I love lomo photography.
You may not know this, because I have put none on my site. But trust me when I say I do. Like black and white photos, lomo strips photos back to their composite elements and makes them a study in light shape and texture. But what lomo has over black and white photos is lots of surreal colour and distortion effects. Plus a nice healthy dose of vintage nostalgia.
So you may be like me here. You love the look and feel of lomo photography, but you own a DSLR that takes very modern super sharp images. Maybe you don’t own a Holga, or maybe you need to create a lomo inspired photo, but you need to be absolutely sure of what you are creating with creative control over each element. Whatever your need, you will unfortunately need to know some little technical details about lomos and how they take puctures, and what efects we are trying to simulate.
For this tutorial you need a modern copy of Photoshop or Gimp; I’m using CS4. I won’t be giving exact details on this tutorial, but a general idea of how to create the effect and why we do it, so you can replicate it and tweak it to your own needs. Let’s get started…
Let’s look at some traits of lomo photography first,
1. Lomo cameras were invented during the 70s in Japan as an inexpensive way for poor people to be able to take pictures. The cameras were built cheaply with plastic bodies AND plastic lenses. They had poor quality components and finish, often having areas that were out of focus, and over time they would leak light too. Their users hated them, but photographers found merit and charm in the poor quality images.
2. Today a ‘good’ lomo camera is as poor quality as the original cameras. If you spend more then £10 on one, then it is too good! Put it down… The word ‘lomo’ is short of ‘lomography’. the word was coined by the manufacturer of the popular Lomo Cameras during the 1980s. The name has become synonymous with the technique and visual traits of lomography. Much in the same way everyone started calling vacuum cleaners ‘Hoovers’. in this tutorial, the word ‘lomo’ is used to mean ‘lomography’
Lomography has some common traits which we are going to try and simulate. Let’s go through them one by one,
Having small plastic lenses and poor quality film, the exposure range of lomo cameras is typically very low. To stop overexposure, the user may have to expose for strong highlights in a scene, and this gives us deep shadows and crushed blacks.
The strange colouring we get in lomography is caused by a number of things, but largely it is caused by improper white balance, and cheap or wrong type film stock. Sometimes cross processing is used in the dark room to produce strange, stripped back colour treatments.
Any blurring that is not motion blur is caused by the poor quality plastic lens. Sometimes these would be out of focus, and would create areas of blur spotting in the photo.
4. Light Leak + Vignettes
As mentioned already, over time the body of a Lomo would wear down and light would leak into the film box. This creates areas of intense streaks and flares across photos. Vignettes are darkened areas around the edge of a frame caused by either lenses being in the way, or a filme stock too large for the camera being used. More on that later.
5. Lens Types
Often a lomo was given either a 50mm lens, or a fish-eye lens. Lens type is not something we can digitally simulate unfortunately. If you want a fish eye effects on your photo, simply shoot with a fish eye. 50mm lenses are used because they simulate the natural zoom of the human eye, so places and people look completely natural and not distorted.
7. Multiple Exposure
Again, not something we can really simulate unless you have used a front facing flash attachment for your image. Often images would be shot through flash filters to give then strange colour casts, and even different colours during multi shot exposures.
9. Noise + Dust
The noise in lomo is normally caused by low quality film stock, or having to use a high ISO for shooting conditions. The dust is created by dust either on the lens or the film stock. Dust on the lens is out of focus, and any on the film is seen as specks of colour.
10. 35mm adapted
Sometimes, a photographer will decide to retrofit their camera with 35mm to get a bigger frame. The result is a rather pleasing effect where the entire film roll including the sprocket holes is exposed on, instead of just a square portion.