Playing with Toy Cameras for Inspiration

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Lisa and I have been dabbling with toy cameras for the past week. She learned photography with film so it was more or less familiar. I, on the other hand, am a product of the digital age. I started shooting with a Canon S2IS before eventually moving onto DSLRs so this was a very new experience for me. Before we get into how shooting toy cameras is related to digital photography let me first tell you what we got so it’ll make more sense in the end.

Lisa got a Holga camera which is a favorite of toy camera enthusiasts. Her Holga is made entirely of plastic and is famous for having light leaks which gives each camera a distinct personality. There are models with glass lens though. Images shot with a Holga tend to have heavy vignettes and soft edges. The Holga only has one working aperture which is f/13.3 with two shutter speeds: 1/100 and bulb mode. It uses 120 medium format film.


I got a Blackbird, Fly which is a 35mm TLR. This camera has a fixed shutter speed of 1/125 but also gives you the option of shooting in bulb mode. The aperture can be switched between f/7 and f/11. This uses regular 135 film.


Don’t get me wrong, technology is great. However, the more advanced the cameras get, the lazier a photographer can become. The cameras today can do most everything for you. Don’t want to learn how to expose properly with a flash? You can rely on E-TTL. You can even get radio triggers that use E-TTL. You can use exposure lock to avoid shooting manually. You can shoot at full auto mode all day and still get technically sound photos. You can take thousands of photos to get one good one since you’re only limited by how much storage you have. Shooting with the most basic of film cameras are a whole different story.

The first time we went out shooting with our new toys, we loaded both with ISO 400 film. As I was shooting, I realized exactly just how much my DSLR has been doing for me. Now, I couldn’t get most of the shots I wanted because It was either too dark or too bright. The lens is fixed at 33mm so tight shots are near impossible. I started being more deliberate with my shots. They are finite, after all. That, and expensive.

This isn’t about film vs. digital, by the way. We’re not going into “real” film cameras vs. toy cameras. It’s not about which medium is superior, it’s about broadening horizons. Using limiting equipment like toy cameras forces you to become more creative as a photographer since you’re out of your comfort zone. Inspiration is very important to photography. Being stuck in a rut doesn’t lend itself to anything extraordinary so we do different things to avoid it.

Have you tried shooting with toy cameras? How was the experience for you? If not, is there anything you do to change things up in terms of your photography?

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  • auto body lexington

    Toys are really a good thing for an inspiration. Having the real ones completes the set of course. I also love taking photos and stuffs.