what you like. Learn what you don’t like. Learn everything you can about the cameras that appeal to you and the photographers that produce work that you love. Become best friends with your local thrift shops, haunt your area museums, and read read read. You are unlimited.

@TomWelland: Look at photos; in a book/gallery, or online. Read about photographers and the cameras they used. You will start to develop a clear slant to the photos you want to create. Do you like landscapes/portraits/street/environmental/still life? All cameras/lenses and films are better suited to each discipline. By doing this you will narrow down a good set up for yourself as well as learning about composure, exposure and the decisive moment. Then save your pennies and buy your set up!

@Coldkennels: Practice, practice, practice. The more you shoot the more you’ll improve – providing you’re actually paying attention to what you do and analysing the results. Figure out what mistakes you made and how to avoid them. Figure out which successes you had and how to replicate them. Never, ever, ever just keep shooting mindlessly – you’ll just be throwing money down the drain.

@ZDP189: Get involved in the community aspect, whether you dedicate yourself to lomography or more general photography. We can all be reached on twitter. There are many other people and venues out there with a passion for photography.

About the Contributors

@ZDP189 – Dan K is an English photography enthusiast and film camera collector living in Hong Kong. He has been shooting film and developing since childhood. He enjoys photographic experimentation and camera modification.
He has written several articles for JCH.
Follow him on twitter: ZDP189
Follow him on tumblr: ZDP-189

@ShellySometimes – Shelly is from Denver, Colorado. She is obsessed with film photography, camera and record collecting, and Doctor Who. Not necessarily in that order. Follow her on Twitter; there’s every chance she’ll accidentally say something really interesting one of these days.
Follow her on twitter: ShellySometimes

@lenire: Simon Ponder is a graphic designer and photographer living in San Antonio, obsessed with pinhole cameras, lomography and meerkats. He is also a host on the podcast companion to pdexposures.tv. You can see some of his work at www.simonponder.net
Follow him on twitter: lenire

@coldkennels: Tony Gale is a writer and photographer from the post-industrial heart of England who spends half of his time working on Pdexposures with Simon and the other half mocking lomographers on Twitter. He owns a Holga and has a secret affection for the Supersampler but never uses either camera; if it’s not a rangefinder or a TLR he’s not really interested.
Follow him on twitter: coldkennels He’s actually quite helpful if you don’t mind a side-helping of mockery with the advice.

@TomWelland – Tom is an English hobbyist photographer and is rubbish at writing bios.
He has been on JCH before.
Follow him on twitter: TomWelland

Legal information: Lomography and Lomo is a trademark of Lomographische AG, with whom we have no affiliation. Other trademarks are referenced and are the property of their respective owners. When we refer to them, we don’t necessarily mean these brands but the global artistic movement of toy cameras, the impromptu effects of toy cameras and the instinctive style of photography that they are known for. Contributions and opinions of the contributors are their own. All rights reserved. If you wish to republish, contact the contributors via twitter.

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14 Responses to Lomography for Newbies

Warren June 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Over 40 years ago when I was just a little lad I had a blue plastic Diana camera that I bought for about 70 cents.
I never imagined back then that my little camera would one day be cool.
Whooda thunk.

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    ZDP-189 June 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Toy cameras may have become trendy, just as the analog movement, instagram and the sharing of images through social media have.
    This article is not so much about trends, cameras, or brands, but about the merits of expanding our artistic horizons, rediscovering our passion and deriving inspiration and knowlege from our peers.

    Reply
Shawn Ashley June 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm

@lenire: What, someone from my city (SA-town)??? I can dig it!

I liked this thread. I sometimes like shooting from the hip with my Superheadz Ultra-Wide and Slim, sometimes I like composing my shots and sometimes I shoot digital. Good read!

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Dave Lam (@lamlux) June 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

This was a great article, and from folks who I chat to on twitter no less! Great job everyone.

