Or should that be Instax Imaging?

My trusty Leica and some recent Lomography & Street images I’ve shot.

So Ive now shot over 10 packs of film, Fuji Film, B&W and Leica film. I’ve spent a month with the Leica Sofort Camera and Ive made an effort to remember to take it with me everywhere.

What have I learned? A lot. What have I achieved? More than I expected.

As a professional visual artist I’ve always found the need to create images which capture a moment or a scene. I’ve done this in watercolour, in photography and in film in the past, but this was my first foray into the world of instant photography. What I realise is, it has been a seamless integration with my exisiting work.

In recent years photography is so intangible and digital. We have cameras that can take a thousand images, only to be occasionally beaten by the optics of the latest smart phone. My iCloud library tells me I have taken nearly half a million photos with my various iPhones and digital cameras.

So that is kind of the issue, nearly 500,000 photos… and I don’t use them, see them, or look at them. Granted some are project specific and once that project is over they are redundant, some are memories that should I scroll back I can find. In this digital world though, they are not ‘real’.

Enter my beloved 120mm Film Cameras, My trusty Mamiya and my Noon Pinhole, to understand how much a film camera of this quality means to me have a read of this: https://artandtea.co.uk/2019/01/19/a-new-boyfriend/

My Pinhole camera is wonderfully random, It is perhaps the closest thing to a pandoras box for visual imaging, my 120mm camera is wonderful, I can achieve that ‘Film’ look, but it means lab processing which in turn means expense and time.

Enter the fuzzy, small and insanely satisfying world of instant photography. I somehow missed the Polaroid culture as an art student but always kept an eye for the ‘lomographic’ street styles of images.

I adored the Instax Mini film right away, I didn’t love any of my first film of photos. Fuzziness and exposure variables is part of the charm but some of my early shots were abysmal. Now though, I find i’m using the Instax Mini film professionally on work. 

I’ve put together some notes for others to use here, hopefully to save you time and the expense of film!

This is focused on my experience with the Leica Sofort instax Camera, but I believe the basics apply to all the others.

First, before you go ‘Joy Riding with a camera’, Charge the battery. Remember to pack the charger and any adapters you need if you’re going travelling.

Second, Pack extra film for the unexpected! Twice now I’ve been caught out with great opportunity for image making and lack of film. I now carry a spare Fujifilm Monotone B&W cartridge and a Leica Colour Film Cartridge with me. Having experimented, I prefer the warmer tones of the Leica colour film and the wonderful Monotone of the FujiFilm with it’s rich blacks. -Leica Monotone is a little bit sepia instead of black I’ve found through use. Fujifilm colour is cooler shades of colour. Thats just my preference but go with what you like best.

Don’t ruin the exposed photo!

Keep a small pocket album with your camera.

I always pack a small pocket album to put photos in while they are developing and after until I get home. This means they don’t get bent, scratched or ruined by being loose in a bag or pocket. My album was £1.99 inc. delivery on eBay and holds 36 photos. -Thats more than three film cartridges!

Be ready to take more than one shot

My first 10 photos were absolutely terrible. While I was discovering how to use the film and camera via trial and error, I was also worried about my dwindling film supply and the fact that each messed up shot was costing me money.

Here’s the top tips:

  • Remember the view finder doesn’t line up exactly with the lens, especially when close.
  • Don’t always use the flash.
  • Remember the exposure adjustment -AMAZINGLY HANDY
  • Use the mode settings to the fullest.
  • Don’t shoot too close (Unless it’s Macro Photography and with the right mode selected)
  • Far-off landscapes don’t work. But foreground to distance is amazing.
  • Aim to be 3 – 15 feet away
  • Bright light is good, but overcast is better.
  • Take two photos indoors, first with flash, second without.

Play!

Here is the fun part. What Ive realised is I’m not taking photos. I’m making an image. An image with its own format, content and creative quality. It is important to loose the idea of a ‘Good Photo’ and fully embrace the concept of ‘Painting with Light’. By doing this I’ve wasted less film, had a lot more fun, and I think, become a better photographer…. Or do I mean visual artist.

However you engage with instant photography recognise it as it’s own medium, it is instant, mindful and beautiful.