The Fujifilm instax line of cameras offers the best of both digital and analog photography: the gratification and old-fashioned feel of hard copy photos, as well as the speed and convenience of instant snapping and printing. With just a little know-how and practice, users can take stunning shots that will last for years in their photo albums.
For camera phone users who aren’t accustomed to analog photography, however, managing exposure and brightness settings can be a bit tough. Fortunately, a little understanding goes a long way. Here are a few pointers for managing exposure, avoiding overexposure and leveraging double exposure for artistic effect.
Mind Your Brightness Setting
Overexposure leads to washed-out, even completely white photos. On the other hand, underexposure causes excessive darkness. Put simply, these effects are caused by too much or too little exposure to a light source.
There are a variety of ways photographers account for over- and underexposure—studio lighting, shades, filters and sophisticated exposure settings, just to name a few. For the instax user, the best bet is to simply adjust the brightness setting.
The instax brightness setting is actually an aperture setting. The smallest settings let in the least light, while the largest settings (which are actually represented by the lowest “f-stop” numbers) let in the most light.
For example, the instax’s “Very Sunny” setting, which features an f-stop of 32, lets in the least amount of light—perfect for sunny days and clear skies. On the other hand, the Cloudy and Indoors settings are designed for darker environments, which will require a longer exposure.
When you’re adjusting your brightness setting, also remember that most instax models have an automatic flash. The flash’s brightness may effectively require a “darker” setting, so don’t be discouraged if the first shot doesn’t turn out quite the way you expect.
When to Use High Key
In addition to their normal brightness settings, instax cameras feature a “High Key” mode. Typically produced by sophisticated studio lighting and shading, High Key photography is designed to remove harsh shadows from photos taken in dim light, producing a softer, gentler look.
The instax can mimic this effect with a simple setting change, but be careful when and where you use it. In restaurants, clubs and other dimly lit settings, it can add tremendous depth and clarity to a photo. In broad daylight, however, it will almost always produce washed-out photos.
Your Subject’s Brightness
Your main light source isn’t the only thing that lights up your photos. Light reflects off every surface, and as professional photographers know, some subjects are far brighter and more reflective than others.
This doesn’t mean you have to forgo a photo, however! You just might find that certain subjects and settings can only be properly shot under certain conditions. If you’re indoors, it’s easy enough to control your lighting and angles. If you’re outdoors, however, the time of day and weather conditions are crucial. If your photos are consistently washed out at noontime, for instance, try coming back at dawn or dusk, or wait for some cloud cover.
Believe it or not, light and even temperature can affect the way your photos look after you’ve already taken them. Instant film, in particular, is subject to alteration when exposed to light immediately after development. To make sure your photos last, shield them from light by keeping them face-down or inside a pocket or container.
Extreme temperatures can also affect the way your photos turn out. Temperatures under about 12° C tend to cause overexposure and a green tint, while temperatures in excess of 27° C often have a yellow or red tint. Fortunately, you can mitigate these effects by keeping your film packs in either a warm coat pocket or a cool, dry room before shooting.
Using Overexposure and Double Exposure To Your Advantage
While overexposure and double exposure are often seen as photography mishaps, they can actually be used to your benefit! For example, overexposure can soften a photo, and in some cases it can actually deepen the contrast between light and dark subjects.
Likewise, double exposure can be used to superimpose one image on another. The instax Mini 90 actually features a double exposure mode, which is perfect for melding subject and background in ways not possible with traditional photography.