It all started when her mother got her a Barbie Polaroid when she was 15. Since then, Las Vegas-based photographer Gaby Jeter has been using Instant photography in her work, personal projects, and everyday life. But what sets Gaby apart from other photographers is her Instax wedding photography. Spontaneous elopements, romantic gatherings in the desert, and intimate City Hall ceremonies, Gaby captures those raw moments on Instant film, to then share them with the newlyweds and guests, and extend the happiness a bit more. With only ten pictures at a time, she makes each shot count, but not by thinking too much about it, on the contrary.
With her Lomo' Instant Wide, Gaby has gone through hundreds of packs to this day, with no two pictures ever looking the same. And she doesn't intend to stop anytime soon. Alongside her wedding photography, she's shooting Boudoir style pictures, on Instax, always. We asked Gaby to tell us more about how to shoot with Instax especially in settings as challenging as weddings.
Hello Gaby, welcome to Lomography! First, can you tell us when and how did you start shooting with instant film professionally?
I added instant photography to my wedding packages very early on. I knew instant photos were something that I wanted to be known for. This was well before it was as trendy and popular as it is now - but I’m glad that so many people have recognized how much fun they are and want to share in the joy. In times where digital photography transactions can be so limited to the digital world, it feels great to be able to provide something tangible that my clients can hold in their hands and pass around to friends and family. In order to show someone your photo - you have to physically show them. I like that.
Do you remember the first wedding you shot on Instax? Could you describe the experience for us?
The first wedding I shot on Fuji Instax was in 2011. A couple from Australia was getting married in Vegas and I wanted to be able to give them something to take home with them since they had traveled so far. I knew their photos wouldn’t be delivered for another few weeks, so I used the Instax as a sneak preview image to give the couple. It was so much better than just a cell phone shot! They were blown away that I had shot it and loved receiving it so much that I knew I was on to something.
Having a bulky instant camera on my shoulder always piques a lot of interest from wedding attendees who see me shooting them. I get a lot of “I didn’t know they still make those!” and it’s always a conversation starter. People really enjoy watching their little photo develop and love showing it off.
What’s the most challenging aspect of photographing weddings with Instant film?
Lighting! Specifically, not being able to control the camera settings to have the ideal exposure is unpredictable, low-light situations. Light, especially outdoors, is so tricky to get right with Instax – the image is either too bright or too dark. Not having the ability to manually focus, or adjust settings like aperture and shutter speed, add to the challenge and complexity.
It’s also a bit difficult to balance shooting analog and instant film - I’m usually dangling many cameras around my neck like a Christmas tree and trying not to damage them! I’m lucky to work with some great second shooters and assistants who help a bunch, but it’s still a lot to juggle! I’m very mobile when shooting and frequently going to multiple locations. The practical challenge about doing so is the amount of waste that gets produced with shooting Instax film - the dark slide, cartridges, wrappers, and boxes. I solve this problem by having a reusable bag close by in my fanny pack or backpack just for the trash. Leave no trace!
Could you describe to us how you prepare your gear and get ready to shoot a wedding?
I typically get ready the night before a shoot since I’m always anxious to forget something or have a faux-pas day off. I’ve learned the hard way! I used to use a physical checklist but at this point I have it memorized. I walk through each of my camera bodies, lenses, accessories, batteries, and film. I’ll try to predict any hiccups based on the locations, especially my knowledge of the lighting there. It sounds like it takes a long time, but I have the process down at this point!
I have a carefully organized Herschel fanny pack that I love. I couldn’t shoot a wedding without it. I keep helpful items like tissues, a miniature sewing kit with scissors, and snacks in it. I unwrap the film cartridges beforehand so I can store more of them in my bags. I can reload like I’m in an action movie! (Usually, as I’m swearing under my breath and hoping there’s not a jam.) I use a customized Pelican tote for safekeeping my cameras when I travel. I also use a Vinta backpack that offers lightweight protection for my cameras and travels well. It has a large zippered back to open the whole thing up to see everything at a glance so I can grab what I need.
With only 10 shots per pack, you must think hard before pressing the shutter. How do you know when it’s the right moment to do it?
Take a chance and pull the trigger! Instax is so affordable that I’m definitely guilty of shooting first and asking questions later, to be honest. It’s why I go through so much film. Most times I’m pretty happy with the outcome, though. Knowing when to shoot during weddings does become a bit of a sixth sense that you hone over time, learning to forecast when a special moment is incoming. Sometimes it takes you by surprise and happens so fast, being ready and paying attention makes a difference! Right place at the right time, you know? I also like to make my subjects laugh a little - so I’ll have my camera ready when I know I have a joke or funny comment that will get a good reaction. I love to capture genuine laughs and smiles. It takes a lot of practice!
Any tips & tricks you learned while shooting that you would like to share with our readers?
If you miss a shot or a moment, don’t get too down on yourself. It’s okay to tell your subjects to freeze, hold it, do it again, or do it differently. In a year they won’t remember that it wasn’t the first time, but they will remember the beautiful image they receive! So much of my style of photography is working with people who aren’t used to being photographed to open up and give you what you’re looking for. Photographing people is as much a social art as it is the art of the camera and film itself - you have to make people feel comfortable, grab their attention, be assertive and confident with your directions.
Specifically, with regard to the Lomography Wide camera, make sure you look at your focusing ring before you fire! There’s close-up, 5-feet, and infinity - so you want to make sure you didn’t forget to choose the right one for what you’re shooting - or you risk your shot being out of focus.
Also, can’t emphasize lighting enough, especially outdoors. For backlight situations, using a flash on your subject will prevent them from being too silhouetted by Instax’s light meter wanting to capture all the backlight.
Lastly, always bring extra film! You just might regret it if you don’t!
written by tamarasaade on 2020-04-15