Let go of the controls
Because of its inexpensive nature, the Holga is categorized as a "Toy Camera". There are many discontinued "toys" in this alternative branch of photography, but due to its worldwide popularity, the Holga is still being made. You don't need to be an expert to decide which of the two light settings, four focusing modes and two shutter speeds to choose from. It's this simplicity that gives it a "toy" status, but to have fun with photography you will need a toy - so why not play with the Holga?
The lack of options with the Holga makes it an unpredictable and very exciting camera to use. You will find yourself asking whether a shot is in focus, or correctly exposed, or whether you remembered to wind the film forward or even take the lens cap off. More importantly, you will question whether you even care! After you use the Holga for a while - if you don't give up on it - you will become used to how it works and even adapt to how it sees, but you will never fully understand it.
It's easy to see images taken by the Holga and assume that once the camera is loaded, any shot will be magically transformed into a work of art. This isn't the case. A gray day will give you a dull shot and an ugly subject will produce an unattractive image. On occasion, you may only find merely one good shot on an entire roll or that every shot is fantastic. The real trick is to persevere with it and to decide what is the best environment for you and your Holga to get along. The Holga is a truly personal choice you may actually like that gray day or ugly subject that NO ONE else would ever shoot. When you get that perfect Holga shot that you love, it is priceless, and worth all the time and energy spent on rolls of films that weren't to your satisfaction.
Many people have different views as to what makes the Holga so special. Could it be the light leaks? Is it the vignette around the edges or soft focus near the center of the image? Perhaps it's the Holga's simple and rudimentary looks or the fact that it's so cheap that you can perform any kind of modification or personalization to it without feeling the economical impact too much. Every Holga photographer has different opinions but all have one thing in common: their love and devotion to the their Holga and, in many cases, a full-blown clinical obsession.
The 5 fundamentals of Holga
Free yourself from rules
Holga neither knows nor respects any rules. Its sheer simplicity is your key to power. Think of the Holga not as a camera, but as paintbrush, liberally splashing your medium-format canvas with exactly the elements that you choose. Envision your desires and manipulate your Holga to bring them into reality.
Embrace random results
Holga is a loose cannon; an unpredictable partner who sometimes makes its own decisions despite your most strident attempts at control. Many times, your best creations will be the result of your most foolish mistakes or oversights. Don't fight it! Roll with the punches and stay flexible.
Disarm your subjects
Holga is not one to be taken seriously. It looks oversized, kinda clumsy, a little toy-like, and definitely not intimidating. Your subjects will relax, have fun, and open up for your lens. Go with this. Natural is best - let yourself flow right along with Holga's innate power to strip away pretence and posturing.
Each Holga is unique and different from the rest. Some produce brighter images, some more colorful images. Some leak light through the back, some through the side, and some don't leak at all. Each Holga is an individual, and will leave its special signature on every photograph that it takes. Appreciate these inherent quirks and seek to employ several Holgas for a range of results.
Get Your Hands Dirty
The simplistic mechanics of Holga invite you to play with them. Dive inside its inner workings and discover what makes the Holga tick. Experiment with different modifications and treatments. Tape up the sides, slap a filter on the lens, pinhole the lens cap. When your camera wears out - cut the springs, streak the lens, or pull out the guts. Experiment and innovate. Get started with the modifications in our instruction book.