Give Your Holga a Custom Look.




Introduction: Give Your Holga a Custom Look.

About: I am a British Graphic Designer and Photographer, when I am not working, I spend my time making an array of projects. I used to make a lot of props, but now I spend most my time building crazy cameras and sh...
Welcome to the first phase of my Holga modification. I own only the one holga and a number of months back I did a few modifications and gave it a custom paint job. Later I had a better idea, and a change of heart regarding the look of my camera.
(subscribe to keep an eye out for that instructable!)

So, this will be split into two very different instructables, either instructable could be followed to get two different custom Holgas.

The Holga is a camera made by Lomo, and is well known for being the cheapest and easiest way to get into Lomography.

To help define Lomography I have borrowed this paragraph from Batness' Instructable on 'How to paint a plastic camera.' (I think he may have borrowed it from wikipedia)

There are many people interested in using medium-format plastic cameras to take photos these days. Translation; film cameras are back in! Using this retro type of camera, you can take "vintage" ye-olde looking photographs.

This new trend was likely started by Lomography . Lomography emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics include over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and photographers are encouraged to take a lighthearted approach to their photos, and use these techniques to document everyday life. (<--oh noes Wikipedia!) 

In this Instructable we will cover-

  • Removing the viewfinder and replacing it with a useful little light.
  • Prepping and Painting the camera.
  • Adding a nice layered paper effect on the grips.

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Step 1: Materials, and Tools Needed.

Materials Needed - 
  • A Lomo Holga (between £16 and £40 dependant on specifics of the model)
  • Black Direct to metal spray paint
  • A small LED circuit
  • Two Part Epoxy Resin (aroldyte)
  • Some pages from an interesting book (mine was a chinese red book)
  • Brush on metallic paint (you can bust open a silver marker pen in a push)
  • A 46mm step up ring (step up to your most used filter size)
  • Some thin scrap plastic
  • Black marker pen (sharpie, used for touching up in some areas)
  • Masking tape
  • PVA, Woodglue, Elmers Glue
Tools Needed -
  • Scalpel, X-acto, Stanley knife, Boxcutter
  • Drill
  • Small files
  • Paint brushes
  • plyers (may be used for breaking some plastic
  • Soldering iron (optional, if you are wiring up your own led circuit)
  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Medium cross head screwdriver

Step 2: Remove the Top Section.

The Holga in its cheap toy nature, is also very easy to take apart, which makes it a great base model for us modders.

To remove the top of the Holga, we first need to remove the film advancing knob.
Carefully slide a thin screwdriver under the knob, and rotate it slightly to allow you to get a firm hold, pull straight up to break the bond between to knob and the advancing spool. The glue is strong, but also cheap, so can be easily broken.

Once you have this removed you will see two small screws, these plus another screw on the opposite side need to be removed also.

Lift the entire top section straight up. If you have one of the versions with a flash, you will need to make sure you do not loose the little black plastic switch.

Be sure to discharge your camera flash fully, so as not to shock your self on the flash circuit.

Step 3: Fitting an LED

The view finder on the Holga does very little in terms of helping to take a picture. Most the time you can get a more accurate shot by 'pointing and shooting'.

With the advice in hand I went about making better use of the space.

This may vary a little if you are using the non flash version of the camera.

First you need to slide out the two plastic elements that make up the viewfinder, hold onto the front one, we will use that later.

Using your pliers slowly bend the plastic side of the veiwfinder until it becomes weak and snaps off.

I had already sourced an LED circuit from a cheap torch, which I also cut out the battery holder from. We still want to change the batteries easily, so I made this hatch face the outside.

Using a combination of a sharp knife, and your pliers, and even a coping saw, enlarge the rear view finder to accommodate your battery holder.

I also drilled a hole to the side of the battery holder to fit my push switch from the circuit.

Using epoxy resin glue the LED, battery holder and switch in place.

The last three pictures show the camera with the switch fitted, and a test of the LED.

Step 4: Reassemble.

Putting the top on the Holga should be fairly easy, as long as you kept your wires short, and did not throw your screws away.

The main suggestion I have is that if you struggle to get the flash switch to stay in place, drill a small hole into the switch, and screw in a spare screw, allowing you to hold the switch without it falling inside the camera.

If the top does not sit right, turn the advance spool until it clicks into the metal stopper. Then it should sit in.

It can be a bit fiddly, but you will get it eventually.

Put the screws back in, be sure not to open the camera up too often, as it is very easy to chew up the screw holes, which are only made of plastic.

