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Toy Camera and Unpredictable Polaroid Vintage Effects

Quick Summary

Since its emergence, the digital photography market has gradually supplanted the traditional one. APN and digital SLR cameras entered our lives, and some people announced the death of silver-based images. This is not all lie, and yet old-fashioned images have been particularly popular in the past few years. All we do seem to do now is try to recreate the atmosphere of those bygone times anyway. Blurry, distorted and over-saturated images are not just a fad anymore. People have became familiar with the style and even consider it a full-fledged photographic genre. polaroid And this is where toy cameras play a role. These devices, made entirely of plastic, including often the lens itself, are not only toys. Sure, they cost next to nothing and have no controls to speak of, but this is what people like about them: they create unpredictable pictures, with equally unpredictable vintage effects. Once you understand this, the rest is a beautiful game. Take them anywhere, anytime, and photograph whatever you like.

Table of Contents

Since its emergence, the digital photography market has gradually supplanted the traditional one. Digital compact and SLR cameras entered our lives, and some people announced the death of silver-based images. This is not all lie, and yet old-fashioned images have been particularly popular in the past few years. [Updated June/14/2017]

All we do seem to do now is try to recreate the atmosphere of those bygone times anyway. Blurry, distorted and over-saturated images are not just a fad anymore. People have became familiar with the style and even consider it a full-fledged photographic genre.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

And this is where toy cameras play a role. These devices, made entirely of plastic, including often the lens itself, are not only toys. Sure, they cost next to nothing and have no controls to speak of, but this is what people like about them: they create unpredictable pictures, with equally unpredictable vintage effects. Once you understand this, the rest is a beautiful game. Take them anywhere, anytime, and photograph whatever you like.

Toy Camera and Unpredictable Polaroid Vintage Effects
Photo credit: Pirouetting, by helenannsia

How does this apply to modern design? Now that vintage websites are so trendy, why not look to this type of image for inspiration? You probably don’t want to go through the trouble of taking up silver-based photography because that would mean buying, developing and scanning film, maybe even making prints. That takes time and is expensive.

What you can do, though, is use the magic of Photoshop to make your ultra-sharp, high-definition images look like they were taken with one of these cameras. Below are a list of the most famous toy cameras and some tutorials that can be used to recreate their famous effects. Most of them are part of the Lomography movement, but you might also want to consider some other options in trying to recreate that authentic look.

Famous Toy Cameras

Toy cameras are cheap, low quality and yet functional. As such, the deformations in the photos they produce are pronounced, and not all images are guaranteed to be perfectly exposed. Still, there are just so many of them these days that picking a few is hard. The ones presented here have paved the way for the success of the others. You may know them but not the stories behind them?

Diana

Let’s start where it all began. Picture yourself in Hong Kong in the early ’60s, when a factory starts producing the Diana. This inexpensive plastic-body camera was at the time usually given away as a novelty gift. Occasionally, it would be used by actual photographers who took advantage of the various effects it produced. And many effects there were. Because of the poor quality of materials used, the Diana camera was disposed to light leaks, leading to film damage, an effect typically fixed by sealing the seams with light-proof tape. Handy, huh?

But the plastic body wasn’t the most interesting part: it was the lens, also made out of plastic. Not only did it enhance the already low contrast created by the light infiltration, but it also made for odd color rendering, chromatic aberration and blurry images. As if this weren’t enough, the image circle only marginally covered the diagonal of the film frame, which is why Diana images have heaving vignetting.

Diana
Photo credit: elZekah

As photographers started to deliberately exploit these characteristics, production grew through the ’70s and opened the way for other toy camera manufacturers.

Diana
Photo credit: chomdee

Lomo LC-A

This is where things get a bit tricky, so pay attention. It’s now the beginning of the ’90s, and for a few years the Russian factory Lomo PLC has been producing the Lomo LC-A camera, which basically has all of the characteristics of a toy camera (vignetting in particular). But production was stopped, and the camera was all but forgotten until two Austrian students found one at a flea market in 1991 and decided to exploit its marketing potential. They convinced the director of the Lomo PLC factory to relaunch production and negotiated an exclusive contract for distribution with their brand-new company: Lomography AG.

