Not everyone wants to be an Ansel Adams or a Eugene Smith, and not all photographers can afford exotic cameras and lenses. For the very many who like to keep things simple, an Instamatic camera may be the best bet.
You may think it's not possible with such relatively light and unprofessional equipment to come up with a picture that will get attention. But you can. A photograph can be arresting - if the scene is pictorial, the angle right, the framing exact and the composition interesting.
After all a camera - any camera - is basically a light-tight box with a lens that focuses the image onto the light-sensitive film. It only records what the operator, the photographer, sees and extracts from the scene by eliminating unnecessary detail. This picture selection can be done with any camera. The quality differs depending on the type of equipment, but the basic picture is the same.
The mistake of most Instamatic users is that they are prejudiced against their cameras, they have an inferiority complex. Because they think they can't compete with fancy cameras, they don't try.
Yet, with the right techniques, they too could come up with prize-winning pictures.
I had a very humbling experience once on a National Geographic assignment to the south of France to cover a most exotic story. Each year in June all the gypsies of Europe gather at St. Marie Sur le Mer to honor the Black Virgin.
A writer colleague was assigned as well. Not a photographer, he carried an Instamatic. He stayed in the crush of the gypsy crowd on the floor of the church while I chose a balcony view to shoot the reliquary of the Virgin as it was lowered to the altar. I got my picture - after all, that's why the Geographic sent me - and it was a good one.
The writer stayed on the main floor in the crowd and took some photographs with his Instamatic. One of his pictures included a colorful group of gypsies. This picture, although not up to professional standards, was judged editorially important enough to run as a full-page illustration for the story. My photo ended up being published smaller than the blow-up of his Instamatic one.
Both pictures are in the National Geographic book "Gypsies, Wanderers of the World." His appears on pages 50/51 and mine on page 48. See which you like better. This was an example to me of the importance of content versus technique. Others who have found this out have used their Instamatic and box cameras to take "real pictures" instead of just snapshots.
If you want to convert your Instamatic from simple snapshooting to taking "real pictures," you won't need any added gadgets or new lenses - just follow these simple procedures:
Look before you take. Don't go snapping around; use your eyes and find a picture, then shoot.
Frame it just right. Move in closer or farther back and fit the exact image that you want. This way you're using all of the available miniature film, not depending on a portion to enlarge.
Hold the camera steady. The smaller the format the bigger the enlargement you have to make - consequently, the more loss in picture quality.