Toy camera effects with digital SLRs

I love lo-fi photography.

Shooting lo-fi removes any obsession with capturing the “perfect” image. With lo-fi photography, I focus more on composition, creativity and experimentation than when I shoot with a “real” camera. Vignetting, soft edge focus, light aberrations, limited exposure latitude, color casts, even light leaks – the imperfections add a level of personality to the photo.

I have a collection of my lo-fi photography up at

One of my favorite lo-fi cameras is the SiPix Stylecam Blink. It only shoots 640×480, but has a wonderful dream-like plastic camera effect. And, it was only $10 on eBay!

I would like to get a little more resolution than is possible with most lo-fi digicams. Enter Randy Smith at Holgamods. He’s made tweaks to Holga cameras for years, adding black flocking to the insides, adding a bulb setting and remote shutter release threads. Dude from has done some wonderful night-time photography with his.

Randy has taken a Holga lens, mounted it on a Canon lens cap, and made a digital Holga hybrid. What a wonderful idea! Some of the samples on the net have the same plastic camera quality, but with none of the complication and expense of shooting on 120 film.

Some photo examples with the digital Holga lens are online here. has another alternative – a tilt-shift lens made for several modern camera mounts. Version 1 uses a rubber assembly to hold in aperture rings. Version 2 has a sharper lens and uses magnetic locks to hold the aperture rings in place. The 3G model allows for pinpoint focusing and tilt lock. Both the Holga lens add-on and Lensbabies give modern digital DSLR shooters a means for creative, frivolous shooting. Very cool.

If you want do get that same toy camera effect digitally, see my previous post about the Holganizer. In addition, there are Holga actions for Photoshop that let you automate the effects process. But, it’s a lot of fun to shoot with a plastic camera!

Mimicking film with digital tricks

Pssst! I’ve got a secret!

Most decent imaging programs have the capability of automating actions. With the right actions applied to a photo, you can easily mimic some of the quirky qualities of your favorite film camera on multiple photos and bundle the actions to share with others.

To Wit, the Holganizer. With it, you can take a rectangular, well exposed digital image and make it look like it was taken with the Holga, a $30 plastic camera. This was taken with a Canon SD110; for the original, see the previous post.

The film banner on the top and bottom are a nice touch, but unfortunately they don’t change when you make another Holganized pic, making the viewer think you’re permanently stuck on exposure # 9.

For a good Holga action, see the previous link. There are tons of LOMO actions for Photoshop and The Gimp, just a google search away.