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    ZDP-189 June 20, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Yeah, I enjoy talking to you to. That’s how we all got together and collaborated. It’s also why we used this freeform twitter-style format to present the material. We even used our twitter identities. It’s pretty much the same as goes on every day on twitter. If anyone wants this kind of help, twitter would be the best way to contact us

    Reply
      Sam Sanchez June 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      The Twitter-like format of this blog makes it for newbies to follow photography as a whole, not just the micro-culture of lomography. On the other hand, this article is perhaps a good eye-opener into how art should be addressed as a medium of communication (which is public and general), not just a statement of personal expression (which is individualistic and specific).

      Reply
Sean Staples June 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

Great job by all in this article, and I like the Twitter conversation format as well.

It’s interesting that the article is about lomography, and there seems to be no love lost for the company which bears the same name. I guess we can hope they’re reading too…

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    Tony June 21, 2013 at 3:06 am

    We made it very clear early on in the planning that we wanted to distinguish between “lomography” – little l – and “Lomography”, the trading name of Lomographische AG. The two are seperate beasts, and I’m sure we all have different opinions of both.

    Reply
    ZDP-189 June 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Whether we’re discussing the company, brand or the art movement, the whole topic of “lomography” is loaded with preconceptions and prejudices. In order to be able to represent all points of view, we gathered an eclectic gang of photographers. As editor, my briefing to the contributors was that there was no need to pull punches, as long as they focussed on providing helpful advice from the heart.

    Thanks you for your compliments about our format. We could have just done a guide or FAQ and assigned questions to each contributor. However, the conversation format grew out of the challenge of coordinating our large gang of contributors. At first, I didn’t know who wanted to address which topics, how to combine the differing opinions of more than one person commenting on one topic, or how to deal with everyone’s different time pressures and writing styles. Twitter and forums handle this set of problems pretty well. After all, that’s how we all met and how we regularly chat about photography topics and help people out. I used the fictional @NEWBIE character to guide the flow of the discussion and remind readers and contributors alike that we’re addressing the questions and needs of a newcomer to this art movement.

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ZDP-189 June 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

My reluctance to buy brand new products from Lomography or their dealers comes from generally disappointing build quality. Various camera models represent something of a lottery as there is a good chance you’ll get stuck with an expensive lemon.

Nevertheless, I own several Lomography brand cameras. I own a Belair, a LC-Wide with an Instax back and a Fisheye II. I still plan to buy a 360 Spinner and a Sprocket Rocket. Why? While they are expensive for toy cameras, they represent a cheap way of creating an interesting look, relative to looking for a rare collectable camera, or modifying a camera to offer these features. I wouldn’t want to make a career out of shooting a genre so specialised as 360 degree panoramas, so don’t see the need of buying a professional grade 360 panoramic camera.

This wide selection of very different cameras and the unique images they produce is what draws me to toy cameras. A new look inspires and invigorates my photography. I don’t regret the purchases, but I do regret getting sucked in by Lomo’s hype and offers of pre-purchase discounts. The flood of similar images that you get when the first batch of cameras is delivered detracts from the uniqueness of the images and undermines the second-hand value of the cameras.

Unless you are like a child needing the latest toy that all the cool kids have, you’re better off waiting till they are no longer flavour of the month, then buying second hand cast-offs. If you do buy any second hand toy camera, remember that there is a good chance that it’s being sold because it’s defective. Therefore, only buy second hand in person and thoroughly test the camera to see if it’s duff. You’d best research each model of camera to see that typically goes wrong. Think twice before buying expensive models that you’ve heard reports of failures on. On my LC-Wide (and two other of the same model that I have owned or tested), the film advance sometimes cocks and locks at 7 rather than 8 sprockets, or fails to lock and skips a frame. The latter is easy to test without exposing film, but the former is not. The Lomography LC-Wide Instant Pack sells new for over US$400.

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Steven August 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm

$30 Holga. $10 roll of Gaffer tape. $5 Film. The tape will last at least a year. And if you’re a light leak appreciator… then you can skip the tape. The rest is just fun :)

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Karl August 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I started taking up photography a little over 3 months ago, and this is the most helpful article I’ve read in that time; a lot of different angles on the subject and some generally useful tips for anyone looking to get into it. Thanks guys – you should have more of these!

Reply

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