When taking photographs with a Holga camera, one must let go of the normal when it comes to taking quality photographs and grab hard on to abnormal tendencies to achieve quality performance. The Holga is a cheap plastic camera with a plastic lens that produces very unique photographs using very easy, yet unusual techniques.
Because the main characteristic of the Holga is that it leaks light that results in images being fuzzy, there are many unique techniques that may be used to render unusual, yet interesting photographs. Because you never know exactly how each technique is going to work when taking a photograph with a Holga, you must learn to accept the randomness of chance as being the vehicle of an excellent photo.
First, when using a Holga camera, there will inevitably be light leakage. You may do two things to help avoid that leakage if it is something you do not want to be part of your finished photograph. First, because the camera is made of black plastic, light is reflected from the plastic on the inside of the camera. Paint the inside of the camera with a flat black acrylic paint to help eliminate this reflection. Second, tape all the seams with electrical tape after you have loaded your film. Before you go to all the trouble of eliminating the light leakage, take a roll of photos first. See if you like the interesting effects that happen in your photographs. Some individuals prefer this type of lighting effects because they actually enhance their photographs.
Holga’s are notorious for film tension problems. This can be good or bad depending on what your ending desire is for your photographs. Because of the tension problems, there will be times when you will get double-exposed to even triple-exposed frames. To help prevent this problem, use a small piece cut from a kitchen sponge on each side of the film spool. This will act as a spring and help keep the film tension more consistent. If you enjoy the happenstance of film slippage and possible double or triple-exposure, let the Holga do its own thing.
Another problem that is associated with tension is the vignetting of the photographs. This is the darkening of the corners. If you like this effect, don’t do anything. If you don’t make sure your tension is proper and make sure you use the 6 x 4.5 mask. To increase the “focus vignetting” of the Holga, there is a soft surround filter set available. There are four filters in this set, each helping to draw the viewer’s eye toward the center of the photograph. Use this filter set if you are trying to use color to draw the viewer’s eye. The lenses come in red, yellow, blue and neutral.
If you are an individual who would like to take night shots with your Holga, you are going to want to make some modifications. First, super-glue all the moving parts. Make sure you keep the lens cap as this will be how you open and shut the lens. Next, you will want to drill a hole in the bottom of the Holga the size needed for the screw on your tripod. The tripod will be permanently attached to the camera to keep it stable. Screw the tripod on then load your film. Next, find the location you want to take your night photo. Take off the lens cap and experiment. When you are away from city lights and have a full moon, it will take approximately 30 minutes to get good night exposure. Judge your time from there for other settings.
An interesting photograph with the Holga is taking 35 mm film and entirely exposing the surface so you have sprocket holes. To do this, you will need to load the 35 mm film onto the Holga film spools. This will need to be done in a dark place like a closet, under a blanket or inside a dark pillowcase. Take a screwdriver and break open the 35 mm casing (while in the dark). You will have to use your feeling of touch to remove the 35 mm from its casing and then wind it on the Holga film spools. It is time consuming but well worth the effort.
If you are interested in adding interesting abstract multiple images to your photographs try using one of Holga’s split image filter lenses. These lenses come in a set of three with each one being a unique article within itself. The lens will split, repeat and blend images together to give your photograph a very unique feel.
The most exciting lens I recommend to use with the Holga is the fisheye lens. This lens fits over the top of the Holga’s lens barrel and provides almost a 180 degree view that may be captured in a photograph. With this lens, a picture may be focused as closely as 1 cm and as far away as infinity. A Holga fisheye lens may be purchased in either glass or plastic depending on how crisp you want your image to be. I highly recommend this additional lens for some spectacular photographs.
Holga’s are a fascinating plastic camera to enjoy. They are inexpensive which allows for the capability to set-up several different types of shooting probabilities without having to change out lenses on one camera. They are highly portable and easy to find. Enjoy your Holga and have fun doing some extraordinary shooting.