A toy camera refers to a simple, inexpensive film camera. However despite the nickname these camera are actually fully functional cameras but with limitations. Generally these camera's have plastic bodies and more importantly use simple plastic lenses and have no mechanical parts. Film advancement and winding is done by a manual dial. Because these cameras were crude they were considered toys and generally given to children and typically became prizes at fairs, amusement parks or parades.
Once the digital age began to revolutionize photography these cameras were all but forgotten, but die hard fans of these relics, which were known for unpredictable and interesting optical effects, began to slowly build a following. The 1990's began to see the emergence of a whole new generation of enthusiasts for what is now known as "lomography" or "lo-fi photography".
The traditional toy camera used 120 film, instead of the 35 mm film which eventually became the standard film format. As a child I remember having an old Kodak camera with a drop in 120 film cartridge, and a plug in flash bulb strip. However today's most popular toy cameras are the Diana and the Holga (shown below) and both now come with variations which include multiple lens formats, changeable plastic lenses, adjustable exposure frame areas (which can double the number of photos taken on a single roll) color filters, adjustable depth of field, reusable flash and can take 35 mm film.
I myself have a Diana Mini camera which is smaller in size than the regular Diana. And while the Diana Mini doesn't have the ability to change lenses, it does take 35 mm film instead of 120 mm film which is a plus for me as it is difficult to find a place to develop 120 mm film. To take advantage of the changeable plastic lens look though I did buy some Diana plastic lenses with an adaptor to fit my Canon DSLR camera.
The Diana lenses for my DSLR take fun pictures but they do not give you quite the same interesting results that an actual toy camera in all it's imperfection can. That's why I was very excited when I heard that Susan Tuttle would be teaching a 4 week long workshop on replicating toy camera effects using Photoshop. The class consisted of 10 different techniques recreated in Photoshop that are commonly found in images taken with toy cameras. I have taken many of Susan's classes in the past and I highly recommend them if you are looking to expand your knowledge of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements beyond basic editing. This class did not disappoint as it was fun and informative, and I can't wait to see what I can do with a mix of the techniques I've learned and the different cameras and accessories I have (iphone here I come).
Below I've shared some of my photo's that I submitted for comment on the techniques we learned in class.
The Diana Effect
Diana images are characteristically fuzzy and without much contrast and heavy vignetting.
Polaroid instant cameras were known for generally having interesting skews on color and a more vintage feel to images.
The Pinhole Effect
I actually built a pinhole camera when I was in 5th grade. My pictures then didn't come out so great, but the technique was interesting to learn in Photoshop.
This is actually refers more to a process used in old black and while film maufacture rather than film development, whereby a suspension of light sensative silver salts in gelatin is coated onto film. Under this method, film could be processed even many years after their manufacture and exposure which was different from wet-plate process which needed to be exposed and developed immediately
Have I ever mentioned how much I like my fisheye lens for my iPhone. It's nice to know how to do it without a lens too.
Holga cameras and their filters are known for wild color variations, and slightly vignetted images.
Cross processing is more related to the chemicals used to develop old film than anything to do with the camera itself, but Photoshop can give you similar results.
Using old Polaroid film often produced interesting results. A little know fact is that film sold as "lomography" film today at the Lomography store online or at Urban Outfitters for the Diana and Holga cameras are really nothing more than old expired film, which generally sells for higher prices.
Light Leak Effect
Light leaks were common with old plastic bodied cameras which gave images a warmer softer feel.
I think of the most fun things you can do with a toy camera is double or multiple exposures on the same frame. Of course the one below was "created" in Photoshop and not a true double exposure shot, I have done plenty of them in the past with an old Canon 35mm camera, and has always been one of my favorite techniques.
I hope you have enjoyed today's post. As always comments are always welcome so feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.