7 Awful & Outdated Photo Effects

There are a number of photographic effects that have survived the 21st century from the film era. Even though we have photoshop we still use circular polarizers for example. Back in the day though, a lot mor had to be done in camera, or not at all. This is course does not include a darkroom but many didn’t have the inclination or the time.

By 1997, computers and digital cameras were showing up in more households, but they couldn’t be considered common as of yet. Many photographers were still aiming to have a complete image on the negative, or in the darkroom, and in the September issue of Petersen’s Photographic, the editors gave their readers seven techniques that have aged very poorly. 

Welcome to This Old Camera, I’m your host Azriel Knight and on this episode we look at seven awful and outdated photo techniques.

The first effect is a 3D one using a manual advance camera, multiple exposures and coloured filters. “You'll need a red No. 25 filter, a green No. 58 filter and a blue No. 47 filter. Mount the camera on a tripod, compose your scene (a scene with a nearby subject and more distant subjects provides the best effect), and meter the scene in the usual manner. Open the lens one stop from that reading and make an exposure through the red filter. Next, move the film-advance lever to advance the film a small amount, then press the rewind button to disengage the take-up sprocket, and cock the shutter for a second exposure. Remove the red filter, place the green and blue filters over the lens, slow the shutter speed two steps, and make your second exposure. The result is a picture in which the red image is slightly off-register from the cyan image. View this picture through a pair of 3-D glasses”

This effect has not aged well. While 3-D was all the rage it’s mostly seen as tacky these days. I also happen to think that they used the most boring example possible for their 3-d image. I’ll leave it up for a few seconds in case you want to go grab your filters or 3-d glasses and have a look.

Next we have Mylar reflections, which is as dumb as it sounds. Just grab a sheet of DuPont Mylar, and according to the editors “curl the Mylar while watching the effect on the reflected subject, and shoot when you see something you like. You can also curl Mylar into a tube and place it over the end of your lens like a long lens hood. Shooting through this will produce some wild reflections.” Even if you, for some reason have a use for this effect, there are more modern ways to achieve it, namely photoshop. Again I have to say that they’re not really selling me on it with this example.

Third on the list is photographing ghosts, which is exactly what you think it is: a double exposure or a long exposure.

‘It's easy to photograph ghosts, if your camera can make in-register double exposures. Just mount the camera on a tripod, compose your scene, meter the scene in the usual manner, close the lens one stop, make one exposure with your ghost-to-be in place, then make a second exposure of the scene without the ghost subject. As a variation, you can use a fairly long shutter speed (1/15 or longer) and have your subject move through the scene during the exposure.”

I don’t know about you, but creating these cheesy phantoms and using long exposure in this matter was one of the first things I learned with manual exposure photography. I can’t imagine any seasoned photographers and subscribers are staring at the page saying “you can do that?!”

Number four is without the doubt the most useless of the bunch here, basically you just make sure your subject is completely out of focus.

“Out-of-focus highlights (OOFs) can be fun. Just choose a scene containing some bright (and if shooting color, colorful) highlights, and shoot it out of focus. It's best to shoot with the lens wide open—if you stop down, depth of field might increase enough to negate to effect, and you'll just get an out-of-focus picture. The subject here is a fireworks burst at night. The OOF effect works best with longer-than normal lens focal lengths, because the highlights will be bigger, and depth of field will be more limited.”

The only time I can recall someone doing this on purpose is to observe bokeh balls.

Following the worst effect is perhaps the least worst effect in this list, the Sabatier effect. While I am not a fan of the look of,but at least it requires some experimenting and visualization. 

According to Wikipedia it’s also known as the pseudo-solarization effect and was used as far back as 1859. This one, unlike all the others, requires a darkroom and that’s both a good and bad thing. Good because you can experiment with any developed negative, bad because you’re out of luck if you don’t have a darkroom.

“If you briefly expose a partially developed print to light, you'll get a weird effect in which the dark areas of the print stay dark, but the light areas are partially reversed. To produce this effect, it's best to give the print less than normal exposure. After a portion of the normal development time switch on the room lights for 2-4 seconds, then finish developing the print. Some experimentation is in order here, with the initial exposure of the print, with the point at which you give the print the second exposure, and with the length of that exposure. Contrasty paper seems to work best, as does old, weak or diluted paper developer.”

This is an effect I’ve seen numerous times over the years of perusing my magazine archive, and while I personally don’t like the effect, I feel like there is a place for it, I just don’t know where.

Number six on the list isn’t fooling anyone. The claim is that if you underexpose a daytime shot, with a blue filter it’ll look like a nighttime shot.

“You can produce a moonlit night effect in the middle of the day by underexposing the scene and, if desired, shooting with a blue filter over the camera lens. Motion picture cameramen used to do this a lot to save the cost of keeping the cast and crew out at night. A good way to start is to use a blue No. 47 filter and bracket exposures, from two stops over the no-filter meter reading to a stop under (this filter normally requires a 2 2/3-stop exposure compensation). The harsh lighting of the noonday sun works well for this technique.”

This just looks like an underexposed daytime shot, but they’re right, you’ll see it sometimes in movies and TV where is looks oddly bright for evening or night time, and once you see it, it’s hard to unsee it.

Last on this list is another super ugly effect. Not too many filters have survived the digital era, but in the day there was a filter for everything and leading the pack was Cokin, which let you stack effects by using square filters that slid into a rig in front of your cameras lens. So if you wanted a colour filter, a linear polarizer and soft focus effect you could add all three. Not all of Cokin’s filters were top shelf though and here’s one of them. The Cokin Super Speed No. 217 which, to me looks like a print that smeared while drying. How??? How did anyone take this seriously? Even during Cokin’s hayday I have a hard time believing that anyone looked at this and said “my god, look at how fast they were going!!!”

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this video. What are some other awful photo techniques, let me know in the comments. If you want to support this channel, consider becoming my patron on Patreon. I’d like to thank Daniel Rock, who’s been a member since October 2016! Be sure and follow me on social media, and join my newsletter so you don’t miss a thing, and until next time, stay classic.