Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from my new e-book on creative portraiture, “Capturing the Face”. The book is subdivided into the 10 considerations we need to make when we approach a stylized portrait shoot. The full 44 page, $2.99 e-book is available for the Kindle here, and if you enjoyed this I encourage you to check out my image transfer workshop video tutorials on Skillshare!
This excerpt is taken from a section covering “Image Capturing Method”:
Each method of capture brings with it expectations and handicaps, a particular vibe that affects the entire image. Since I like surrealism in my imagery, using less traditional means of image capture adds surrealism without me having to introduce it in post via photoshop. My favorite camera at the time of this writing (September 2015) is the Fuji Neo Classic Instax Mini, which makes what could be described as a “half Polaroid”- a 2×3 instant film print. It also has additional controls that allow me to make in-camera double exposures, something that is unique among instant film cameras. It’s not very sharp and the image is small and physical, so I need to scan it or rephotograph it with my phone if I want to present it online.
The softness is actually an advantage, as it makes subjects look younger, eliminates unflattering lines, acne etc. When I photograph people with it, there is absolute delight on set as we wait to see if it was a keeper or trash. It’s both treasured and disposable. If a double exposure experiment ends up trash, we can course correct in a matter of minutes.
Another of my favorite methods of image capture is the scanner, which my subject has to lay on or directly place their face on. It is somewhat the polar opposite of the instant film in that it reveals every defect of someone scanned with it- every tiny hair, pore, wrinkle- shows up. Like the instant film cameras, we can see instant results on the computer screen and make course corrections if there are flaws going on. When we can see how the process is going, both the subject and myself get ideas on how to improve the work while making the work rather than in post, and it’s great.
I’ve owned many cameras over the decades and some did not really work out for me creatively. One that stands out is the Diana F, a plastic medium format camera that deliberately introduces light leaks, film winding issues, and other “adorable” defects.
Another camera that didn’t end up suiting my overall style is a 4×5 Graphlex- a 1940s sports camera made of metal, large and difficult to maneuver. It used expensive film that took a few minutes to compose, make manual exposure settings, insert film holder, pull dark slide, click shutter, re-insert dark slide… yawn. Any large camera leads to very stiff, formal compositions since the subject cannot move around much once the composition step is accomplished.
These cameras didn’t work for me but I have seen amazing stuff out of other people using the Diana F and Graphlex. The photographers felt a kinship with those cameras, felt their creativity sync with those tools, told themselves they would master these things no matter what. I wasn’t really into the instant film images until I told myself “I want to make amazing work with this camera”, researched what other artists had done, and pushed myself to take it seriously.