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.
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!
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?
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
November 12, 2021 at 6:03 pm
Looks like fun! Hmmm… if the lens is removable, you should be able to have a “PinHolga” (pinhole Holga)! ?