Lomo LC-A
Photo credit: maaku

And here begins the Lomography movement. If the term is familiar to you, you probably know at least two things about it. First, it promotes casual snapshot photography. Second, it is associated with over-saturated and high-contrast images. To confuse things, this second characteristic has nothing to do with the LC-A camera itself or with any other cameras for that matter. It is actually the result of the way the film is processed, which would usually be cross-processing. But Lomography is a movement, not a technique, and it was certainly the first to promote camera imperfections as an aesthetic. The success of the LC-A camera helped spread this aesthetic.

Holga 120
Photo credit: citronnade

Holga

With the success of this movement, Lomography AG became interested in other low-cost cameras, such as the Holga, which had been produced in China for a decade. Even though it was made by a different manufacturer, the Holga was considered the successor of the Diana. Inspired by its predecessor, the Holga was designed as an inexpensive mass-market camera. And like the Diana, it is not of the best quality and has the same flaws.

Holga 120
Photo credit: babyabby10

But the Holga became popular and was even exported to the West over time, mostly for photo-reporting, for which its low profile was appreciated. Its problems were no longer problems, and now it is not surprising to hear of Holga photos winning awards. Because it is entirely manual, one can create effects, such as double exposure and panoramas, by not winding the film.

Holga
Photo credit: Bill Hansen (website)

ActionSampler, SuperSampler, Oktomat

These three cameras don’t have many differences. They all take multiple shots in a set period of time, thus creating micro-images that look like short animated movies. The Actionsampler and Supersampler have four lenses each, while the Oktomat has eight, fitting eight frames into the standard 35mm.

oktomat
Photo credit: amylynnthompson

To make them a bit more fun, what you see through the viewfinder is not exactly what you get.

oktomat
Photo credit: golfpunkgirl

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Lomo Fisheye 2

As the name suggests, the Lomo Fisheye camera has a fish-eye lens. It was the first 35mm compact camera to offer such a wide angle (170°), and unlike the other toy cameras covered here, it gave surprisingly good results for the price. The second edition came with several enhancements, such a viewfinder that covered the same angle as the lens (it was blocked off before).

fisheye
Photo credit: aapnootmies

The effect created, often seen in sport images, can serve many other purposes. But the user should be aware of two major characteristics: strong deformation and light leaks.

fisheye
Photo credit: faha

Photoshop Tutorials And Resources

Now, let’s put all this into practice. Even if you are familiar with these effects, have ever actually tried to replicate them? There are a lot of different effects, and you can combine them to create unique images.

How To Give Your Photos a Dark Processed Lomo Effect Follow this step by step post processing guide to give your photos a dark lomo style effect with high contrast, blue tones and vignette burns.

lomo1

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Lomography This tutorial will guide you through the complexities of becoming a Lomographer using their ten rules as a guide.

lomo2

Fish-eye effect This shows you how to create a fish-eye effect for a picture taken with a regular lens. This one is a video and it addresses two important points: the lens circle border is not supposed to be so sharp when taking a fish-eye photograph, and one often deals with light infiltration.

fisheye

Polaroid Montage Learn how to create a Polaroid montage effect in Photoshop.

lomo3

Recreating Low-Quality Camera Flaws

Vignetting A very simple tutorial on recreating the vignetting effect.

vignetting

Create a vintage polaroid look in Photoshop Learn how to create different types of vintage looks in Photoshop.

lomo4

Faking Barrel Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations Here is a nice Photoshop plug-in to fake barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations. Adding these effects to your pictures will make them look even more authentic.

plugin

tutorial: polaroid effects Learn how to create a vinatge polaroid effect.

lomo5

Working on Colors and Light Exposure

LOMO PHOTOGRAPHY EFFECT Aside from the Lo-Fi look of the Lomo, the other main feature of Lomography is the cross processing of the Color Slide Film.

lomo6

Cross-Processing Tutorial With so many possible permutations of film stock and processing techniques, there is no single, identifiable look to cross-processed images. The most common combination is C-41 as E-6, in which slide chemistry is used to process color negative film; and mimicking it in Photoshop is a quick job. Image contrast is usually high, with blown-out highlights, while shadows tend towards dense shades of blue. Reds tend to be magenta, lips almost purple and highlights normally have a yellow-green tinge.

lomo7

Cross-Processing Another cros-processing tutorial.

crossprocessing

Vintage Effect Age your images a give them a vintage effect.

vintage

Using Textures and Double Exposure

Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect.

