What is lomography?

Svetlana November 11 2021

Lomo-what? Understanding Lomography isn't easy. Some of our members call themselves beginners. Some of them say they've been doing it for years, and some seem like natural-born lomographers. We have all ages, backgrounds, interests, and professions represented in the community. Still, everyone has one thing in common: Lomo'holic! There are few other words you'll hear so often at a Lomo event than this word describing people obsessed with their analog photography addiction.

Piece of history

Lomographic Society International was founded in 1992 by a group of Austrian photographers. Its main activities are organizing parties, workshops, and exhibitions; making cameras and other photographic accessories; publishing books and magazines about Lomography and analog photography.

Lomography is not a school or an art movement as such, it's more about this special feeling of doing something creatively spontaneous and yet sometimes puzzlingly random.

It was established by three former students from Vienna University  - Andrei Medvedev, Dmitriy Mendeleev, and Elena Chernyshova - who had enough courage to "put an end to all this digital madness" (and still shoot on film) and continued to do what they love the most - taking pictures. In a perfect example of "fun before profit", Lomo developed from those roots, and despite having been founded as a commercial company it has become an international non-profit organization with over 9000 members in more than 40 countries around the world, who are united by their passion for analog photography. 

The Society is still run on volunteer work. Andrei Medvedev takes care of product designs, Dmitriy Mendeleev is responsible for the website and Elena Chernyshova does all the PR stuff (and sometimes even helps with designing).

Where does this word come from?

The first Lomo cameras were manufactured by the Russian company LOMO. As we've already mentioned, our community was founded in Austria and people began to use the first letters of ' LOMO ' in order to describe their informal way of shooting analog photos. Then some people started calling themselves lomographers , but still, there was no proper definition for this word, so they all decided to create one:

'We define Lomography as an analog approach to photography focusing on process, idea, and intuition as opposed to the final product. Lomography is not an industry, but rather a non-profit organization that promotes creative photography through international exchange, lomo schools and publications.'

So now we know that Lomography is not something people do but something they call themselves: 'Lomo'holic's'. Some of them refer to this term as ' LOMOmania ', and we believe it represents all our common interests in analog photography.

What do we love so much about analog photos? Because we can't compare or measure them with anything else, because they're unique and don't need any digital computer manipulation - just like us! (We're the real thing!) The best thing about most of us is that we're obsessed with analog photography, but this doesn't mean that we don't know about the past of photography. Lomography is not just an idea or style; it's more than that.

Lomo'holic's are creative people who use their knowledge and imagination to create fun, interesting, and meaningful images using analog cameras, films, and darkroom techniques. You can spot them at every meeting pretending to look for the film in their pockets… Everyone wants to be a lomographer! But what does someone need in order to become one? It's not like you can buy a kit online (there are no kits available for sale - only pre-assembled cameras).

What do I need to start shooting lomographs?

First of all: a passion and love for analog photography, that's all you need to start shooting lomographs! Then, as we've already mentioned, you don't need any particular expensive equipment. You can still take photos with your smartphone camera if you want to! But let's be honest... who would do such a thing?

Of course, there are huge collections of cameras specially designed for lomography available at good prices. There is no such thing as the best camera; every one of them has its own unique character and light leaks – it's up to you which one will become your favorite! One more very important aspect of analog shooting is that the unexpected will happen: not only during taking photos but also while developing or scanning (stopping down the film, waiting for results, etc.)!

We know that even though analog photography is a lot about experimenting and making mistakes, it's always better to have something prepared well in advance. That's why we're going to tell you more about which equipment you will need for Lomography.

  1. A camera. It doesn't matter if it's a toy camera, a compact one, or an old-style SLR - as long as it has an aperture ring and shutter speed dials that work! The most popular cameras nowadays are Diana F+, Lubitel 166+ and Lomo LC-A+. Or simply use your smartphone camera with a special Lomography app.
  2. A film is the core of analog photography. Depending on your camera you'll need different types of film such as color negative, black and white, or slide films. You can explore the world of films using the Lomography online shops where you will find pretty much every kind of film that exists - from cheap supermarket films to limited editions, which are really difficult to get!
  3. Darkroom equipment. There are many ways to develop your exposed films nowadays including labs, darkrooms at schools or universities, but if you want to do it yourself at home - you'll definitely need some chemistry stuff, photo paper (prints), etc. Note: you're never going to regret buying a developing tank and a darkroom timer.
  4. In order to scan your films, you need an ordinary flatbed scanner with a 'color' or 'photo' setting, or a specialized drum scanner is even better if you want more control over the process and get higher quality results.

