If life gives you lemons, take high-key flash photos of them.
In October of last year I bought an on camera flash for my Nikon F2. For some people, especially younger people that grew up in a digital era, the idea of flash on film is something that is a bit intimidating. The possibility of overexposing or underexposing the film so easily is a bit frightening, especially with film prices as high as they are. Besides that, old flashes just look funny. The Nikon flashes tend to be shaped like these long narrow rectangles and you need a special adapter to connect the ISO shoe to the non-standard Nikon hotshoe on their older models. Not to the mention the weird dials and many non-standard models that don’t match their respective manuals that are only available as PDF’s online. (God bless butkus.org for the seemingly endless amount of camera manuals available online for free.) I got super lucky and found a Nikon flash for my F2 at a camera shop in Krakow for $15 and got it as soon as I could. Almost immediately after buying this thing I was on a train to Wrocław for my friends birthday party that weekend. The four of us rented an Airbnb and played card games and drank whiskey until the sun would rise, only to go tour the city and eventually continue the shenanigans later that evening. I took my first few flash pictures here after very briefly reading the manual for the flash unit while on the train there.
After I got the results back I realized that it really wasn’t too difficult to use an onboard flash with a film camera. It’s probably easier than using it on digital honestly. Turn the flash on, set the camera to the sync speed which is 1/80th of a second on old Nikon models, set your flash to the same iso setting as your film and shoot within the aperture range the dial gives you on the top of the flash. After this I started shooting everything I could with a flash when I had the opportunity, which was mostly birthday parties and other parties we had to survive the dark cold Polish winter.
Perhaps the best advice for shooting film with a flash is just to do it. And of course you’ll mess up, even if you do read up and final the correct manual. Sometimes you’ll forget to sync the shutter speed to the flash and your photos are pitch black. Or you’ll forget that the old flash has such a slow refresh time and you take a photo again only for the flash to not fire and the photos will be black. Like all things with photography it’s all a matter of trial and error until you get it right. There’s also something so enjoyable about shooting such high key photos. I sort of understand why it’s been all the rage in the photography world as of recent. It’s quite literally an illumination of your subject and the world around them.