Browsing the web recently, I came across a post on the web that said "I wanted to take photos from my 20D and give them the Lomo look and feel". It then went on to describe a method in Photoshop on how to achieve the "the Lomo look and feel". Over the past few years I have read many such posts and seen many forum discussions taking about the "Lomo look" and how to get it without using an actual LOMO camera.
This got me thinking. Not about how to fake the look but what exactly is the "Lomo look"?
First of all, for those of you that don't know, LOMO is an optical company based in Russia. LOMO designs and manufactures optical instruments such as microscopes, night vision devices and telescopes. They also used to produce cameras but about 4 or 5 years ago, they stopped doing this. The most famous camera they made is the LOMO LC-A.
Many times, when people buy LC-As or the Chinese replica they are disappointed when the first roll comes back from the lab. Some examples from Flickr.com:-
"I just got my first two rolls developed ... and there doesn't appear to be any sign of vignettes"
"...none of the special quirks linked with shots from the lomo, just looked like any other shots"
I have to admit when I got my first roll back I too was a little disappointed. Where were all those wild colors I saw on Flickr and on camera retailer, Lomographic Society International's website? My shots were all kind of normal looking. What was I doing wrong?
The problem here is that there is a misconception that the saturated, contrasty look is a result of the Lomo camera itself. Turns out that is not really the case. Here are a few more photos to illustrate that. These were all taken with a LOMO LC-A. Do they have the "Lomo look"?
If you were to ask someone, which of these is the "Lomo look" I think most people would say the last one. The first was taken using black and white film, the second is plain old regular negative film. But the last photograph is slide film cross processed as negative film.
It is this cross processing that I feel most people associate with the "Lomo look". Now, there is a noticeable vignette on all these photos and this definitely is also part of the look but the cross processing increases the contrast which in turn accentuates the vignette so both effects are related.
Here is another photo I have taken which I think has some of the attributes that people class as "Lomo".
But this wasn't taken with a LOMO at all. It was taken with an Olympus XA2 and cross processed. So is the "Lomo look" also the "XA2" look?
So my conclusion is this: The "Lomo look" has less to do with the camera than it does how you process your film. Cross process slide film in negative film chemistry and you will be closer to getting that famous "Lomo look".