TtV

Resources of Speckle Pattern Yes, there is also a Flickr group called “Noise and Dust Through the Viewfinder.”

TtV

DIY: How to Fake Polaroids Here is a quick and easy tutorial for those who want to learn the art of taking a photo and turning it into an old-fashioned vintage picture.

lomo8

Create the Polaroid effect for images The quickest and easiest way to transform an image to make it look like it was taken using the Polaroid film.

lomo9

Filmstrip Effect Download a filmstrip template and use it to create negatives of your pictures.

filmstrip

Double Exposure When you take a double-exposed photograph, the results are usually a bit unpredictable. With Photoshop you have much more control over the result.

lomo10

Another Way to Create Double Exposure While the most common way to create a double exposure is by using a different blending mode on the top layer and adjusting its opacity, this method accurately simulates how a camera takes a double exposure.

lomo11

Other Ideas

No tutorials are needed to create these effects. They are included here merely to give you more ideas. You’ll still need to work on your pictures to get that vintage look. Then, just put them together and enjoy.

Shoot Series Like the Oktomat and the Actionsampler Draw inspiration from the Oktomat and Actionsampler cameras. You’ll get either four or eight images in the same frame, each of them having been shot after an interval of only a few seconds.

supersampler
Photo credit: Look!, by Moyö

Shoot Series like the Supersampler The Supersampler effect is quite similar to the Actionsampler: four images in the same frame, but spaced differently. And remember that you can arrange layers both horizontally and vertically.

supersampler
Photo credit: moving clocks run slow, by aleinsomniac

Panorama 2 Another inspiring panorama.

panorama
Photo credit: bruceberrien

Panorama 3 The panorama view can be combined with a filmstrip effect. It simulates a double-exposure panorama taken on a manual camera.

panorama
Photo credit: mikrofoniusz

Want More?

Polaroid

If cheapness is a defining characteristic of toy cameras, it surely isn’t for Polaroids. The Polaroid camera itself is not expensive, but because Fuji is now the only company that produces the film for it, getting affordable ones has become difficult. But this may change in the next few months thanks to the Impossible Project.

Going back a bit, the world’s first commercial instant camera was the “Land” camera, unveiled in 1947. Since then, Polaroid has become synonymous with instant photography, because most of the cameras have been created by the Polaroid Corporation. Nowadays, the cameras are used by photographers mainly to preview their work before actually shooting. But as toy cameras, they are fun to play with and can make for nice effects.

polaroid
Photo credit: paine666

Polaroid and Transfer Effect

Retro Polaroid Coloring on Your Photos This is a simple tutorial on how to get that retro Polaroid coloring in your photos.

polaroidcolors

Polaroid Transfer Effect This Photoshop tutorial shows you how to create a cool old photo transfer edge effect using a piece of stock photography, an alpha channel and the burn and dodge tools.

polaroidtransfert

Showcase of Beautiful Pictures

Considering that Flickr has a group for almost every subject, it is no surprise that there is one for toy cameras. Here is a showcase of the most beautiful images from it.

showcase
Photo credit: have I told you lately, by cHr1st1an S

doubleexposure
Photo credit: ubu84

showcase
Photo credit: 000038, by qwj

showcase
Photo credit: 54330027, by etara

showcase
Photo credit: Ipanema Beach - Brazil, by marcelo_maia

showcase
Photo credit: Hélicoïdal, by Cathy Lehnebach

showcase
Photo credit: Purgatoire, by stiveune

showcase
Photo credit: untitled, by Greg Zauswoz

TtV

DIY: How to Fake Polaroids Here is a quick and easy tutorial for those who want to learn the art of taking a photo and turning it into an old-fashioned vintage picture.

lomo8

Create the Polaroid effect for images The quickest and easiest way to transform an image to make it look like it was taken using the Polaroid film.

lomo9

Filmstrip Effect Download a filmstrip template and use it to create negatives of your pictures.

filmstrip

Double Exposure When you take a double-exposed photograph, the results are usually a bit unpredictable. With Photoshop you have much more control over the result.

lomo10

Another Way to Create Double Exposure While the most common way to create a double exposure is by using a different blending mode on the top layer and adjusting its opacity, this method accurately simulates how a camera takes a double exposure.

lomo11

Other Ideas

No tutorials are needed to create these effects. They are included here merely to give you more ideas. You’ll still need to work on your pictures to get that vintage look. Then, just put them together and enjoy.

