November 4th, 2005
A look at how to Holgafy your digital images. A holga is a very low-tech $20 plastic medium format camera that was really made as a toy camera, but it has caught on with many photographers due to the unique look of the images a Holga produces. Holgas are plagued with light leaks, poor plastic lenses, and unpredictable controls. So why would one want to make their pristine digital image look like it was shot with a junker of a camera? Well the raw and kind of primal look you get with a holga can be very appealing for certain images, and sometimes seeing images in a slightly different format can do wonders for the feel of an image.
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A special thanks to the Hijiyama Project for our new closing theme. You can find more about the Hijiyama Project here.
Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Open up an image in Photoshop that you would like to holgafy. Then select the crop tool from the tools pallet. While you can shoot Holgas in both rectangle and square formats, most people (including me) prefer the more unique square shape. So, with the crop tool hold down shift and drag out a crop on your image. Holding down shift will force the crop tool into a square shape. When you have a crop you like hit return to accept the crop.
Step 2: Now create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer by hitting the button on the layers pallet that looks like circle that is half white and half black and select the hue/saturation option.
Step 3: A new dialog box will pop open with 3 sliders in it. Click the saturation slider and drag it all the way to the left and click ok. This will make your image black and white. While not all Holga images are shot in black and white, I would guess that most are, and black and white adds to the Holga mood.
Step 4: Now create a levels adjustment layer the same way we made the hue saturation layer except select the levels option in the pop up menu. A new dialog box will open with a histogram graph in it. You should notice three triangles under the histogram, one white, one black, and one grey one in the middle. I usually drag both the black and white triangles toward the middle. This will increase the contrast in the image. When you have settings that looks good to you click ok. You can always adjust these settings later; so donâ€™t be too picky about it now.
Step 5: Now create a new layer above the background layer. You can do this quickly by clicking on the background layer, then clicking the button that looks like a little sticky note at the bottom of the layers pallet.
Step 6: Now select the gradient tool from the tool pallet and push the â€œdâ€ key on your keyboard. This will set the black as your foreground color. Now go to the gradient options bar or pallet and click directly on the big horizontal gradient in the options bar, you will know you will be in the right place to click if a message that says â€œclick to edit the gradientâ€ come up when you hover over the section of the bar or pallet.
Step 7: A dialog box will open with a bunch of gradient presets. Click on the one that is foreground to transparent (it should look like a box with black at the top left corner fading into little grey and white squares). Now look below the presets part of the dialog to the long horizontal picture of a gradient. Just above the picture you will see two triangles with squares above them. There will be a black on the left and a white one on the right. Drag the white one left till the location box below reads about 35%. Then click ok.
Step 8: Now click the radial gradient button from the gradient tools options and click the reverse check box. Then click and hold with the mouse in the middle of your image with the gradient tool and drag your mouse to one of the corners of your image. When your mouse aligns with a corner of you image let go. This should darken all the corners of your image and imitate the Vignetting the lens of the Holga creates.
Step 9: Holga lenses also have a much sharper focus in the middle of the image than at the edges, so we are going to selectively blur just the edges of the image. To do this duplicate the background layer by dragging it in the layers pallet to the sticky note button at the bottom. Then go to the filter menu and select blur then lens blur. If your copy of Photoshop doesnâ€™t have lens blur use Gaussian blur. Blur the image so your image looks blurry but shapes and lines are still visible. The exact amount you need to use will vary depending on the size of you image. Then click OK.
Step 10: Now add a layer mask to the blurred layer by clicking on the button that looks like a grey rectangle with a white circle in the middle of it in the layers pallet. Now select your gradient tool again and select the black to white preset from the gradient options bar. Make sure that the reverse check box is unclicked, and that the radial gradient is still selected, then drag the gradient tool from the middle of the image to one of the corners of the image. This will fade the blur from the middle out to the edges of the image.
Optional Steps: For an even more holga like image you can add noise to the image with the noise filter and add film marks to the top and bottom of the image. Fake film tops and bottoms are available here and here.