Why I love My Holga Toy Camera

Holga Toy Camera - Couple
Holga Toy Camera - Couple

Last Updated: 22 October, 2009
A Holga toy camera might be your next creative step.

While I’m sure there are photographers out there who love the technical aspects of photography, I’m not one of them. I appreciate the end result of experimenting with exposure and development but the painful, mathematical process of it zaps the creativity out of me and makes me want to throw my developing reels at a wall. In times like these or when I just need to have some fun, I turn to my toy cameras.

Toy cameras are inexpensive and simple. They are often made of plastic and even have a plastic lens.

I’m a supporter of all toy cameras but the Holga holds a special place in my heart. The vignetting, light leaks, blurry shots, double-exposures, the fact that it’s a medium format point-n-shoot that pretty much eliminates any need for technical information…all of these things make my heart sing.

Often creativity is bred from limitations.

  • Choosing between “sunny” and “cloudy” is the only exposure control.
  • For focusing you can chose between “one person”, “a few people”, “a group of people”, and “mountain”.
  • There isn’t an accurate viewfinder.

If you think too much about it, you’re missing the point and losing out on the fun!

Holga - Dragon
Holga - Dragon

I prefer shooting in the square format so for each roll of film, I get 12 frames.

I have little control over these frames so I just find an interesting subject and shoot! I have found that my Holga has changed my perspectives on what is interesting subject matter. I never know what my Holga will add to the image I think I’m taking.

I have even stopped using my viewfinder which is especially useful in street photography.

Holga - Hollywood Blvd
Holga - Hollywood Blvd

I have often forgotten to roll the film and ended up with double-exposures that were much more interesting than what I had originally aimed for.

The possibilities are endless even thought my control over them isn’t and what photographer isn’t a bit of a control freak at times? It’s liberating.

Even if you enjoy the technical aspect of photography, I’m sure you’ve reached a point when you just lost the magic of what originally attracted you to photography.

  • Maybe you’ve had too many limitations put on you by clients or too many assignments that are leading you in directions you just aren’t interested in.
  • Maybe you just got too wrapped up in getting some result you see in your mind to enjoy what you are doing.
  • In any of these situations, picking up a Holga, seeing the world like a child and enjoying your play time with your toy camera will be immensely rewarding.
  • You might even end up carrying around your Holga with you like I do…”just in case”.

Holga  - Ho Gwong
Holga - Ho Gwong

Student Guest Post by Alyssa Patton


Editors Note: I have several Holgas, and other toy cameras, as well. Below is one source for a Holga at PhotographyUncapped affiliate Amazon:

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Do you use a Holga? Do you use another Toy Camera? Comment below, please.


Author: Alyssa Patton

25 thoughts on “Why I love My Holga Toy Camera

  1. Woo! Hollywood and Highland, right by my apartment!

    Very cool shots. Holga seems like fun camera to run around with… even more fun to see what you wound up with later!

  2. Great shots! I love my Holga too (as you are fully aware).

    However, I do have to disagree with you that toy cameras are inexpensive. Have you checked out Lomography’s prices lately? Haha.


      1. Hah! That’s awesome. Ian Aleksander Adams (http://www.ianaleksanderadams.com) had something slightly related on his blog lately with photos of people holding fog machines during photo shoots. It was equally as amusing.

        Used cameras are excellent… hooray for eBay. Oh! And did I tell you that as I was cleaning my glass camera case last weekend I found that one of my old nan’s old 620 cameras still has film in it?!?! I highly doubt I can get anything off of it, but I will probably try… Not sure how I never noticed that before though.

        1. Lee-Ann,

          That’s very cool that you found the old film. You might be able to get something printable from it.
          If it’s only one roll, you have to just guess and hope, but…
          I’d suggest long slow development with reduced agitation in a low fog developer. Some people say HC-110, DK-50, or some even say D-76.

          Expect some need for increased contrast in printing too.

          1. Thanks for the advice! Before I inherited these cameras they were not well taken care of, so I’m not hoping for much. It should be good a good experience just to try though!

          2. There have been reports of successfully developed film after over 100 years!
            Just think of the potential for unearthing relatives’ secrets. Spine chilling.

            Even if the cameras were treated like unappreciated orphans, the latent film images (assuming the film was actually exposed) may still be developable. (Now there’s a word my spell checker doesn’t like ;> }

            If I were developing it, I’d probably give at least 50-100% more development time than normally called for, with reduced agitation.
            Let us know how it turns out (and maybe write a guest blog here? )

        2. Lee-ann,

          That is so exciting! I can’t wait to see what you come up with and I think the guest blog is a great idea! You should do it.


    1. Catherine,

      You can pick one up for about $20. It will be a nice thing to take with you to Colombia! I’ll give you pointers on loading it and all of the common mishaps that come with being a Holga noob.

      🙂 Alyssa

  3. Very good article. Even better photography! My friend has a Holga and loves it. I wouldn’t mind getting one myself!

  4. Alyssa,

    This is a very well written article. It is interesting and entertaining. I may have to try a holga! I love your pictures! You are very talented.

    Roxy (AKA-Mom)

  5. Great photos, I love my Holga too, but I haven’t used it in a while….maybe this will inspire me to get it out and put the digital away for a while……….

    1. Lee,

      You should! I have a tendency to haul around my digital and my holga but I try to give my holga some shooting time all to itself as well. It’s usually a good time when I do!

  6. Good shots. I like your anti-tech aesthetics. I’m not a technophobe but it’s lots of fun to play around with my cell phone. I never know how they’ll turn out.

  7. You are very talented. I can see the creative juices flowing, just like the Mema.

    Hey Steven, do you want to grade this?

    I love you bunches, The Mema

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