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The beginner's guide to disposable cameras

Disposable cameras are the real deal lately—and it's not hard to see why. The aesthetic you get from a film photo? Next level! Plus, disposables are way more affordable than pro film cams. But how do you actually use one without wasting any precious film? We've got all the tips!

Don't forget to use the flash

When it comes to shooting photos on film cameras in general, you always want to turn on your cam's flash. There are two exceptions: when you're shooting in front of a mirror or another reflective surface (the flash will just end up drowning out the rest of the pic), or when you're shooting in a very sunny environment (you don't have to use the flash in this situation, but you still can as a precaution).

What happens when you need to use the flash but don't? You'll end up with a dim, lifeless pic and your subject out of focus. Unlike digital cameras and iPhones, dispos don't capture a ton of light on their own, so the flash function is there to help.

Pay extra attention to framing


When you shoot a pic on your phone, you have a digital screen in front of you that helps you predict how the pic will come out. Unfortunately, dispos come with a tiny viewfinder instead of a huge screen, so you might have trouble framing your subjects properly.

When you're looking through the viewfinder as you prepare to take your pic, make sure your subject is exactly where you want it, whether centered or otherwise. And look very carefully—what might look like a millimeter of distance through the compact viewfinder can be several inches when you get the photos back.

Don't shoot in motion

Taking pics of moving subjects can create a really cool still image with a digital camera, but when it comes to dispos, you'll just end up with something super blurry. It's one thing if the blurry effect is what you're going for, but if you want pics that are actually in focus, make sure your subject is still.

Get within the right range from your subject

When you buy a dispo, there's usually a note on the box that tells you what the ideal distance is between the photographer and the subject. For most dispos, this is around 5 to 15 feet. Staying within this range will make sure your pics come out clear and your subject is illuminated by the flash.

Make sure your lens is clear


Sure, you wanna take your camera to the beach or pool. But while you're throwing your cam in sandy tote bags and cluttered purses, your lens can become pretty dirty. If you shoot pics with a dusty lens, they'll come out blurry and discolored. When you take your dispo out of your bag or your pocket, make sure to wipe off the lens first to make sure your photo quality doesn't get messed up. 

Hold your camera tight and steady

Unlike a super fancy digital cam, a dispo doesn't have the software to stabilize your pics if your hand is super shaky while you take them. Make sure to grip your camera securely while shooting so you don't accidentally mess up your framing.

Get your pics developed at a photo lab

Though it might be more convenient to just drop off your dispo at a Walgreens or a CVS to get your pics developed, you might be risking the quality of your photos. Unfortunately, a lot of film camera lovers have reported poor photo quality or general camera mishandling after taking their film to drugstores. You can avoid this risk by taking your dispo to an independent photo lab once you've used up your film (check out The Darkroom). Labs that specialize in film are experts who you can trust to get your mems back to you in one piece.

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by Hana Tilksew | 2/18/2024