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Written by Jennifer Stamps
Toy cameras… People seem to either love them (me!) or are terrified of them. They can be challenging to get the hang of, which can make them even scarier. Somewhere along the way, I fell madly in love with my bright blue plastic Holga. So much in love in fact, that it was the only camera I took with me on our road trip across Europe this summer. So I’m here to help you master that amazing piece of plastic we call Holga. Here are five tips to keep in mind when shooting Holga. (Find Holgas on Amazon)
Throw the Lens Cap Away
What your lens sees and what you see through the view finder are not the same, making it easy to shoot a whole roll of film with the lens cap on. Just throw that lens cap away so you never have to remember to take it off.
Use Your Settings Properly
Just because it’s a toy, doesn’t mean it’s simple.
Sunny or cloudy? Pick one. Just like you’d change your aperture when you go from bright sun or complete shade, you want to do that with your Holga. You can change this setting on the top of the lens in the front of your camera.
Adjust for sunny or cloudy conditions & the focal range
How close are you to your subject? On the lens, you’ll notice a graphic of a mountain, a crowd of people, three people, and one person to adjust focal range. Use that setting properly. I would suggest starting with the mountain setting and doing an entire roll of landscapes outside on a sunny day. When you get an entire roll back of photos that turned out, your confidence will grow!
“B” or “N” mode? This switch is at the bottom of the camera. N = about 1/100th second shutter speed. B = shutter stays open as long as your finger is on the shutter button (aka only use for long exposures).
I hesitate to even write this one, because I’ve gotten some cool indoor photos with the Holga. But it’s really hard to do, and they usually end up very muddy. There is so much you can’t control with this camera that I suggest shooting outside so you have tons of natural light.
Tape It Up
One of the things I LOVE about toy cameras are light leaks. Holgas are plastic, so sometimes they don’t 100% block out the light. However, some people hate light leaks. If you want your Holga completely light leak free, you’ll want to tape up every seam.
I tape mine shut in two places, just so the back doesn’t fall off (that happened with my first roll of film in my Holga, and I learned my lesson). Just a little masking tape will do the trick.
This probably should have been tip number one. What’s the point of having a plastic camera if you’re not going to have fun shooting with it? Take doubles (easy to do, just shoot twice – or as many times are you want before winding the film). Change the orientation of the camera. Shoot from the hip. Whatever you do, just enjoy it.
My very first film camera ever was a toy camera. I’m sure that’s why I love them so much. It’s when you treat them like a real camera (compose your photo, proper lighting, correct settings) that you get some really epic, dreamy photos. Toy cameras produce images unlike any other camera – it’s that amazing plastic lens! So enjoy it for what it is. I call my Holga magic, because it is. Go have fun and make magic. And once you get the hang of it, ignore all the rules and just experiment!
Thank you so much, Jennifer! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.
Leave your questions about the Holga 120N and other toy cameras below in the comments, and you can pick up one for yourself on Amazon!