We’ve covered our complete list of disposable camera tips and tricks, but after being in business for a little bit, there are three MAJOR mistakes we see over and over.
If you don’t have time to read all of the best practices for getting high quality results from a single-use camera, just make sure to use these three.
If you consistently get back rolls of film with completely grey, or slightly blurry pictures, this is a MUST read. I now get back my developed disposable cameras with 25-27 clear, bright, and useable pictures. Pictures that look like the one above.
Let's see how that is possible.
1. USE THE FLASH
By far the most common mistake we see with disposable cameras is that pictures are underexposed. If you’re not sure what underexposed means, we’ll get into that, but it looks something like this:
Or worse, this:
When a shot is underexposed, it simply means the film was not exposed to enough light to make an impression on it.
The Analog camera, and most disposables, use film that does very well in bright, well-lit environments. To get an idea of how a particular film will do in various light levels, you can refer to the film’s ISO rating.
The term ISO refers to the image sensor's sensitivity to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive the image sensor is to light. Analog cameras come with 200 ISO film.
As such the higher the ISO the more grainy an image becomes and the worse it does in high-light environments.
So is all lost for low ISO film? Not at all! In fact you can get a lot of brilliant shots as long as you remember the qualities of disposable camera film.
If you are in any situation that is not in full, direct sunlight, you’ll want to use the flash. This guarantees that the film is well exposed and the developed results are high quality. It even has the effect of giving your pictures that trademark disposable camera look!
TWO REMINDERS WHEN SHOOTING WITH FLASH:
1. The flash will only expose and object about 5-10 feet away. Don’t use the flash if you’re shooting a subject over 10 feet away.
2. Don’t use the flash when shooting at a reflective surface such as a mirror, glass, or directly at the surface of a liquid. This will cause the picture to be overexposed and turn out all white.
2: YOUR SUBJECT SHOULD BE 5-10 FEET AWAY
The sharpest part of your disposable shot is 5-10 feet away, in the center of the frame. If it is important for you to get a clean picture of your subject, make sure they are in this sweet spot!
Analogs, and most disposable cameras, use a fixed focus lens, meaning there is a set range at which they take the most in-focus, clear pictures.
Knowing this, you'll want the subject of your shots to be about 5-10 feet away and in the center of the frame. Otherwise, your picture may turn out a little more blurry than you may be expecting.
Same goes for the flash, which we discussed in Tip #1. The flash range is also 5-10 feet which makes for clear, bright pictures.
Because of the fixed focus nature of Analog cameras, they lend themselves to a certain kind of photography. These are not the cameras to use for big, scenic landscape shots. Instead use them to capture more up close and personal pictures of you, your friends, and family at an event!
3: BE CAREFUL OF SUBJECTS IN MOTION
This is the number one cause of blurry pictures. Does the picture below look familiar?
This was caused by the photographer moving the camera slightly before clicking the shutter button.
This was caused because the subject was moving while the shot was taken.
See, blurry pictures happen because the shutter speed of disposable cameras is relatively slow. Shutter speed is the length of time the camera shutter is spent open, exposing the image onto the camera sensor and film.
Essentially, it's how long your camera spends taking a photo which can have a few effects in how your pictures turn out. Most importantly, with a long shutter speed, subjects (and the photographer) in motion will cause motion blur.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures of any movement! Just make sure to control what you can to give yourself the best “shot” at good results.
THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL WHILE SHOOTING WITH AN ANALOG INCLUDE:
1. Distance from the subject (5-10 feet for objects in motion).
2. Keep the camera still while shooting.
3. Take photos in high-light environments.
BONUS TIP: CLEAN OFF THE DISPOSABLE CAMERA’S LENS
Sometimes you will do everything right – shoot in a bright setting, with the sun to your back, and keep very still and your picture STILL comes out blurry! How frustrating! What could be causing this?
You might want to make sure to clean the front facing lens with a shirt, towel, or other soft fabric. It can just be a quick wipe, but that will make all the difference!
Disposable cameras are unique (and amazing) because they can go anywhere and be tossed around like a toy. You treat your disposable differently from your iPhone or luxury digital camera.. and that’s the fun of it!
Whenever I go to the beach, one of the first things I grab is my Analog. Without even thinking I throw it into the front pocket of my backpack. The same pocket as food, sunscreen and a lot of other random belongings.
More than once, I’ve checked the lens only to find a sunscreen fingerprint, condensation, and even the skin of an almond on it! That’s sure to distort your picture.
But then again, maybe that is what you’re looking for (see: The Ultimate List of Disposable Camera Tips).
BONUS BONUS TIP: WATCH YOUR FINGERS
Your viewfinder (the square you look through) and your lens are not the same thing! Every so often we see a meaty, pink finger in a disposable camera picture. It always gets a few laughs but ultimately ruins the picture.
This happens because your finger might cover the lens, but you don’t see that when you’re looking through the viewfinder. You always want to be aware of the different parts to the camera as it can impact more than just an occasional photobomb from your phalanges.
Chicago Cubs game. This is an example of some of the places you may be cautious about bringing a nice phone or camera (and we don't blame you!). Notice the angles, colors, and light playing a role in the quality of this picture.
This one is for all you festival and concert goers! When taking pictures in a crowd, raise the camera above everyone. This new vantage point makes sure your shots aren’t congested with bodies and blurs.
This little used trick is one of my favorite ways to capture the vibe and the essence of an event, and since you can’t actually see the shot your taking, you’re in for a fun surprise when your film gets developed.
CRSSD Fest in the Fall of 2019. Great vantage point captured by raising my disposable above the crowd. Next time I'll wait for the drop!
When it comes to the focus of your pictures, remember that the sharpest part of your image will be in the center of the frame, anywhere from 5-15 feet away.
Knowing this you can play around with the distance to intentionally capture the subject of your picture out of focus.
Try to keep the camera still when shooting! The shutter speed is not fast enough on a disposable to focus on something while the camera, and subject, are moving.
That being said, sometimes, this can create the desired effect on your shot. The rules of disposable cameras are meant to be broken!
WATCH YOUR FINGERS
Make sure you don’t cover the lens with your finger. This may seem obvious but it is a common mistake because the viewfinder and lens are not the same like many digital cameras. Always remember the little hole you look through is not in the same position as the lens (which actually captures your shot).
Get more, for less. Analog costs $25 because we INCLUDE development, digital scans straight to your phone and free shipping when you buy a disposable camera with us.
Written by Max Gallagher
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