When I first started film photography, all I used were disposable cameras, over the years I’ve learned how to get the best out of these cameras!
You may think that disposable cameras are temperamental and only provide you with low-quality shots, but the truth is, if you change the way you use single-use cameras and think more about your composition and technique, you can get much better shots every time.
If you want to find out exactly how to get better disposable camera shots every time then read on!
What Makes A Good Shot?
So what makes a great shot for a disposable camera? A good shot should be properly exposed (so not too dark or too bright), in focus and hopefully not blurry, if you can get these three aspects right, then you’ll be able to get amazing pictures for every single shot of your disposable camera.
You might wonder, how exactly can you do this when there are no settings and nothing that you can directly affect? Well, it’s all about understanding these cameras, what their capabilities are and working with them, rather than against them in order to come away with great pictures every time.
Just below I’ll outline the 7 amazing tips which I wish I knew when I first started film photography. These tips are helpful whether you’re shooting with a disposable camera or a point-and-shoot camera but some of the tips are specific to disposables.
You can either watch this video that I made on the subject or continue to read on to find out exactly what to do!
1) Keep People At Arms Length
Disposable cameras are pretty stupid which means they just can’t do that much. Most disposable cameras can only focus from 1 meter to infinity. So basically, if you are any closer than 1 meter to your subject then your subject will not be in focus!
You have to keep people just a bit further away than arm’s length in order to be sure that you’ll have your subject in focus! This is a golden rule and a common mistake among all photographers when using a disposable camera. Many of us are used to using phone cameras or better-quality digital cameras that can focus really closely, so we have to be reminded that our disposable camera is stupid!
2) Look For Light
This tip is usually the first thing people learn about photography, but with disposable cameras, it’s even more important. Disposable cameras have a set shutter speed and F stop, they’re set at 1/140 (ish) and F10 (Ish) which means they can’t adjust for changes in light. This means that your camera needs there to be enough light, you ideally need a bright day or at least, not an overly overcast day.
If you take pictures inside, at dusk or dawn or in other dark areas, then it’s likely that your pictures will be underexposed, these types of environments need flash, but we’ll get to that a little later. For now, look for light, light is your friend and it will allow you to waste fewer pictures and get more nice shots!
3) Take Your Time
A disposable camera’s low shutter speeds mean that you absolutely have to take your time to avoid blur. This is a really common mistake with these types of cameras, if you don’t know how the shutter speed impacts the potential for motion blur then you could easily just pick the camera up, take a quick picture and then put it back down.
The shutter speed of most disposable cameras is 1/140 of a second, this is quite slow so it means you just have to hold your camera in place while you’re taking your picture, if not you’ll have shots like the one shown below.
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure that you’re taking better pictures straight away, avoiding blur is a game changer. Hold still, take a second and hold it for a second after shooting and you’re good to go!
4) Find Some Different Angles
Trying out different angles is a game changer when it comes to composing your images. Most people tend to stand up and just take a shot. Why not think about how you can make your image more interesting, the camera doesn’t have to be straight, you can be crouched or lay on your back. Trying to create completely different compositions is what photography is all about and it may inspire you to try to go further into photography!
5) Aim For The Middle Of The Lens
This tip is specifically related to disposable cameras because the quality of lens is so poor. Always try to have your subject towards the middle of the frame because that’s where the picture will be sharpest. The outer edges of the lens will be less sharp and look slightly out of focus and soft. This is because disposable camera lenses are made from plastic and not glass.
This doesn’t mean that you should never have your subject in the side of your picture, but, if you do it’s likely that they’ll be less sharp and possible slightly distorted. Just remember this principle and it’ll save you from a lot of shots that don’t look quite right!
6) Keep Your Fingers Out Of The Lens
This tip might sound stupid but despite the fact that I’ve been a photographer for years, I still managed to get my fingers in the way of the lens a number of times on my last trip. None of us are fully immune from this lapse in concentration but if we keep it in mind, these mistakes won’t happen.
This is a really easy mistake to make and it’ll ruin your shot without you even realising. Keep this in mind next time you take your camera out, think about your digits and where they’re going and it’ll save you from inevitably ruining a few shots.
As simple as this one may sound, it’s yet another common error that happens far too regularly. Keep your eye on where your fingers are!
7) Learn When To Use Flash!
This tip might sound obvious but it connects to the point from earlier about looking for light. You need to use your flash whenever it’s a little dark, your inside, it’s sunset or anything along those lines.
Disposable cameras just don’t have the ability to change their settings and adjust to any changes in light so you have to do it for them by deciding when to use the flash. This can really make your shots stand out by making them brighter and sometimes providing a contrasty look. Also, flash can occasionally make your shots look a bit weird, with a sense of disreality, which can look really interesting.
Always be aware of when to use your flash and you’ll take far better pictures overall.
Are Disposable Cameras For You?
Personally, I honestly believe that shooting with anything other than a disposable camera is the best option, disposable cameras are more expensive now, they don’t produce great pictures and they’re pretty wasteful. I can understand why people use disposable cameras and for a complete beginner it’s certainly the easiest option to get those grainy, timeless shots.
If you want to shoot film photography more regularly and take better pictures more consistently then I would suggest that you take a look at this article I made, this will help you take your next steps in photography.
I would always say that it’s better to buy a cheap point and shoot, Kodak and Ilford have both bought out reusable point and shoot cameras which are more affordable over a long period of time and they provide way better shots. The Kodak Ektar H35 is actually a half frame camera and produces 72 shots per roll of film, this can provide you with a massive saving so it’s well worth trying out.
So, it’s okay to use a disposable and if you do, I hope you use all of the tips in this article in order to get the most out of it but I would certainly suggest to anyone that you use a point and shoot and some kodak gold!