5 Fun Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 by Jennifer Stamps

Collection of Holga 120 cameras - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

The Holga 120. Oh the lovely, wonderful, perfectly imperfect plastic light box.

My love for this quirky plastic camera is no secret. I can’t even talk about photography without professing my love for this simple camera.

Once upon a time, it was the only camera I shot with, and, to this day, it’s usually the first camera I pick up to document my life.

The Holga really relies on the photographer, and in turn, rewards the ones daring enough to create with it.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the Holga 120 and thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite tricks.

Find the Holga 120 on Amazon.

5 Fun Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120
5 Fun Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120
Collection of Holga 120 cameras - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film

1. Close-Up Anyone?

The plastic lens on the Holga 120 is pretty well known for not nailing focus close-up.

The little symbols on the lens indicates the manufacturer’s suggested focus distance and what you can shoot for each setting. The portrait symbol indicates that you can shoot at roughly 3 feet (1 meter) from your subject.

Twist the lens tighter and closer to the camera body and you’ll want to shoot further and further away from your subject.

If only you could twist that lens right off to get closer than 3 feet. If only…

You know what I did, don’t you?

Yep, I twisted that lens right off!

Holga 120 without lens - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Holga with the lens removed
Holga 120 with lens detached - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Holding the lens in front of the camera without attaching it to get close-up shots

It took some strength, but it popped right off. I just kept twisting the lens away/off-of the camera until it came off.

And to get close-ups, just ever so gently place the lens on top of your Holga, hold it there, get as close as you want, and snap away!

Is the camera broken now?

Nope!

The lens literally twists on like a bottle cap. So once you’re done with your close-ups, just twist the lens back on to the desired focal length and shoot as you normally would.

Pretty cool, huh?

Medium format Holga image of a girl's portrait - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Close-up image with the Holga
Medium format Holga image of flowers - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Close-up image with the Holga
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2. Shoot Without a Lens

So, what happens if you just remove the lens altogether?

I didn’t set out to actually try this, but since I broke the lens off, might as well go for it, right?

The results are eerie and almost dream-like. Definitely something I’ll be setting out to do more often!

Medium format Holga abstract image of a girl - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Holga image without the lens
Medium format Holga abstract image of water - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Holga image without the lens

3. Using the Holga for Self-Portraits

If you’re a member of Shoot It With Film Insiders, then you know we recently worked on self-portraits.

Self-portraits can be scary and intimidating but also so freeing and rewarding!

As a documentary and travel photographer, I’m always photographing everything around me. Both the new and exciting and the everyday routine. The idea of self-portraits was very new to me, and, naturally, I wanted to see how I could do this with my Holga 120.

It doesn’t have a timer or shutter release cable port, so what to do?

A little research provided me with a company called Holga Mods. What do they do? Mod, or make mods, for Holgas.

And what do they have? A cable release adapter for Holga! Success!

Holga 120 with shutter release mod - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Cable Release Adapter Holga mod
Holga 120 with shutter release mod - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
The cable release adapter attached to the Holga
Holga 120 with shutter release mod - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
The shutter release cable attached to the adapter

I wasn’t sure how it would work, but once I got it in the mail, it was really quite simple.

Just put the adapter around your Holga lens, attach your shutter release cable, screw your Holga onto a tripod, and boom!

Your Holga can now take self-portraits!

Medium format Holga image of a portrait - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Self-portrait with the Holga
Medium format Holga image of a portrait - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Self-portrait with the Holga

4. Using the Hot Shoe Flash

One of the things I love doing with my Holga is treating it like I would any other camera.

Yes, it’s plastic. Many people call it a toy camera. But photography is just light captured on a specific medium. Who’s to say the camera is what makes a good photo or not?

Which is why I decided to put a flash on my Holga.

Holga 120 with flash attached - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Flash attached to the Holga

Is the flash heavier than the Holga? Yes.

Does it look kind of funny? Yes.

But that’s just a part of the charm, my friends.

If you have a Holga 120, then it has a hot shoe. You know the drill. Shoot as you normally would.

If you’re indoors, outside on a cloudy day, or just want to experiment with artificial light attached to your Holga…have fun with it!

Medium format Holga image of a girl twirling - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Flash image with the Holga
Medium format Holga image of a girl playing - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Flash image with the Holga
Medium format Holga image of a girl with a scooter - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Flash image with the Holga

5. 35mm Sprocket Hack

I don’t feel like I can share this article without mentioning my original Holga Hack Article… Hack Your Holga To Shoot 35mm Panoramic Sprocket Images.

You don’t even need any special tools like 35mm adapters.

All you need is your Holga, some 35mm film, any type of tape, and pieces of cardboard or paper.

You can check out that tutorial here.

35mm Holga portrait of a girl - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Shooting 35mm sprockets with the Holga
Medium format Holga image of a flower - 5 Ways to Experiment with the Holga 120 on Shoot It With Film
Shooting 35mm sprockets with the Holga

If there is one thing you pick up from this article, it’s that I hope you have fun.

Holga might not be your thing – and that’s 100% okay. But I hope it encourages you to try something new. And if you have a Holga, maybe you’ll find a new way to shoot with it.

Enjoy and keep making magic.

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like 5 Film Cameras Under $50 and Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial.

You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about experimenting with the Holga 120 below in the comments, and you can pick up a Holga for yourself here on Amazon!

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Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and 5 Film Cameras Under $50.

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Blog Comments

Looks like fun! Hmmm… if the lens is removable, you should be able to have a “PinHolga” (pinhole Holga)! 😁

–Rich

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