Tiny Tips 17: Retro DSLR

A Digital SLR is a modern piece of equipment. It has nothing of the old-world charm associated with photography. No “wait till the film is processed“, no “did I get the exposure right“, no “oh, this is not good enough to be photographed“, no “Is the light right?”, no “I’ve got only 2 frames left. They’ve got to count“. Instead, you’ve got instant gratification , with nothing left to your imagination. You see the exact photograph that will be printed (or viewed on your screen) instantly, and if you want to change it, you can experiment till you get it right.

Retro-fy Your DSLR/Mirrorless Camera

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But why not try to experience the magic of not knowing exactly how your photographs are going to turn out? Want to try it? Simple, here’s how you can set up your camera for that.

  1. Set your ISO to 100, 200, or 400, and set your white balance to Daylight because these are the most easily available film rolls available.
  2. Set your camera mode to M so that all the aperture and shutter speed decisions are made by your brain, and not the camera’s.
  3. Set up your camera to disable image reviews after you’ve taken a photograph. If you don’t have this option, stick a Post-it Note on the rear LCD screen so that you can’t see the image. Post-it Notes leave no sticky residue on the camera once you peel them off, so they’re perfectly safe for your camera.
  4. Stick a cut Post-it Note on the top LCD (if you have one) so that you resist the urge to look at the number of frames remaining, shooting/AF mode, and other details.
  5. Rely on your intuition, and try not to use the light meter readout in the viewfinder.
  6. For a mirrorless camera, turn off the on-screen display items that give you framing guides, battery levels, histogram, turn off exposure preview (important) etc. Turn it all off.
  7. Use a clear viewfinder to compose your photograph, decide that you are ready to take a photograph, and then depress the shutter release button.
  8. Limit yourself to a predetermined number of frames. A typical roll of 35mm film used to have 36 frames (12 for 120 film). So, decide whether you want to shoot one roll, or two, and take just that many photographs.

What You Can Do With Your Retro DSLR

As you venture out into the world with your newly retro-fied DSLR, embrace the uncertainty and let your senses guide you. Study the interplay of light and shadow, noting how it dances across surfaces and objects. Imagine the film grain enhancing textures and adding a timeless quality to your shots. Compose your frames thoughtfully, relishing the inability to instantly review and overthink.

When you feel that magical moment, squeeze the shutter release with conviction, trusting your instincts. With each click of the camera, you’ve captured a fleeting slice of reality, suspended in time until the negatives are developed and the true artistry is revealed.

This exercise in patience and faith in one’s craft is a gateway to rediscovering the joy of photography in its purest form. So go forth, explore, and let the surprises unfold one frame at a time.

Stay in touch and share your work…

Any other suggestions? Leave ’em in the comments.

Watch out for a Photo Project based on your newly set up Retro DSLR in the days to come.

Photo: Alex Dram [link broken: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28974123@N08/4099178608/]

Susheel Chandradhas

Susheel Chandradhas

Susheel Chandradhas is a Product Photographer and Filmmaker based in India. He has been taking photographs (almost) all his life. He has a diploma and a bachelors degree in Visual Communication, where his classmates all believed that he would write a book on photography... Instead, he writes on this website (because - isn't a community more fun?).

His passions include photography, parkour, wide-angle lenses, blue skies, fire extinguishers, and fast computers.

In addition to writing for Beyond Photo Tips, Susheel is a staff writer for Fstoppers.com, and owns and runs ColoursAlive, a photography, and video production studio.

You can connect with Susheel on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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  1. UM, interesting.

    I see where you are going with this idea and I think it would be a valuable fun exercise.

    However, I am convinced people are too keen to make all the decisions with their cameras. The technology in the little black boxes is superb and sometimes I feel we spend too much time fighting what the camera can do better than us.

    I shoot a lot in P mode, just making white balance and exposure compensation settings, allowing the camera to do what it does best.

    • Yes, in many situations, the camera makes better, and quicker decisions. However, at some point in time the photographer needs to know how his tools work. This exercise was intended to help you understand your tool better, and gain a better appreciation for your art through it. ;)

  2. It’s always good advice to know your camera and how to manually set all the functions. Here in the snowy Rockies, one has to know how to properly set the exposure as the camera’s light meter is fooled by all that white snow. Similarly, in the spring and early summer when every thing is so green, the meter gets fooled again. Being able to set your camera to capture the mood and lighting is the first step to creating great images. A good reminder!

  3. Nice thing about Canon 60D and others with articulating LCD, the LCD can be turned to face inward. I’ve actually spoofed people into thinking I was shooting film by flipping my camera around and saying, “Sorry, you can’t see the shot for a couple days.” Stops annoying “Oh, let me see!” gawkers at weddings that eat up time.

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