Shoot Series Like the Oktomat and the Actionsampler Draw inspiration from the Oktomat and Actionsampler cameras. You’ll get either four or eight images in the same frame, each of them having been shot after an interval of only a few seconds.

supersampler
Photo credit: Look!, by Moyö

Shoot Series like the Supersampler The Supersampler effect is quite similar to the Actionsampler: four images in the same frame, but spaced differently. And remember that you can arrange layers both horizontally and vertically.

supersampler
Photo credit: moving clocks run slow, by aleinsomniac

Panorama 2 Another inspiring panorama.

panorama
Photo credit: bruceberrien

Panorama 3 The panorama view can be combined with a filmstrip effect. It simulates a double-exposure panorama taken on a manual camera.

panorama
Photo credit: mikrofoniusz

Want More?

Polaroid

If cheapness is a defining characteristic of toy cameras, it surely isn’t for Polaroids. The Polaroid camera itself is not expensive, but because Fuji is now the only company that produces the film for it, getting affordable ones has become difficult. But this may change in the next few months thanks to the Impossible Project.

Going back a bit, the world’s first commercial instant camera was the “Land” camera, unveiled in 1947. Since then, Polaroid has become synonymous with instant photography, because most of the cameras have been created by the Polaroid Corporation. Nowadays, the cameras are used by photographers mainly to preview their work before actually shooting. But as toy cameras, they are fun to play with and can make for nice effects.

polaroid
Photo credit: paine666

Polaroid and Transfer Effect

Retro Polaroid Coloring on Your Photos This is a simple tutorial on how to get that retro Polaroid coloring in your photos.

polaroidcolors

Polaroid Transfer Effect This Photoshop tutorial shows you how to create a cool old photo transfer edge effect using a piece of stock photography, an alpha channel and the burn and dodge tools.

polaroidtransfert

Showcase of Beautiful Pictures

Considering that Flickr has a group for almost every subject, it is no surprise that there is one for toy cameras. Here is a showcase of the most beautiful images from it.

showcase
Photo credit: have I told you lately, by cHr1st1an S

doubleexposure
Photo credit: ubu84

showcase
Photo credit: 000038, by qwj

showcase
Photo credit: 54330027, by etara

showcase
Photo credit: Ipanema Beach - Brazil, by marcelo_maia

showcase
Photo credit: Hélicoïdal, by Cathy Lehnebach

showcase
Photo credit: Purgatoire, by stiveune

showcase
Photo credit: untitled, by Greg Zauswoz

showcase
Photo credit: untitled, by bradbrochill

showcase
Photo credit: .., by cjlomo

showcase
Photo credit: spree1, by hellomelly

showcase
Photo credit: Love me two times, by laszlo_ototh

showcase
Photo credit: exit, by renaishashin

showcase
Photo credit: untitled, by Sergio Conde Sánchez

showcase
Photo credit: Akhirnya buat lomba juga -__-, by febryanyovi

showcase
Photo credit: Cosy Clausterphobia, by miss_michelle

showcase
Photo credit: svema_test1, by ashtonleee

showcase
Photo credit: untitled, by poppart

showcase
Photo credit: lomographicsocietyinternational

showcase
Photo credit: La Bòfia - Redscale, by fgali1964

showcase
Photo credit: chomdee

showcase
Photo credit: offcenter

showcase Photo credit: Holga Tennis, by Nick Whitmoyer

showcase
Photo credit: golfpunkgirl

showcase
Photo credit: eyetwist

Further Resources

Old Toy Camera - Photoshop action This Photoshop action makes images look as though they are aged prints, shot on a toy or antique camera. Also included are two actions that create borders similar to those seen on photos from many antique and toy cameras.

Toy Camera Gallery This project is home to photos taken with toy cameras. Most are plastic: Holga, Diana, Dorie, Debonair, Lubitel, Banner, Snappy and Yunon. Distortion, blur and imperfection are some of the characteristics that endear these cameras to enthusiasts.

Abduzeedo: 60 Interesting Lomo Fisheye Shots Gathered here are a few Lomography fish-eye shots. Some were taken with Lomography cameras such as the Diana and the LC-A+ with a fish-eye lens adapter attached.

Lomography.com Lomographic Society International Website.

Smashing Editorial (al)