Butterflies aflutter, pollen in the air and clear blue skies – seems like nothing could go wrong as you went out with your camera for a Lomo shoot, until exposing a few frames later, it suddenly rained and you found yourself back in your dark and dingy rat hole. So what to do? Light up some neon for something fun, says our Tipster of the week!
submitted by j_robert
A set of tips I’ve gathered for Lomographers interested in low-light shooting, artificial light sources, time exposures, and light painting.
The sun is often a Lomographer’s best friend. It can illuminate your subjects in dynamic ways and can often provide the most mind-blowing lens flares you ever thought possible. However, its only natural for a Lomographer to eventually explore the night. People like kylethefrench have made a lot of progress in illuminating the dark with LED’s, blacklights, and flashes. I’ve embarked on a few experiments of my own as well. Here are some tips I’ve collected that will hopefully encourage you to bring out your favorite camera, long after the sun’s gone down:
Slow it down
Let’s start with the basics: Film speed is very important for low-light shooting, it is also important not to overcompensate. The fastest film I generally choose to shoot with is 400 ISO. If you’re using a flash, 400 ISO is probably fast enough, but keep in mind that color filters reduce light. A slower ISO keeps the film grain less visible, and also helps you avoid over exposure if you’re doing time exposures. For my recent experiments, I chose to use Fuji Sensia 200 ISO with a Lomography Diana Mini, and Fuji Superia Reala 100 ISO with a Pentax K-1000. These films are flexible, and often result in great colors. While you shoot, keep your film speed in mind so that you know the limitations and capabilities of your film stock, but never hesitate to experiment.
There are a number of tools I recommend that are reasonably priced, and can electrify your low-light Lomography. A tripod is very helpful, and allows you to keep a crisp image over a long exposure. If you can’t access a tripod, us a flat surface to keep your camera static. A cable release is also infinitely useful. Lomography’s cable release features a locking mechanism which enables you to do long exposures by yourself. Just set your camera on Bulb setting, lock down the cable release, and let anything unfold before the lens. Colored lights and LED’s are my favorite shooting tools. I found an LED flashlight with three color filters for under $10, as well as a Blacklight for under $10. These lights aren’t your only options though. Play with anything including disco balls, mirrors, and strobes. TV screens and electronics also emit unique types of lights. The Diana F+ Flash is great accessory. It not only allows you to place multiple highlights and ghosts in your images, but it also functions as a red light for paintings once it’s charged. I love the saturated colors and psychedelic effects that all these tools can create.
Keep an open mind
Now once you’re ready to start your own nocturnal exploration, try not to limit yourself or avoid creative avenues. Not every exposure is a success, but failures ensure the future rolls to be that much better. During my experiments, I focused particularly on saturated colors, black lighting, and energetic light movement. Like kylethefrench often explore lyrical images, sensual images, camera modifications, humor, and even pictoral light paintings. Get your friends involved and have a good time, or spend some alone time and go crazy!
Mind the aperture
When I shot with the Diana Mini, I knew that my exposure’s where going to be fairly long, but I also didn’t have the option of using a smaller aperture. With this in mind, I tried to do my paintings quickly, and avoided using more than one flash per exposure. Although the Diana Mini is simple, it’s wide angle lens and half frame settings create very interesting effects. If you’re looking for a more advanced and technical method though, consider your aperture. Premium analog cameras often give you the option of aperture size. I played with this technique while using my favorite camera, my grandfather’s old Pentax K-1000. I shot most of my light paintings with this camera at F8 or F11, even a few on F16 (F-stops decrease in size as their numbers increase. F8 allows half as much light into the camera as F5.6). A small aperture keeps your image sharp, and permits deeper focus (depth of field) within the frame. Keep in mind though that it limits the amount of light reaching the film, so a much longer exposures are necessary. With a small aperture, light sources sometimes flare and turn into tiny star-like shapes. A large aperture is advantageous in its own right. Using practical lights such as lamps can create shallow-focused, soft, abstract images and even allows you to ditch the tripod for awhile.
This is my final suggestion… If you’ve shot an entire roll of low-light exposures, and you want to be sure that the results will do the experiences justice, consider push processing. This developing process compliments a choice a low ISO film, such as my Sensia 200 and Reala 100. However, you want to be sure that all of your exposures are a bit under exposed. Push Processing can often blow out an image, so keep that in mind. Push Processing yields higher contrast and color saturation. It also works well with a small aperture technique. This process isn’t always easy on the wallet, but most places that develop films provide it as an option. So, if you’re ever curious and want to take your Lomos to the next level, give it push.
These images I’ve provided are shot with 100 and 200 ISO, and then each pushed one stop during developing.
That concludes my list of low-light Lomo tips. I hope you found this helpful, and I look forward to seeing more explorations of the night here on Lomography Society. Just remember to have fun while you play in dark.