A delicious analog-y for proper exposure - Getting to know Lomo (part 1)


I'm new to analog photography and still learning how to use my first camera, a Wide & Slim. I'm trying to teach myself about proper exposure, using Hometown Buffet as a light source.

Before I was given my Wide & Slim in November, I hadn’t touched a film camera in years. The last ones I used were disposables and are probably still rotting in a shoebox somewhere. In film school, we used digital video cameras, which do have some similarities, but I’m still a complete n00b. When I got my W&S, I was so excited to start that I just snapped away my first four rolls without even thinking about exposure. Those numbers on the film package meant zip to me. That’s when I ended up with images like this.

I realized I had to start making educated decisions for my photos.

I understand aperture and shutter speed in theory, but my first Lomo camera is basic and these are not adjustable. And that’s a good thing because I can’t even handle the one choice I do have to make – film speeds. bcartwright probably spent over an hour trying to explain it to me, and I still can’t get it. I think I’m confused mainly because of the very first roll I took with my Wide & Slim. I shot on a very sunny Arizona day and I swear I used 800 speed film. I didn’t know it then, but now I’m told that 800 is way too fast for so much light. In theory, the photos should be too light, but they came out very dark and rich. So I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m either remembering wrong, or something happened in development at the CVS.

So as I’m coming to terms with: too much light does indeed make it too light, I’m trying out different analogies to help it stick. I was thinking maybe doing something with Pacman or Mario – how each of them can go into faster/more dangerous mode and thus eat more dots/grab more coins. But it fell flat somewhere. So it’s not as fun, but the best one so far has to do with eating, and was inspired by something bcartwright said somewhere during that hour of explanation.

So, there’s two guys at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You don’t wan them to leave hungry, but you also want to avoid food coma. They’re each given plates – they can have as many as they want, but guy A only gets a little tea dish, while guy B gets a gigantic platter. If they both have the same amount of time and eat at the same speed, guy B will be more full than guy A, who will have to keep getting up for more. This is aperture. The more open your aperture is, the more light can get in.

Alright, there’s a couple of chicks there, too. They both get normal size plates, as many as they want. But Chick A gets there an hour before closing, and Chick B gets there only 20 minutes before closing. With the same plates, and eating at the same speed, the chick who’s there longer gets more full by closing time. That’s shutter speed. The longer the window is open, the more light can come in.

Those are the easy ones for me. Here’s the tough one. This time, there’s a couple of trannies at Hometown Buffet. They both have the same size plates and have the same amount of time, but Trannie A eats like a bird, and Trannie B eats like a pig. By the end, Trannie B will have gobbled up more food than Trannie A.

So having a big plate, a lot of time, and speed-eating skillz will make you bust a gut.
Just like having an open aperture, a slow shutter speed, and fast film will blow your photo to white.
And having a small plate, little time and eating slowly will leave you feeling empty inside.
Your film will feel just as empty when very little light gets inside.

Here’s one I took with 200 speed film in a dimly lit room – definitely not enough light for my slow eater.

So we have to find a happy balance. If you eat slow, make sure you have enough time. If your plate is really big, maybe slow your (dinner) roll.

But for me, the only option I have is how fast my film eats up light. How do I figure out what speed to choose? One more piece to the analog-y.

I’m at Hometown Buffet. I’ve got 45 minutes and a normal plate. But oh no! There doesn’t appear to be very much food! And the other patrons are mobbing for it – there wont be enough left for me!!!! I better elbow my way in there like it’s Black Friday and grab me some grub AS FAST AS I CAN!

In low light conditions, I’ll need a faster speed film to grab up what little light there is. On the other hand, if there’s a lot of light, I’ll want a slower speed so that I don’t take too much in and make it washed out. I can’t think of a Hometown Buffet analogy for that, but I imagine that the “gluttony” victim in Se7en probably tried to eat slower, hoping to buy himself time before he erupted. But of course, Kevin Spacey wouldn’t allow it.

I decided I had to learn this because 1) I don’t want people to figure out what a n00b I am, and 2) I wanted to try doing double exposures. So the plan is to shoot in low light (sunrise, sunset) with a slow speed film. That way it’s like second helpings for my still-hungry slow eater. Wish me luck on that.

Now, can someone please explain to me how this happened on a sunny day with 800 speed film?

written by lizbradley3 on 2011-06-09 in #gear #tipster #aperture #n00b #new #exposure #available-light #film-speeds #shutter-speed


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    ha ha, I like your "Buffet explanations and you're right about it! :) And about this 800 iso shot, well, that's part of the analog mystery and unpredictness: sometimes you absolutely don't understand why this film with this camera in this lightconditions did react like that. A lot of things can make your shot, from the chemical reaction of the film and the "behaviour" of your camera, to the process of the negative and the scanning of the picture ... sometimes it happens for bad (I sometimes had some 100 iso films totally overexposed and burned without knowing why?) or for the best (like your 800 iso shot). That's analogue, and that's what we all like about it, you can't exactly explain precisely why this shot came out like that and surprises are the best thing in analogue shooting! :)

  2. chethong
    chethong ·

    Like your comments, vicuna :) That's the exact reason why we love it so much!

  3. moonswallow
    moonswallow ·

    Oh, I have the same problem remembering the difference about aperture and shutter speed and whether bigger 'f' is smaller/bigger hole, etc. Can't remember how often I have to keep reading tutorials and tips but now it's slowly sticking into my head! But it's certainly easier to remember with analogy thinking and yours is a good one :-)

  4. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    To attempt to answer your question:

    The UWS has a fixed aperture, and it's supposedly set around f8-f11, but with plastic cameras there's a good chance your aperture is nowhere near the proposed aperture. I have seen lots of great shots taken on iso800 film in the daytime.

    The method I used to memorise the aperture thing is: The higher the number, the more of the blade is covering the lens.

  5. holydarkyfied
    holydarkyfied ·

    Here's my theory: one hour labs always try to make your pictures to look nice so they play with it on their PC. At least that's what the lab lady told me when I rold her not to change the colors on my prints when I ask for a x-pro. So if it was eavenly overexposed on all your roll, maybe with their kodak softwares they made it look properly exposed. Search on google for the Sunny16 rule and adapt your choice of film to the weather. Best of luck.

  6. lizbradley3
    lizbradley3 ·

    Thank you, holydarkyfied! That makes sense!

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