Disposable cameras are making a comeback and we’re here to show you how great they truly are! Discover how to use a disposable camera, how to get good photos using a disposable camera, where to get your photos printed and so much more. Read our ultimate disposable cameras guide today.
Disposable cameras are made from plastic and have a film that can capture a limited number of photos (typically 27 - 40 photos). Disposable cameras also feature a viewfinder, flash button and capture button. As the name suggests this type of camera is disposable and is considered single-use. That being said most disposable cameras can be recycled. They are much more affordable alternative to digital cameras making them a great choice for those wanting to capture memorable photos on a budget. Although disposable cameras don’t provide the same excellent image quality as a digital camera, they are incredibly user-friendly and are excellent for capturing retro and candid photos.
In most instances when you send a used disposable camera for processing, the film is removed and the photos are developed. The actual camera then goes through an elaborate automated recycling production line, whereby the camera unit is opened up so that the batteries can be removed and sent for recycling.
Disposable cameras have been designed in a way that makes it easy to remove every single component. The flash, lens and viewfinder are removed and then tested and cleaned before being salvaged. The plastic bodies are also crushed and melted before being remoulded.
The remoulded camera body and salvaged camera parts are then reassembled into complete cameras. Consequently, very little is actually thrown away.
Disposable cameras are still widely used today and are becoming increasingly popular once again. Thanks to the revival of Y2K fashion and culture many are seeking out nostalgic and retro trends, with disposable cameras being one of them. Not only are they incredibly easy to use, affordable and pretty hardwearing but they also capture photos that hold sentimental value. Smartphones and digital cameras allow us to take the same photo over and over again until we get the perfect shot, whereas with a disposable camera you can’t see the final image until you have had the whole film developed. This adds an element of anticipation and makes each photo all the more special. Disposable cameras are also great for events such as weddings, festivals and parties and can often be bought in bulk.
All disposable cameras can generally be operated the exact same way, though there often some differences when it comes to operating the flash depending on the brand of camera. Most disposable cameras will feature operating instructions on one side but just in case, here is a breakdown of how to use a disposable camera:
Rotate the scroll wheel to the right to advance the film in the camera
You will need to advance the film inside the camera to an empty frame before taking a photo. To do this, put your thumb on the horizontal wheel embedded in the camera next to the viewfinder. Use your thumb to rotate the scroll wheel to the right. Keep scrolling the wheel it won’t turn any further.
Turn on the flash by sliding or pressing the button on the front of the camera
Use the flash on the disposable camera in instances where you need an additional light source, such as when its dark our or you’re inside. To do this, look at the front of the camera and find the flash button. This will most likely either be a slide button or a button that you need to hold in and wait for a red light to turn on. You will hear a high-pitched sound as the flash charges. Wait 2-5 seconds for this sound to end. Once the sound is gone, the flash is ready to use. Only use the flash in low light conditions or if you’re trying to capture something 8–36 feet in front of you. If you don’t want to use the flash, ignore this step.
Raise the camera up to your eye and look through the viewfinder
On the back of the camera, there is a transparent rectangle that you look through to take the photo, this is called the viewfinder. Hold the viewfinder up to your eye and look through it to frame your photo.
Press the button on top of the camera to take a photo
To take your photo, press the button on top of the camera all the way down. When you hear a click, the shutter has finished opening and closing, and the photo has been taken. Then release the button.
Take photos until the film in your camera runs out
Depending on the type of disposable camera you have you will be able to take between 27 and 40 photos. The number of photos you have left to take will be displayed on the back or the top of the camera. Once all the film has been used, you won’t be able to take any more photos.
Get your photos developed
Once you’ve finished using your camera, take it to a photography shop or studio to get the film developed. Some photo labs may be able to develop your film in as little as 1 hour, but some stores may require a few days to complete the process.
Disposable cameras can’t technically produce the same quality images as high end digital cameras because of their lower quality build materials, but it all depends on your preferred photography style and preferred image finish. Disposable cameras feature a bright flash, fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed and plastic lens, which tends to create beautiful high contrast and saturated images.
The trick to capturing great photos with a disposable camera is to know its limitations. For example, the flash on a disposable camera works best when used 4 -10ft away from the subject. Furthermore, the camera only focuses on objects 4 ft from the lens, while anything closer will be blurry. As a result, anyone standing at least 10 feet from the camera at night will not be adequately lit by the flash. For the best results, take your images outside on a sunny day or use the flash when inside.
Taking photos with a disposable camera is a lot of fun as you don’t get to see how the photos turned out until you get the film developed. That being said, there are several things you can do to improve the quality of your photos. Read our tips for getting good photos with a disposable camera:
Take you photos in good lighting: Taking your photos in good lighting will ensure that your subject is well lit. Make sure that the light is pointing at the subject from the front and not behind. When there is not much light or its in the evening, make use of the flash.
Don’t stand too close or too far away from the subject: Disposable cameras only focus on subjects 4 ft from the lens, while anything closer will be blurry. Keep in mind that anyone standing at least 10 feet from the camera at night will not be adequately lit by the flash.
Use the flash when needed: Its important to make sure that you’re using the flash in darker or indoor settings. There’s nothing worse than getting your photos back only to find out all of them are too dark to see.
Be careful of subjects in motion: Subjects in motion is the number one cause of blurry photos. This happens because the shutter speed of disposable cameras is relatively slow. Be sure that you (the photographer) and the subjects of your photo remain as still as possible until the photo has been taken.
Clean the camera lens: Cleaning the lens before taking a photo will ensure that there is no debris or dirt in the lens. Any smudges to the lens could effect the quality of your photos, so be sure to.
Watch your fingers: Make sure you’re not covering the lens or flash with your fingers when holding the camera as this will impact to quality of your photos.
Although disposable cameras themselves never expire, the films and batteries for the flash do. Film usually expires about 2 – 3 years after the manufacture date but may still be good for another five or six years if stored away from heat and humidity.
You can get your photos developed and printed at most photography shops and drug stores.
At Harrison Cameras we also offer photo printing at our in-store photo processing lab. We cater for both 35mm and 120 film as well as digital photo printing. You can bring your camera in store or send your films to us via our mail order form.
Disposable camera and 35mm film prints are available in as little as 7 to 10 days. All other types of film are usually ready in approximately three weeks.
There are several different methods to get the photos from your disposable camera online or on your phone:
Ask the camera shop developing your photos to scan the prints and put copies on a CD or memory stick. You can use the CD or memory stick to put the photos on your computer or laptop, where they can then be sent to your phone or uploaded to social media.
Scan the photos yourself using a scanner and send the images to your phone or computer.
There are plenty of benefits of using a disposable camera including the fact that they can be recycled, are cost effective, easy to use, are compact and retro.
Most disposable cameras can be recycled, creating less waste
Disposable cameras are more affordable than digital cameras
Disposable cameras are easy to use and the shutter speed and ISO is already set
Disposable cameras are fairly compact and small
Disposable cameras are now considered retro and are lot of fun to use. They also capture photos that instantly feel nostalgic
Waiting to have your photos printed is really exciting
Now that you know how to use a disposable camera why not check out our selection of disposable cameras.