I recently discovered a fun, DIY way to take faux “toy camera” photos. Best of all? It’s fun, cheap and easy.
For the unfamiliar, toy cameras such as the Diana and the Holga are plastic cameras first manufactured in the 1960’s and 1980’s, respectively. They feature a plastic lens and use medium format film. Due to their construction, they yield an awesome lo-fi aesthetic with often unexpected results, creating a cult following of toy camera enthusiasts.
I got my Holga back in 2002, but (unfortunately) it has spent most of its life sitting unused on a shelf, because the specialty film & developing can quickly become an expensive hobby. Don’t get me wrong: I love the experimental nature of the unexpected light leaks and lo-fi aesthetic, but the cost can be a bit prohibitive for those of us who are on a tight budget.
So naturally, I was stoked to discover I could produce a somewhat similar (yet unique!) effect with my digital SLR and one of my son’s toys. Total cost: about six bucks!
Crayola makes a line of “3-D Sidewalk Chalk” – actually just regular sidewalk chalk with super-saturated colors. The set also includes a pair of plastic glasses with Chromadepth lenses, which…
Chromadepth glasses purposely exacerbate chromatic aberration and give the illusion of colors taking up different positions in space, with red being in front, and blue being in back. This works particularly well with the sky, sea or grass as a background, and redder objects in the foreground.” (source)
In order to get these photos, I simply set my D-SLR to its automatic setting, and allowed the auto-focus to shoot “through” the glasses. This required holding the glasses with my left hand (less than an inch or so from the lens) which was initially a little awkward, but I found it pretty easy to experiment and get neat results in just a few photos.
For Best Results:
- Shoot in the full sun. The more light, the better.
- Plastic cameras like the Holga have offset viewfinders, which result in a parallax effect. To simulate this effect, try holding your camera at a slightly different angle than you typically would.
- To further the effect, try enhancing the colors after the fact: use photo-editing software such as Photoshop to apply faux “cross-processing” effect. Here’s a great list, though googling “Photoshop cross processing tutorial” will yield hundreds of tutorials and free actions to download.
- With a very large, soft edged brush, use the Burn Tool in your photo editing software to darken the edges of your photo to reproduce the “tunnel vision” effect of toy cameras. You can also easily recreate a fish-eye lens effect using the Free Transform tool (Ctrl + T) Remember: less is more, and being subtle with effects will give you a more “believable” photo.
- Don’t forget to experiment and HAVE FUN!
If you try out this DIY tutorial and shoot your own Faux Toy Camera photos, please leave a comment below so I can check ‘em out!