How To Use Your Disposable Camera: Everything You Need To Know

I’ve shot with disposable cameras for 10+ years and over that time I’ve learned everything there is to know about disposable cameras!

To shoot with your disposable camera you need to learn how to take a picture, how to wind on to your next frame, how to use your flash, how to get the best shots and what to do with your camera once you’ve finished shooting with it. All of this can seem daunting when you don’t fully understand what to do!

So if you want your disposable camera journey to be plain sailing then read through the rest of this article for all the best tips!

How To Use Any Disposable Camera

Using a disposable camera is as simple as it gets, but if it’s your first time using one, it can easily be confusing. A disposable camera is a single-use, 35mm point-and-shoot camera that usually takes between 27 and 36 pictures. This means you can’t unload the film inside the camera yourself and you can’t reuse the camera (unless you have a lot of experience).

The first thing you need to do is find the shooting button, usually, this is the only button located on the top of the camera. Every time you press the shooting button, the camera should make a small clicking noise, which is the sound of the camera shooting. If the camera doesn’t seem to shoot properly, it’s because you haven’t wound the camera onto the next frame.

The next thing you need to do once you’ve taken a picture with your disposable camera is to wind the film onto the next frame. This might sound complicated but it’s a simple thing that you need to do after every picture you take on a disposable. On the Kodak disposable camera, the winder is located on the back top right of the camera, this looks like a black wheel that is partially coming out of the camera. The winder will only wind the correct way, so just wind it until it won’t go any further and you’ll be on to your next frame and ready to take another shot.

The final function for most disposable cameras is the camera’s flash. Most disposable cameras will have a manual flash button located on the front of the camera, you need to push or slide this button to activate the flash. There will be a red light at the top of the camera that signifies whether the flash is ready to shoot or not, once the red light is shining, you can go ahead a take a shot with your flash on!

These are the main functions of the disposable camera, there aren’t really any settings and for the whole time that you use your camera, these will be the important buttons to press. Now although these are the functions of the camera, there are a couple of other important aspects.

On the front of the camera, you’ll also find your lens, on disposable cameras, these are actually made of plastic, so they’re very low quality. Be sure to avoid getting your finger in front of the lens when taking a picture and try to make sure that your lens is nice and clean! This will ensure that you get the best pictures at all times!

Also, on the top of your camera, there is a little window with numbers in, these numbers show you how many pictures you have left! Be sure to keep your eye on the film counter so you can capture everything you want on your trip!

These are all of the functional aspects of a disposable camera, but you’ll need to know how to make sure your pictures don’t suck and where to send your disposable camera off to when you finish it off, so read on!

How To Take Good Pictures With A Disposable Camera

You might be thinking, it’s just a disposable camera, how could it matter what you do with it? Well, disposable cameras are very basic cameras, so the more you understand their limitations, the better your pictures will be!

It’s very easy to take a bad picture with a disposable camera, they tend to have a low shutter speed (around 1/140s) which makes it likely that you’ll have a blurred shot if you aren’t careful. They also have cheap plastic lenses so it’s hard to get a nice sharp image.

I’ve put together a whole article on how to get the best pictures from your disposable camera and you can read that here, however, I’ll give you the top three right here and now!

Keep People At Arms Length

Keeping people at arm’s length means that you need to keep people around a meter away from you when taking their pictures. This is because your disposable camera can only focus from 1 meter to infinity, so any closer than 1 meter and your picture simply won’t be in focus.

I know it’s really tempting to get a nice close-up portrait picture, but the disposable camera is not the one for this job. You’d either want a high-end point-and-shoot camera or a nice SLR camera to get good quality close-up shots.

Keep people at arm’s length and keep your shots in focus and nice and sharp!

Learn When To Use Your Flash

Learning when to use your flash might seem like a very simple thing, but with a disposable camera, it’ll make or break most of your pictures. Your disposable camera can’t change its settings to accommodate for changes in light. This means you need to try your best to use your flash at the right moments.

