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Photographers who are used to shooting with digital cameras don't realize that there are still several ways to use a disposable camera with excellent results. The old ways are sometimes inconvenient and time-consuming, but putting in the extra effort is worth it when you develop a stunning picture that you never expected. Hack your disposable camera for pictures you could never capture with a digital model, and change the way you take photos forever.
Through the Glass
Starting with a simple camera trick is often best. You can't master all the most creative ways to use a disposable camera if you aren't familiar with the camera itself. The first exercise is an easy one. The next time you're stopped at a red light in your car, snap a quick, but steady, photo through your windshield. Aim for the strip of colored, protective glass running along the top of the window—if your vehicle has one, of course. The tint should create a gorgeous gradient, particularly if you're capturing a picture of the sky. Don't worry if your car lacks any protective glass. Try a pair of lightly polarized sunglasses, instead. Aim the viewfinder through the lenses, find your shot, and click. Don't turn on the flash, however. For cameras that don't give you a choice, cover the flash with a finger or a piece of tape and opaque paper. Before you get on the road, of course.
The Right Way to Use a Disposable Camera with Expired Film
Expired film is nifty. It's not that hard to find, either. As you comb through the shelves at your local drugstore or grocery store, dig through the entire selection. Pay attention to the cameras at the back. There might not be any disposable cameras that are past their sell-by dates, but this trick works just as well with film that's close to its expiry date.
Once you have your not-so-fresh camera, all you have to do is find your shot and capture it. Older film has more character than new film. What happens is that you end up with grainy, somewhat under-saturated photos. The results appear vintage, as if they were taken decades, or even centuries, ago. Make sure that the subject of your photo is worthy of the antique patina.
Doubling the Exposure
Double exposure is one of the neatest ways to use a disposable camera, and there are two tricks to it. The first one is a little aggressive, but by all accounts, it almost always works. After taking a photo, smack the side of your camera. You might lose focus or end up a little to the right or left of your subject, but that's okay. An uneven overlap makes the double exposure more interesting.
As you probably already know, you have to wind a disposable camera between photos. For the second trick, simply don't turn it all the way to the next number before capturing another shot. That should tweak the exposure, as well. You might even be able to pull off a triple exposure photo with this method.
Past the Window
This trick is a bit like snapping a picture through your windshield. It's one of the most breathtaking ways to use a disposable camera because it creates an effect worthy of something you'd see on Photoshop. In this case, however, you don't need to develop your photo. Just scan it, and then manipulate it.
Search for a window with excellent exposure. You want the sunlight coming through. Bonus points if the light reflects on a wall or another solid surface. Do you have access to stained glass? That's even better. Once developed, these photos ought to have a bit of blur, resulting in a dreamy appearance.
Interested in more complex ways to use a disposable camera? Get yourself a Fujifilm Quicksnap. It's easy to take off the cardboard, which allows you to fiddle with the lens and, more importantly, with the shutter. Once you have access to the shutter, tie a thin piece of twine, yarn, or string around it. Doing this provides a way to set the bulb. After that, you can replace the cover. Now you have more control over the exposure and the shutter speed. The experimentation of it is even more thrilling because you have to wait to develop the film. This works best with a 400 speed camera, but an 800 might come through with a surprise, ensuring you that disposable cameras are your new best friend.
Leaving It in the Sun
Lens flare and distortions lead to visually inspiring photos. Pop your disposable camera in the glove compartment or drink holder of your car. You can also store it in a warm space, such as your attic. Just make sure that the temperatures aren't high enough to melt the plastic. Now, you have to leave the camera alone for several months, at least. It takes a while, but the results are worth it. You're apt to end up with a lens flare that does mesmerizing things to your photo. Go with the imperfection of it.
Using a Magnifying Glass
People who have never used them believe that there are only limited ways to use a disposable camera. After all, it doesn't even have a zoom feature. Guess what? You don't need it. Once again, cover up your flash. Find an attention-grabbing subject—something eye-catching on a micro level. Peer closely at items you never imagined photographing. Before the shutter click, place a magnifying glass in front of your subject and aim carefully. Experiment with and without the flash.
Taping Them Together
Tape together two disposable film cameras. Why all the trouble? Because taking pictures with both of them at the same time develops into a 3D-ish image. Digital cameras take sharper photos, and you have more options, but that doesn't mean there aren't innovative ways to use a disposable camera. You just have to put in some extra work.
Making a Flash Filter
People who are familiar with creative Polaroid manipulation techniques to try might be a step ahead with this one. Putting a filter over your flash option doesn't disable it; but instead, it causes a gorgeous wash of color. You can color over the flash using a marker, but cellophane works just as well. As long as its translucent rather than opaque, you can use almost anything. Keep in mind that you can also create a lens filter using the same methods. Use the flash with those photos, and marvel at the results.
Popping on a Fisheye Lens
Ah, the fisheye lens. If you want an inventive way to use a disposable camera, this is it, as the reasons you need a fisheye lens are nearly endless. Fisheye lenses aren't expensive, and you don't need the best of the best. It may not fit naturally onto the disposable camera, but that's okay. Glue it or tape it, then get to shooting.
There are plenty of other neat ways to use a disposable camera if you really start to think creatively. Even though this type of camera is now a novelty, it's still capable of surprisingly appealing photos.