Step 5: Paint Job.

I decided that I wanted more of a matt finish on my camera, and that a little silver dry brushing might a nice addition (in style of my other projects).

I used my favourite 'direct to metal' spray paint, I know its only a plastic camera, but its a good paint, and I know it will stick.

First, slide of the metal clasps at either side, they should slide up and off if you hold the metal tab away from the camera.

There are four main areas to mask off.
  • The lens area
  • The flash
  • The viewfinder section where the LED is on the front
  • The small window on the back to show where the film is.
When painting with spray paint remember that lots of thin layers give a better effect.
The first layer will not cover it. Leave about 5 minutes between each coat, if you spray so much that the paint looks wet, that is probably too much, and will take an age to dry.

Once the camera has been left for an hour or two (preferably over night), we can attach it with some silver paint.

Pour a tiny amount of silver paint onto a flat surface (some scrap card) dab a little onto a brush then brush off the excess onto another scrap of card/paper, once the excess has been removed you can slowly start to brush it onto the camera, repeat until you have the depth that you want.

Step 6: The Step Up Ring.

Once you have let the paint dry we can go about adding in a little extra.
You could add this on before you painted the camera, but it would be hard to try and paint the outside of the ring, while not gunking up the threads on the inside.

The 46mm step up ring is just about the right size to screw into the front of the camera, to allow it to screw in smoothly run a sharp blade around the inside lip to remove a little material.

Try screwing in the ring, if it does not seem to want to go in after an attempt or two, take a little more off. Repeat until you get a good fit.

If you take too much off, and if it feels a little loose, just pop a few dabs of glue in as you screw it into place.

Step 7: Custom Grips.

The custom grips are made by layering up some paper. Anything can be used, and you can easily get a different look.

Here are a few suggestions for what you can use -
  • Old Comics
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Books in other languages
  • Old wrapping paper
For mine, I used a little Chinese red book.

We start by tearing up the book, I found it much easier to cut out some pages with a knife first.

My book lending itself to be torn up into strips, where as a comic book may do better being torn up into small squares. (decide what effect you think will look best.)

Once you have a nice pile of paper, its time to get gluing. I suggest doing all of the following just with your fingers, much easier, and alot more fun.

I suggest PVA (Elmers, or Wood glue), it dries as a plastic, and is hard wearing.

Spread some glue onto the camera, a nice even layer, then start placing some pieces of paper on, every time you put a piece on, squeeze a little bit onto your finger and cover that piece in more glue, keep going till you have covered the areas you want.

With it being paper you can easily layer it up, when dry it will appear more see through, so be sure to get 2-3 layers of paper over all of it.

Once it is dry (give it at least 24 hours) we can go about trimming it down at the edges, if you do it carefully you should be able to feel the edge of the various areas, if you do cut too much off, or make a mistake, just patch it up with glue and paper, and try again!

Step 8: Finished!

You should now have a nice custom looking holga, and we all know that a custom holga is far more hipster than just a normal boring one.

The great thing about this tutorial is that a different coloured paint, and a different type of paper can be used to create a very different effect!

Anyone who posts a picture below of their Custom Holga (using this tutorial or not) will get a Custom Holga Patch from myself!

Thank you for reading, and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments.

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    15 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    yey someone else has noted the glued on knob, only did my instructable cos my hidden screw pic on flickr is my most viewed image,like your led touch. maybe a lazer could act as an aiming device.kept my mod minimal as i just wanted a all white holga


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Ooh, looks nice. I'll have to try this sometime.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, but when you spray it, does it affect the barrel at the front?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Here's mine. I relocated the clips, gave it a crude paintjob, and added a binder clip with theatrical gels.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I think often the crude paint jobs work the best. If you are doing stuff yourself, it is much easier to make a good crude one, than a good perfect one.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    It's taken me forever to finally post on this. :P
    Great job! I do love me some Holgas. I'm thinking of painting mine or layering fabric on it somehow...just haven't narrowed it down.

    I guess I'd better; I want a Holga patch! XD I'm terrified that I'm going to ruin the flash when I take mine apart...I might have to use a non-flash Holga.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, before you do, wait for my next iteration, where I do something even crazier,


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Can't wait! I need some new camera inspiration...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey! We are neck and neck for instructables now!

    Lithium Rain
    Lithium Rain

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I hope you are neck in neck and not neck and neck. Cuz, two displaced necks conversing is just too weird even for the internet...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    haha yea, i have a week and a half more of exams, then summer so i will be making more then :D