Digital lomography

Someone at a photography forum that I frequently visit dropped me a question in my inbox…

“Does the exposure from dslr would came out the close to Holga, if i were shot indoor with setting on my dslr to manual mode.
Shutter speed : 1/100
Aperture : F8

I thought that this was a very good question more so for those who are venturing into the world of lomography.

The effect you’re seeing with Holga cameras is not a result of the shutter speed and aperture combination. Most likely the setting combination was chosen based on practical reasons owing to the fact that focusing for Holgas is at best by estimation (there is no such thing as precise focusing in Holga). Another possible reason is probably for cost and economic consideration. A basic Holga is probably cheaper than your standard Hoya UV filter or your CF memory card.

The unique Holga effect such as the vignetting and blurry out-of-focus feel is a result of the way the camera lens is constructed. There is no way of controlling the vignetting and it varies from situation to situation. E.g. you can’t say things like “I want it to vignette more for this shot. I want it to vignette less for another shot”. So, it’s very different from say a Lensbaby where you have some degree of control. From my experience, using a high contrast film like Kodak TRI-X (400TX) helps to bring out the vignetting more especially when you do push-processing in dark room. Again, the vignetting is again dependent on situation to situation. In fact, no two Holgas are the same and they behave differently in a different situation. I have a 120GN and a 120CFN. Both are quite unique in its own right and I like them both for different reasons.

The thing about Holga is never about precision or consistency, something we are more accustom to with modern cameras. Everything is by estimation, guess work and experience. Using a Holga is pretty much based on instincts and gut-feel. You take a shot without knowing for sure whether you’ve got what you wanted but you had this feeling that it was right, reason why you pressed the shutter in the first place. This “not knowing of what you’ll be getting” does has its own charms but it needs a little getting use to more so for those who shoots primarily on a digital camera and have a habit of “instant previewing” your shots.

So, back to the question of whether we can create a Holga effect with a digital camera. Well, with plenty of digital manipulation in Photoshop and with some Holga plug-ins out in the web, it might be possible although I won’t be able to say for certain. But why bother creating a Holga effect on a digital image in the first place. The whole idea of shooting with a Holga is really about the randomness of the result. It’s about not knowing what you’ll get until you have it processed. The fun part about Holga is really about shooting based on gut-feel, instincts and above all, feelings! You don’t capture what you see but you capture what you feel. To me, that is the most gratifying experience about using a Holga. It’s definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. But for those who love it, you’ll drink it almost everyday.