To work out when to use your flash, ask yourself, is it bright, sunny or well lit? If not then you need your flash. If you’re inside, it’s very overcast or it’s dusk or dawn, then you need to use your flash for sure. There’s no harm in using your flash for every shot but you certainly don’t need to.

You’ve probably already seen the picture earlier in the article, but it’s a great example of a perfect time to use flash. The sun is setting and Katie would have been underexposed in the foreground because there wasn’t enough light on her. Using the flash allowed me to get a well-exposed and interesting shot.

Take Your Time

Take your time when taking pictures with your disposable. With a shutter speed of 1/140s, this camera can easily produce blurred pictures, this means you need to just take your time a little. When you take a picture, you can’t just throw the camera up and shoot, you need to hold it in place for a second or two to ensure you don’t get any motion blur.

Let’s call this the 2-second rule, hold your camera up for at least 2 seconds while taking a picture to be sure that you don’t get any blurry or out-of-focus film shots.

All of these tips help, but if you want to make sure you get the most out of your disposable camera, this article will take you to another level.

Which Disposable Camera Is The Best?

Now, you may already have a disposable camera but you may be reading this with the intention of finding your dream disposable. It’s really hard to figure out which cameras are the best when you first start film photography so it’s worth having a bit of guidance.

There are a lot of different disposable cameras available still to this day but for the most part, the completion is between Kodak and Fujifilm. I made the video above to help you out, so feel free to take a look.

In short, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the Kodak and Fuji cameras, the Kodak camera may be slightly better in lower light but I loved the colours of the Fuji camera. They are both fairly low-quality cameras in the scheme of things so it’s hard for either of them to wow you.

The pictures above do show quite a difference but this could also be partially due to the sun dipping in and out of the clouds slightly. Either way, it’s hard for me to say which of these cameras a prefer, possibly the Fuji.

Both Kodak and Fuji are some of the highest quality disposable cameras available, you can’t go wrong with either of them.

What To Do When You’ve Finished Shooting Your Disposable Camera

When you finish shooting your disposable camera, you need to send it off to a film developing lab so that you can get your lovely scanned film photographs back. As a beginner, this part can seem confusing and many people leave a camera sitting for a long time undeveloped.

Where To Send Your Disposable Camera To Get Developed

You can send your disposable camera to a high street developing lab, a small local developing lab or somewhere with a good reputation that isn’t local to you. Generally, I would say that high street developing labs tend to have the worst and most expensive service, (In the UK this is Max Speilmanns and in the US this would be somewhere like Walmart, although I’ve never used any US developers). The best places to use are small local developing labs or labs that you can mail your camera to, in the UK Filmdev is one of the best as well as Take It Easy Lab.

If you’re unsure, you can search ‘Film developing’ and your city name and you should be able to find somewhere to take your camera. If you’re from a small town that doesn’t have anywhere that develops film, in the UK you can send it to Filmdev or Take It Easy, but if you’re from elsewhere you can find a well-known lab within your country and send your camera via the mail.

What To Do When Sending Or Dropping Off Your Camera

If you’re dropping your disposable camera off at a local developing lab then it’s a fairly straightforward process. If you’re using a good lab then they will probably ask you about what quality you would like your film to be scanned at, small, medium or large. This will determine how defined your images are but as the quality increases, so does the price. Most labs just send you your scanned image files and your negatives these days rather than also providing the printed shots, but you’ll out about that while you’re there. Usually, it should take 3-5 days to get your pictures back but some labs can be much faster!

If you’re sending your camera off in the mail, be sure to include a note inside with your name, address and contact details, you’ll also want to include the quality of scan that you want and whether you want your negatives or not. If you don’t send any of this info then there’s a good chance that your camera will be completely lost because they won’t be able to identify who’s the camera is.

Typically, these days when you’ll receive an online transfer of your scanned images, so you can download these to your phone or laptop and easily put them online. Once you have your pictures you can do it all over again and take better and better shots.

Final Word

I really believe that it’s much better to shoot on a point-and-shoot camera with a roll of film rather than a disposable camera, so if you want to take your next steps into taking better shots without all the waste of a disposable then take a look at this article.

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