So, basically, it's pretty simple: you only need the camera and film stock of your choice plus time and imagination! But we can't stop here… We've got so many questions for you...

Do I need any courses?

Lomography doesn't offer any courses; we're not here to tell you how and why things should be done, but simply give you an opportunity to express yourself freely. If you want to get the most out of analog photography, share your lomographs on social networks such as Flickr or Instagram; don't forget to tag them with #lomo!

How to make lomographs like the professionals?

There's no recipe for success - it all depends on what you shoot. Having said that, lomography is more about capturing emotions, instead of making perfect pictures. For example: if you're trying to take an exciting photo of a cat sleeping beside its breakfast bowl - you might end up with nothing but another boring snap; however, if you focus on the cat's dreamy eyes instead, you'll get something much better!

Most popular lomographers:

  • Jiří Štěpánek and his brother Zdeněk, who run a studio together in their hometown of Brno. Their works were featured on many occasions including the Viva Las Vegas festival website and Lomography blog.
  • Tori Randall from Portland (USA), runs a wonderful " Looks like the film but isn't " project on Instagram, where she takes photos of things that you wouldn't normally use your camera for. People love her lomo shots due to their unusual style!
  • Alena Kratochvilová is one more person we'd like to introduce you to. She's an artist and lomographer from the Czech Republic who shares her pictures with us on Flickr, where you can also find tutorials.

How to find good lomography locations?

This question is as hard as killing that cat… We can give you some tips such as: go where other people don't usually go (a crowded shopping mall would be a bad idea - even if it's full of weird stuff), always bring your camera with you and look around whenever you're on the move; however, the best way to learn how to shoot lomographs is by taking photos and exploring new places.

What should be the object of such photos?

Anything you want! You can shoot people, nature, architecture or your pet. It doesn't even have to be a photo – it can be a collage, montage, macro shot, or wide-angle view. But if this is too hard for you, don't worry: firstly, we've got some tips on how to take photos here and secondly - there are thousands of film packs containing 120/220 images on different sites.

Photo techniques

Since all lomographers use different cameras with different features (shutter speed dials, aperture rings, etc.), photo techniques may differ as well. So let's not overload the newbies with advanced information about which technique works best for which type of camera; just try out different things and see what surprises you get! For example, on some cameras you will need to break the rules of traditional photography - one example is shutter priority mode.

If you have any problems or questions during analog shooting, don't be afraid to ask around on lomography forums, chat rooms, etc.

How can you do it with your phone?

Just install lomography app on Android or iOS and you're ready to roll! There are several top apps for lomography:

  • Horizon Level: use it to get the perfect horizon in your photo
  • Fisheye Fixer: add a fisheye effect to your phone's camera
  • LoFi Photo Editor: make retro-looking photos with this application!

How can you edit a photo to make lomography effect?

You can use any photo editor you want. For example, if you have a Mac desktop or laptop - try iPhoto, Fotor, Pixelmator. There are also free tools like GIMP for Windows and Linux users.

In Photoshop, for example, you can use Filter > Distort > Diffuse Glow, set this effect to Overlay, and change the opacity of the layer.

Or make a photo brighter, find some bokeh (blurred background) in it and play with colors using different adjustment layers.

Final word

Lomography is a method of taking pictures with cameras that don't offer automatic exposure control. It can be described as "shooting from the hip" - without trying too hard to get the exposure right every time. Instead, lomo photographers often use light leak or serendipity techniques.

Lomography is not about getting perfect photos, it's about having fun and sharing the results with friends! If you like one of your snaps enough to print it out or share on social networks, we'd be delighted. Just make sure you keep lomography spirit in your photos (light leaks etc.).