Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by DJ Pangburn.
Taking photos as a creative act didn’t immediately occur to photographer Syndi Huynh. While a university studying abroad in Paris, Huynh had a simple hand-me-down point-and-shoot camera that she used to take pictures of her friends. What started casually soon grew into an artistic practice where Huynh’s friends became her models, and she began taking her work with the camera more seriously.
After this initial blush of interest, Huynh began taking photography classes at the University of California-Berkeley to learn the basics. Upon graduating, she headed to New York City to refine her image-taking, and eventually ended up as a photo intern then a production assistant at the multimedia creative studio Milk Studios.
Though Huynh owns a DLSR camera, she hasn’t shot digitally since her time at Berkeley. Instead, Huynh tends to shoot with her Minolta and Contax T2 35mm film cameras, though she has done most of her recent photography with a vintage SX-70 and a 600 Impulse instant analog camera.
“Digital cameras just don’t capture the aesthetic that I want nor the feelings that I want when there is only one copy of a photo and that’s it,” says Huynh. “I feel like the film has more meaning and depth to it than digital. I can manipulate the photo so easily digitally, and I don’t really want that. I want the camera, the framing, the direction, and the model to have more control over the image.”
“I mainly shoot portraits with my friends because I like the connection I have with them, and how natural and candid it can be,” Huynh explains. “Usually we just have a conversation and them just kind of slowly moving around, and I frame it and take a shot.”
Huynh likes to capture images as naturally as possible. This came about as a response to people’s tendency to freeze in front of the camera. Huynh wanted to break that barrier down and tries to have as normal of a conversation as she can with her models, who again tend to be her friends. Color palettes in Huynh’s work are similarly low-key.
“I do like a lot of colors in my work, but then oftentimes I don’t,” she explains. “I like to have one sparkle of color and everything is the monochromatic color. I just like the contrast of that. It’s very raw in a way.”
With the OneStep+, Huynh brought a similarly casual approach to snapping portraits. But when she worked with the Double Exposure, Light Painting, and Noise Trigger features, Huynh took more of a technician approach. She enjoyed slowing things down a little bit to calculate how the light painting would look.
“With Light Painting, for instance, I realized how steady your hand has to be to be in terms of working with the light and creating the picture,” Huynh says. “I’m learning slowly how to capture [painted light] more naturally in a way that will still make my friends comfortable in front of the camera. I think this is a bit easier being natural with light painting because you’re not really seeing their faces and the bodies, but the light itself.”
Apart from having a steady hand, Huynh recommends using the flash when using the Light Painting feature with models. This will ensure that the face is properly exposed. And if you want to look outside of the camera’s flash function, Huynh says you can shine a spotlight at the model’s face.
“The Double Exposure is fun because I can capture a candid picture and posed picture in the same frame,” she says. “Which is nice—I like that contrast.”
For those interested in using Noise Trigger, Huynh recommends working in a quiet space to focus on the sound that will trigger the aperture. She also says distance matters with Noise Trigger, so she suggests keeping the smartphone running the OneStep+ app close to the model or other objects being photographed.
“For photographers who are still in the beginning stages, this camera will be a lot of fun since you can explore different effects very easily instead of doing it all manually (which is also fun and a great learning experience),” Huynh says. “Coming at this camera experimentally, for me, is basically keeping an open mind and be willing to play around with it.”