Secrets of Lo-Fi Photography

between an erupting earth and an exploding sky
Between An Erupting Earth And An Exploding Sky by Ashley Buress, Used With Permission.

Lo-fi photography is a style of photography generally using poor equipment, such as toy cameras or pinhole cameras, for stylistic effect. It is often considered a reaction to the perceived ease of creating technically perfect photos in the digital age. Generally the emphasis is on using film, rather than digital technology.

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Recently, I learned an important lesson about photography.  The camera does not make the photograph, the photographer does.  This concept has been intentionally dismissed by camera companies who insist that you need the latest, most high-tech, and expensive camera gear to create beautiful images.  Recently some photographers have become late adopters to the idea that beautiful images can be created with outdated and sub-standard camera gear.  Sadly, with the era of digital photography, film cameras are now slowly being considered lo-fi, as are Polaroid instant print cameras.

Perhaps the most notable lo-fi cameras include Dianas, Holgas, Lomos, and as far as digital is concerned, very low megapixel digital cameras.  The featured image at the very beginning of this article was provided for use by Ashley Buress, whose Flickr photostream (at the time of this writing) was almost completely filled with some very impressive lo-fi photography.  The remainder of the photos in this article were taken by me, using my Blackberry Curve 8530.

Stone PonyOld Man At The CounterNapkins Over The Parking LotThe Old General Store

Despite the artistic appeal of lo-fi photography, it can also have some practical uses.  A lot of folks feel the idea of carrying around a DSLR everywhere you go is a practical idea, however cell phones have become a vital accessory of modern life.  With the advent of camera phones (cellular phones with built-in cameras), the ability to have a camera with you at all times suddenly appeals to quite a lot more people.  As I mentioned earlier, the photos in this article were taken with a camera phone, which at roughly 2 megapixels, it qualifies as a lo-fi camera by todays standards.

It never ceases to amaze me how those with simple low-end cameras always dream of having the latest high-end cameras of their well-to-do counterparts.  And yet, even more amazing are the photographers who own the high-end equipment who look to those with toy cameras for advice on how to make their photographs look as if they were taken with lo-fi equipment.

The good news is that if you are lucky enough to own a modern DSLR, chances are you can step-down the resolution of your final image.  In other words, instead of your camera producing a 10 megapixel image, most modern DSLRs will allow you to set the resolution down to 5 megapixels, 2 megapixels, or further down.  Alternatively, there are a lot of people making a small fortune by selling Photoshop Actions that simulate lo-fi photography.

My photographic passion is grunge photography.  In future posts, I’ll discuss ways of turning high-end digital photographs into photographs that look as if they were taken using lo-fi cameras.

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