5 frames with...

5 Frames With Refilled Disposable Cameras – By Skyler Adams

I’ve noticed camera communities excitedly share news about new cameras, lenses and lighting equipment but sometimes it seems these cameras don’t even get used.

Why?

Gear is cheaper than ever and every type of photography is now accessible. A lowest-model $300 Nikon or Canon trounces the pro gear from 15 years ago and lighting gear isn’t far behind. A amateur can make work that matches the technical quality thats at the fingertips of professionals.

Fujifilm Natura 1600

I wanted to get away from the endless grind to better equipment and better photos and try something completely different. I got into film as a way to creatively limit myself and I found solace in a disposable camera.

With a disposable, you get two decisions. You decide when and where to trigger the shutter. You also decide if you want a flash on or off.

Fujifilm Velvia 50

I could concentrate on getting solely the best subject and the best composition as I see fit. When it was too dark, I used the flash. I also modified a disposable camera to connect to studio lighting.

I purchased a handful of old disposable cameras and refilled them. I ensured the best results for any lighting condition by keeping several disposable cameras on me with different types of film rolled in each. My favorite premium films are Ilford Delta 3200 and Fujifilm NPS 160

Fujifilm NPS 160

Overall I found I spent a lot of time in the moment. I never missed a shot monkeying with dials or deciding what ISO to use. Either I snapped the picture or I didn’t.

Ilford Delta 100

After a year of keeping a disposable camera on me daily and documenting my life, I’m ready to appreciate a modern camera again. I know when to use all the fancy features of a full frame DSLR but I also know when not to.

Kodak Portra 400

My next project is to capture a SpaceX rocket launch on instant film.

You can find more of my pictures at my instagram @skylerada

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Julian
    May 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Love this idea! How does metering work with the different stocks or do you just take what comes out? Is there anyway to set the iso with the new stock?

    • Reply
      skyleradams
      May 10, 2018 at 9:04 pm

      No metering – you only get f/10 at about 1/100. That means slide film on sunny days only and rely on latitude of the film for changing light conditions. I also experimented with ND filters from sunglasses.

  • Reply
    Alan Withington
    May 10, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Great idea, love the ethos and results are good too. Loading a number of cameras with different films is something I’ll try as am using a lot of point and shoot cameras. All the best!

  • Reply
    Robert
    May 10, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    I love what you’ve done here. What disposable did you use? The colours are cool, especially that Natura. The NPS 160 shot look like you’ve taken an image of a poster, is it that tiny plastic lens?
    I have a bunch of disposables but when I go out I always reach for a compact or SLR. Part of me wants to fiddle! I do have plans for my expired disposables though. I think they make perfect candidates for experimentation like drilling holes in the body gluing coloured plastic over the lenses.

    • Reply
      skyleradams
      May 10, 2018 at 9:01 pm

      I used a Kodak funsaver. I would have preferred a Fuji because their flash switch is more advanced but they are uktraonically welded together and un-recyclable.

  • Reply
    Robert
    May 10, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Awesome! I love what you’ve done here. What disposable did you use? The colours are cool, especially that Natura. The NPS 160 shot look like you’ve taken an image of a poster, is it that tiny plastic lens?
    I have a bunch of disposables but when I go out I always reach for a compact or SLR. Part of me wants to fiddle! I do have plans for my expired disposables though. I think they make perfect candidates for experimentation like drilling holes in the body gluing coloured plastic over the lenses. Thoughts?

    • Reply
      skyleradams
      May 10, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      Disposables are great because they cost nothing and you can take them anywhere without fear of losing an expensive camera. The plastic lens takes some getting used to the film plane is curved in the vertical direction so the distortion is weird. Also the lens flares like no tomorrow.

  • Reply
    paul snaith
    May 10, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Really liked this article – the colours on the girl’s skin are incredible, it’s almost like she’s right there in front of you, and from a disposable camera! Further proof that’s it’s not the equipment you have but the person using it. Thank you Skyleradams. 🙂

  • Reply
    Paulo Moreira
    May 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    After seeing countless boring and banal photographs in “5 Frames”, you prove that there is a substitute for gear but there is no substitute for talent. I enjoyed immensely your pictures and text. I’m looking forward to see more from your next project.

    • Reply
      skyleradams
      May 10, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you! It was quite zen to concentrate on this and I enjoyed it immensely.

  • Reply
    Bent_Brent
    May 10, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Fantastic post, really different thinking and beautiful work. I love seeing original ideas like this – and you’re so right about modern gear. We’re spoilt by all the choices presented in even the most entry level camera, and too much choice is rarely a good thing. My fav 5 Frames to date.

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    May 10, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Why on earth waste premium film on a disposable camera? A decent P&S with a good lens and exposure system is as fast to shoot with and the results are better. I mean, I can see the allure of disposable cameras, but refilling them with premium film seems like such a waste.

    • Reply
      Paulo Moreira
      May 11, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      Why not Christos, the idea was to be different with minimal gear but with quality film, not expired or of unknown origin that would immediately give a Lomographic look that is totally absent here, praise the lord!

      This sort of work reminds me of Joshua Paul and his work with his 1913 Graflex or David Burnett and his Holga.

  • Reply
    Karl Valentin
    May 11, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Agree with Christos – on the other side why not buy a Porsche and just drive with one speed backwards ?
    Everybody is free to do so if he think it makes him special right ?

  • Reply
    Daniel Fjäll
    May 11, 2018 at 9:58 am

    “After a year of keeping a disposable camera on me daily and documenting my life, I’m ready to appreciate a modern camera again. I know when to use all the fancy features of a full frame DSLR but I also know when not to.”

    This is exactly how I feel about getting back into digital after 3 years of shooting film exclusively. Love the disposable camera approach.

  • Reply
    Tobias Eriksson
    May 16, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Hey, thanks for sharing this project! Yes, why not upend conceptions of what you’re doing when the spark is lost or limitations hide the magic of one’s photography. I myself am trying what an Action Sampler type camera can make me see that I didn’t see before.

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