- Arts and Design
Discover lo-fi photography with a Holga
New adventures in analogue photography!
Described in the very simplest of terms the Holga is a cheap, plastic, so-called "toy" camera, not dissimilar to the kind of primitive device I used growing up as a child in the 1970s. The Holga is built crudely, tends to leak light through its plastic casing, and even uses a plastic - rather than glass - lens. And being a medium format analogue camera built for 120 film, it will only yield between 12 to 16 exposures per roll. So why, in this thrilling digital age when so many of us are using mobile phones with cameras capable of producing high quality images, and when we are quite literally bombarded with "instant" photographs taken by citizen journalists on the Internet in every corner of the world, would anybody choose to use this piece of camera equipment?
I bought a Holga 120N camera several years ago to rediscover the joy of "slow photograph"and the whole process of creating a photo. I was nostalgic for the days when every shot really counted - if there are only 12 images on a roll one tends to be parsimonious in a positive way.
Instead of using an app on your phone or creating Photoshop effects on your computer take real lo-fi photographs for that vintage look!
Spooling a real film into the back of a camera, clicking and winding on the film is fun! It's a great way for kids and adults alike to learn about photography too. And if you forget to wind on the camera you might get some fun and surprising double exposures!
The Holga is not a high precision instrument so therefore no two Holgas are built exactly the same - the light leaks may vary from camera to camera, as does the amount of characteristic "vignetting". You can never be really certain what you'll get when you develop a film from your Holga camera! Accidents can be inspiring! If you're a slave to instant selfies you'll find the Holga very liberating.
Photo Gallery of Holga PhotographsClick thumbnail to view full-size
My first Holga photographs
I am lucky enough to live in Rome, Italy, so am never short of beautiful subjects to photograph, but when it snowed there a couple of years ago I rushed into town like everybody else armed with my digital camera and took hundreds of photographs of this extraordinary and unusual meteorological event. On that occasion I also loaded up my then brand new Holga 120N camera with a roll of black and white film and shot my first analogue photos for over a decade!
I like the old-fashioned look of square photographs so always use the 6 x 6cm film mask inside the camera, although it's also possible to change the format to the rectangular 6 x 4.5cm size. I also experimented with the Wide Angle Adapter Lens (which slips easily straight over the top of the regular Holga lens) and a yellow filter to make the contrasts a bit stronger.
I don't develop my own photos, but was delighted with the results when I picked them up from my local lab. Once the weather had improved I set out with some colour film and decided to be more adventurous and experiment with the bulb setting on the camera too for some long-exposure shots using the Holga Shutter Release Set and a small tripod. Once again I was delighted with the fun results.
What is the best film for the Holga 120N?
I've had great results with 120 film and prefer Ilford HP5 Plus 400 for black and white photography and the Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H for colour.
Recreate the classic Holga vignette effect with 35mm film
Don't like 120 film? Then choose a Holga 35mm camera!
Do double check whether your local photo lab is able to develop 120 film before you buy. If it isn't you might be happier with the Holga 135 Plastic 35mm Camera which can be loaded with 35mm film.