5 Tips for Shooting with the Holga Toy Camera | Raleigh Film Photographer

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Whenever I’m feeling in a creative rut, I usually try to push myself out of it by picking up a camera I haven’t used in a while and shooting away aimlessly. It’s so easy to get stuck in your own head and over think EVERY.SINGLE.THING. It’s easy to feel like you haven’t created anything fun or new or interesting in ages and it’s even easier to just NOT pick up a camera.

I’ve learned that I am a happier person when I’m shooting, so even though I definitely have periods where the creative juices dry up, I always try to basically force myself to shoot. That’s where the Holga comes in!

The Holga is a toy camera and toy cameras are essentially just that - toys! They are basic, have limited controls or settings and typically work by just loading the film and pressing the shutter. My kinda camera, if you ask me.

Today, I thought I would share a little about this fun camera! And remember - the Holga is a basic camera. They are meant to be brainless and fun. You’re not going for perfect focus or super sharp images here. You want fun and easy! The Holga teaches you to just let go and enjoy the process of shooting.


Holga 120

The Holga is just so darn fun and probably my favorite toy camera. It is so simple to use (kinda even too simple because you for sure feel like you are not doing something right as you load and shoot with it). This camera takes medium format film and the camera itself includes two inserts so you can shoot either square or vertical/landscape images. I typically leave the square insert in because I just love a good square composition, but they are easy to interchange (before you load your film), so you can always switch back and forth!

5 tips for shooting with the Holga:

1. SHOOT IN FULL SUN

I prefer to shoot the Holga in full, bright sun because I feel like this plastic, toy camera needs just a tad bit more light than a regular 35mm or medium format camera. I mean, it is just a plastic camera after all.

2. SET APERTURE CONTROL TO CLOUDY

The two aperture options on the Holga are “sunny” and “cloudy”. Again, going for more light here, I always keep my Holga set to the cloudy option. Not really sure if these settings really even make a difference, but that’s where I keep mine.

3. USE A HIGHER ISO FILM

I typically use Portra 400 with the Holga because it has a little more latitude with underexposure. I like having a 400 speed film, even on super bright days, just to compensate for the fact that I’m shooting with a toy camera.

4. SHOOT WITH OVERLAPPING FRAMES

On the back of the Holga, you will see a window with the option for either “12” or “16” frames. These numbers typically correlate with the number of frames you will get per roll (most medium format roll of film have 16 frames). If you use the portrait insert of the Holga, set your arrow to “16” frames. If you shoot with the square insert, set your arrow to “12” frames. BUT if you want super cool overlapping frames, use the square insert, but set the arrow to “16” (instead of the typical 12). This will give you fun overlapping images on the edges of your images. Some people love it, some people hate it. Whatever works for you.

5. LET GO OF SEEKING PERFECTION

I promise you will make magic with the holga. But I can almost also promise you that you WILL NOT make super sharp, super in focus images. Let go of all that and lean into imperfection. Enjoy composing your image and enjoy the process of shooting. If you let go of those expectations, I promise you will find the beauty in the chaos.