Gracefully Cheating the Hip Shot


In which our hero toys with a classic only to find her nigh untameable. Or, gaining some control when shooting from the hip.

I’ve found myself on a bit of a binge of late. While perusing eBay last month, I found a gentleman selling a lot of 3 Smena 8M cameras. As the bid was still quite low I decided to keep an eye on it. After a good deal of patience and some careful sniping I landed the lot for just under 30 USD with shipping. I was thrilled. I’d shot with the Diana Mini and I’d played a bit with La Sardina, but the Smena 8M; she’s a classic.

Through a bit of research I noted that the viewfinder is pretty much useless. This was a bit disconcerting as I’m somewhat of a control freak and I really like the framing aspect of photography. But, when in Rome, no? So, the first roll of film I shot “from the hip.” A few shots were taken with little regard to how the lens aimed only that it was pointed in the general direction of the subject. Not all the shots turned out well, in my opinion. I like this random feel, but I like composure more.

To compensate for this lack of control I took a second look at the camera a third of the way through the roll, trying to figure out how on earth I could finagle a sort of viewfinder onto this contraption. What I found, though, was still on the “shoot from the hip” side of things but with a logical twist.

On the back of the Smena is a pin that holds the film pressure plate to the back door.

This pin seems to run linearly through the camera and out the center of the lens (or near abouts). After utilizing this tactic my shots seemed to improve.

Still, I wanted as much control as possible. So, before I shot another roll of film through the camera I purchased a Holga waist-level viewfinder that attaches to the hotshoe of a camera, making it effectively universal to any camera with a hotshoe (on the top of the camera… attaching it to the shoe of, say, a Lubitel 166 would just be silly).

The hotshoe on the Smena isn’t exactly centered, but it’s significantly closer to center than the viewfinder. And, the view of the viewfinder isn’t the same as the viewing angle of the lens, but it gets you there. So, effectively, you’re still kind of “shooting from the hip,” but with a tad more finesse. And in TLR form, you’re literally shooting from the hip with the placement of the camera.

The second roll of film (Redscaled 400 this time) turned out much better, I think. Sure, there were some badly framed shots (mostly because I’m a bit impatient and I really wanted to see how the shots on the roll would turn out so I kind of burned through a few shots). And of course, there was yet another obstacle to overcome with this new technique:

As with my other TLRs I need a neck strap to stabilize it. How more of my pictures didn’t turn out like this is beyond me.

But all in all, the rest of the shots composed quite well.

So, take a look at that camera you’re shooting from the hip and see if there’s some sort of device you could make use of on the camera body itself to gain you a bit more control. Or, get yourself a Holga waist-level viewfinder and get even more control. Happy shooting!

written by rrohe on 2011-08-13 #gear #tutorials #camera #tipster #smena-8m-redscale-blur-holga-waist-level-viewfinder


  1. domo-guy
    domo-guy ·

    I like picture number 5. :D

  2. robotmonkey1996
    robotmonkey1996 ·

    Or you could just look through the viewfinder.

  3. rrohe
    rrohe ·

    @robotmonkey1996 I suppose you could, but the viewfinder is set off on the far left side of the camera, about 2-3 inches off center, thus skewing framing

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