The "Rule of Thirds" was invented to keep The Man's boot on your neck

I’ve been a huge instant film buff for a while, and only recently have I gotten into Fujifilm’s non-discontinued Instax mini (RIP Fuji 100c and Fuji 3000b peel apart instant film). It is of course the least cost-effective way to shoot photos, but there’s something just so satisfying about the marriage of instant gratification and the look of film.

Instax from this weekend I haven’t scanned yet

Instax from this weekend I haven’t scanned yet

Normally, I’m walking around with the hulking Nikon D850, but lately I’ve been walking around with my new favorite camera, the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. It’s capable of double-exposures (the reason I bought it), and I actually love the tiny Instax mini film that it uses. When I shoot regular Polaroid film, I can’t fit my shots in a shirt pocket, so I usually awkwardly carry it around. These instax minis fit perfectly in my pockets and are easy to tote around.

There’s something magical about instant film, something I don’t get with digital. I love digital and always will, but the sterile-ness of it gets old, especially concerning photos of Anna that I’m always shooting. I’ve managed to keep digital fresh by using new weird techniques, but ability to more easily break “photography regulation” with the Mini 90 camera is really a treat. It’s a refreshing addition to my camera arsenal.

The day we witnessed the Totality, shot totally inaccurately. (no prism used for this shot by the way)

The day we witnessed the Totality, shot totally inaccurately. (no prism used for this shot by the way)

I get that we all carry phones with cameras everywhere we go now, but we forget how personality-less phone cameras can be. If you want to simply document or record moments, great, but there’s something magical about carrying around a camera designed for (somewhat low-quality) snapshots. It’s a piece of society that we don’t enjoy anymore, and one that was kind of special. I think it also creates a better environment for more interesting work.

I resent the “Smartphone Camera Wars” in that it is designed around this idea of “the perfect photo”. What even is a perfect photo? To society, and unfortunately, most photographers, they would tell you that the perfect photo has excellent detail and exposure. As long as you can see every grain of sand in a shot, then that’s a good camera that takes really great photos.

And don’t get me wrong, I love having a camera thats can capture amazing detail, but that is something that advances with time no matter what, and “more detail” works against the personality (or whatever’s left of it) of the cameras of the digital age. There’s no surprise or delight when a film stock has a weird color to it, it has just exactly recorded what you just saw.

I really dislike seeing when photography becomes this boring, “Who Can More Accurately Depict This Landscape” (I’m talking strictly fine-art photography, I make a living accurately depicting things sometimes) thing. I want to mold and shape what’s in front of me, not simply record it. This is also why I find the 35mm focal length boring for portraits or wedding photography; it just isn’t striking or different. I much more enjoy a crazy 24mm focal length for portraits, which is by many’s opinion (although I do see 24mm becoming more popular recently), the wrong way to shoot portraits.

In regards to maybe wedding photos or the portraits that I tend to shoot, this is the order of which I care about the process and equipment:

Drinking beer in some other dimension. Shot this while watching an Auburn football game last year

Drinking beer in some other dimension. Shot this while watching an Auburn football game last year

Focal Length- This determines the amount of drama I’m able to portray in a photo. I only stick with 4 focal lengths really ever: 16mm, 24mm, 85mm, and 105mm.

Composition- How can I use my Focal Length in an interesting way? If I’m double exposure-ing, where are both images going to fall? The Man only invented the “rule of thirds” to keep his boot on your neck.

Color- Is there a dominant color where I’m shooting? I’m looking for drama in focal length as well as drama in color. I only ever use black and white if it will help the image, never “just cuz”.

Exposure- How can I “incorrectly” expose a photo better? The exposure is totally in play to making a creative image, there’s not one, constant way to expose something. Sometimes, under-exposing makes and image better, and sometimes blowing out the highlights makes it more striking. I’m not above either way.

Sharpness- is it in focus? Good, done. I’m not looking to be able to see everyone’s pores all the time.

Well, crap. I actually adhered to The Rule of Thirds pretty well here. Bummer.

Well, crap. I actually adhered to The Rule of Thirds pretty well here. Bummer.

I’m able to think with this process using my Instax Mini 90 as well (sharpness be damned). The only thing I’ve really struggled with is composition only because it isn’t a Single Lens Reflex, which means when I look through the viewfinder, I’m not seeing the point of view of the lens, but rather slightly to the left or right of it (depending on camera orientation). I keep shooting my photos slightly to the side of what I intend because I keep forgetting to compensate for it.

Believe it or not, there is some exposure control on this camera, and it’s probably been one of the most fun parts about it. You can choose Lighten, Lighten+, and Darken, which does make a difference in how I shoot double exposures. The weird glow photos get from being a little too blown out has ended up being kind of cool to me.

The way I take photos has almost nothing to do with the technical rules of photography. I find the more I adhere to the popular opinion of what Exposure, Focal Length, and Composition are supposed to be, the more bland my photos are. That said, taking good, original photos does require knowledge of these basic rules, because breaking them offers great prompts for making better work.

You gotta learn your scales before you can shred.