How many of you own this camera? The Instax Mini 8?
Now, how many of you have taken photos with this baby and said, "What the heck? This thing doesn't work right!"
Ummm. I have.
In fact, I was so sure my first Mini 8 was broken I bought another one.
And guess what? The first few photos I took with the new one made me think that one was broken, too!
My photos were soooooooo dark! They looked horrible!
I figured there must be something I was doing wrong...no way could I have gotten two cameras that didn't work properly, right?
So I sat down and tried to figure out just what was going on.
And I think I may have solved my problem...
...after dozens (and dozens) of failed photos I found that making this camera operate properly comes down to just a few things...that dial, those icons & that little red light.
So let's start at the beginning...and stick with me here - because unless you already have a brain for how photography works (which I don't) some of this stuff may seem counterintuitive.
OK...so (in very simple terms) we all probably know that the more light your camera lets in when it takes a photo, the brighter your photo will be, right?
And, again in very simple terms, the way your camera lets in more light is to open the aperture wider or to keep the shutter open longer...
...still with me?
So, with this little instant camera, the shutter speed is fixed. That means we can't change how long the shutter remains open. The only way to let more light into the camera (and thus to make our photos brighter) is to change how wide the shutter opens (how big the aperture is).
When you open/turn on the Instax Mini 8 and you're getting ready to take a photo, you will notice a red light come on above one of those little icons. This red light tells you how much light the camera is sensing, and thus, how much light the camera will let in. For example, if it senses lower lighting conditions ("cloud" or "house"), it will let more light in so that your photo will be exposed properly. And, conversely, if it senses more light ("sun" or "bright sun") it will let in less light so that you don't overexpose your photo.
And, for the most part, the Mini 8 does a good job of sensing what the aperture should be.
But - and this is important - you can't forget to turn your camera dial to match that lamp setting. In other words...if you are getting ready to take a photo and you see that the "sun" lamp is lit, make sure to turn your dial to the "sun" to match. This is something I didn't even know I had to do when I had my first camera...and, because I never did, most of my photos were absolutely horrible - either they were underexposed to the point they were almost black or they were completely blown out.
This is something you will need to check before you take each and every photo. It only takes a second and I promise your photo quality will improve.
Now, what if your photos are looking better but you will want them even brighter?
Well, you can't change which lamp lights up, but you can override it. You can tell the camera to let in more (or less) light depending on how you like your photos to look.
How do you do that? Here's where things get a little tricky...
To take a photo that is brighter than the setting the camera automatically sets itself to, you must turn your camera dial down to the darker icon.
OK...let me try to explain that better.
Let's say you go outside to take a photo and your camera senses it's a bit cloudy and lights the "cloud" lamp...but you want your photo to be brighter than what may be taken automatically. Simply turn your camera dial down to the "house" icon. Turning your dial down or to what seems like the darker setting will tell your camera that your conditions are actually darker than it thinks they are...and that it needs to widen the aperture to let in more light.
Hmm. Got that?
Let's consider my example here:
When I stepped out onto my porch to take the photos above, my camera lit up the lamp above "bright sun."
I, in turn, set my camera dial to "bright sun" and snapped the photo on the right. In essence, for this photo, I told the camera "I trust you to let in the right amount of light. You say "bright sun" so I'll say "bright sun.""
In the photo on the left, I told the camera, "I think you may be wrong...I want my photo to be even brighter, so I'm going to make you think there is less light out here than there really is. I'm going to set my dial to "sun" and I want you to let more light in." The result is obvious...the one on the left, the one that was taken with the wider aperture is brighter.
In short: Want a brighter photo outside? Turn your dial down one click from the lit lamp.
Now let's consider how to get brighter photos inside your house.
When I stepped back inside to take these photos in my living room, the "house" lamp lit up.
I took my first sets of photos with my camera dial turned to "house," just like the camera told me to do. The flash helps a bit inside, but I'd really like my photos to not be so dark.
So, from what I'd learned, to get a brighter photo, I needed to turn my dial down to a darker setting, right?
But there is no lower (darker) setting than "house!"
That's where the "HI-KEY" setting comes in to play. You can see in the examples above that by turning my dial to "HI-KEY" I was able to take inside photos with a higher exposure.
For brighter photos inside, set your camera dial to "HI-KEY."
Now here's a photo I took 3 different times with 3 different dial settings:
This set of pics was taken on my front porch...one right after the other. Each time I took this photo, the "cloud" icon lamp was lit on my camera.
Turning the camera dial to "house" told the camera to let more light in (thus making my photo brighter)...turning it to "sun" told the camera to let in less light (making my photo darker).
Here are a few things to remember when using this camera:
- 1. You can't turn off the flash. Don't bother trying, it can't be done.
- 2. The focal range of this camera is 2-8 feet. Anything closer or further away than this will probably not be sharply focused.
- 3. Outdoor shots usually turn out better than indoor ones with the Mini 8.
- 4. If you do use your Instax to take photos inside, try to take your photos in a well-lit room, or turn your camera dial to "HI-KEY" to allow for more highly exposed photos.
- 5. Try to stay away from using the "HI-KEY" setting outside. This will likely (completely) overexpose your photos.
- 6. When in doubt, turn your camera dial to match the lamp that is lit.
So there you have it...a quick rundown on how to take better photos with your Instax.
If it's at all possible, I would recommend buying a package of film sheets with which to practice. After just a few shots you should have a feel for exactly what you need to do to capture your photo.
And one very important thing to keep in mind when using your Mini 8...you will most likely not get super-high quality photos using this camera. It's an instant camera after all...no previews, no editing, no second chances. You get what you get.
But I think that's also what makes taking photos with this camera so cool. There's something incredibly nostalgic and wonderful about the photos that come from the Mini 8...and, now that I (sorta) know what I'm doing with it, it will be coming with me on many more adventures.
Grab that Instax and capture some memories!
*frame shown above is Heidi's new Instax Magnetic Easel
SUPPLIES: FujiFilm Instax Mini 8, Heidi Swapp Black/White Instax Camera Strap, Heidi Swapp Instax Magnetic Easel - all items found at Michaels Stores