Portrait Shoot With the Diana Instant Square Camera

I was challenged to photograph a portrait shoot on another random camera, but this one was really not what I was expecting. How do you take artistic portraits using an instant camera?

Photography challenges have now become a regular practice for me, thanks to my husband, David, who constantly encourages me to experiment with different cameras. As someone who finds comfort in familiarity, embracing new gear has never been my strong suit. However, these camera challenges have proven to be an excellent way to step out of my comfort zone and grow as an artist and photographer. 

This week's camera challenge took me by surprise: the Diana Instant Camera. Yes, you read that right, an instant camera. My task was to capture portrait photos of the talented artist, Jessica Camilli, in her own studio.  I wasn’t sure what to expec. Would this be insanely easy or really hard? I’d taken snapshots on an instant camera before, but never tried to capture artistic portrait images on a toy camera, so I was not sure what to expect.

The Diana Instant Camera offered a wide range of variables to contend with. There was no light meter, meaning I had to rely on my intuition for the correct exposures. With four aperture settings at my disposal, choosing the right one for the given lighting situation became a guessing game. Additionally, the measurements on the Diana are done in meters, so if you're American like me, you have to do a little mental conversion. One meter equals about three feet; commit that to memory when shooting with the Diana Instant Camera!

My subject for the day, Jessica Camilli, is an incredibly talented painter, and the concept of the shoot was "the artist is the art." Jess handmade her outfit for the shoot, transforming herself into one of her surreal paintings by adding a painted mouth on her jeans and googly eyes to cover her chest.

Image courtesy of Jada and David Parrish | https://www.jadaanddavid.com

The natural light in Jessica's studio was amazing, but the ever-changing clouds posed a challenge, as the light intensity fluctuated dramatically throughout the shoot. I found myself continuously adjusting my camera settings, striving to predict the right exposure for each shot. This was challenging because I used Fujifilm Instax Square Monochrome film and only had 24 shots total for this shoot, and I needed to nail as many as possible. 

Despite the challenges, there was a certain joy in the tangible aspect of the instant camera. Holding the physical photos immediately after taking them added a sense of anticipation and charm to the process. This slower pace also allowed for relaxed interactions and meaningful conversations during the shoot. When I did nail an exposure, I loved the dramatic results the Diana Instant Square Camera produced with the black and white film I was using. 

Once the shoot was complete, David scanned all the photos using a flatbed scanner, digitizing them. Reflecting on the experience, I can honestly say that the Diana Instant Camera, although it may seem simple, really pushed me to my limits for a portrait shoot. Overall, this camera was challenging to use for a portrait shoot, but I think I created some pretty interesting images.

Jada Parrish's picture

Jada is a photographer and director specializing in conceptual portraits. Her work is known for its bold, colorful, and surreal style. Her creative style of portraiture lends itself nicely to work in both fashion and the music industry. She is one half of the creative duo Jada + David.

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1 Comment

Yeah the Diana does level the playing field. When I was in art school, everyone showed up with different cameras ranging from argus C3 to Pentax k100 to Hassy 500cm.
One of the first assignments was to shoot 2 rolls of 120 size BW film in a Diana camera. It proved a couple things, one was that the eye was more important than the camera. The other was to think before you shoot. With only 24 frames to complete the assignment I had to make each one count.

Cool that they are making an instant model.