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How-to: convert a toy camera to shoot BW infrared film – by Lucy WainwrightHow-to: convert a toy camera to shoot BW infrared film – by Lucy Wainwright

How-to: convert a toy camera to shoot BW infrared film – by Lucy Wainwright

Ok, so as photography how-to’s go, this one is as simple as they come. There are four things that you absolutely need in order to convert your disposable camera to shoot black and white infrared film…and one thing that will be helpful.

This is going to be a quick guide, so if you’re set, let’s go…

 

 

Required bits and pieces

  1. A Superheadz UWS, Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim, or something very much like them (I’ve done this with a Holga too).
  2. Some strong but thin tape, like electrician’s tape.
  3. A proper R72 IR filter (mine’s a Zomei and it’s perfectly good).
  4. A roll of IR film (obviously!) I use Rollei’s very good Infrared 400 film.

The one helpful thing to have is a dedicated light meter or lightmeter app. I do it by eye on the whole, and just go for it on days that are kind of “WOW! It’s really sunny!”

The filter reduces the ISO by around 5 stops, which gives you a functional ISO of 12.5 on the ISO 400 Rollei Infrared. This is very shootable handheld, even in here the UK. I’ve shot ISO 1 film handheld at the beach so this is a doddle, believe me.

 

 

Step 1: the “build”

Fatso IR - Superheadz UWS with R72 filter

Fatso IR – Superheadz UWS with R72 filter

Tape your filter to the plucky little Superheadz/Vivitar/Holga/camera without covering too much of the glass, and without covering up the viewfinder or wind-on wheel or anything else essential like that.

 

 

Step 2: Load

Load your film. You are ready.

That was it.

There is no step 3.

 

 

The results

I had my taped-up UWS in my big bag for a year. It went to Anglesey and the Inner Hebrides and all round Derbyshire and Cheshire, I took it out and shot a few frames any day that was a WOW day.

If you are going to meter you need to know that the UWS, or Fatso, as she is also known, has a shutter speed of 1/125 with an aperture of f/11. If you set the ISO on your light meter to 10 or 12 and make sure that the f/11 and 1/125 are reasonably aligned one way or the other, then you will get a usable shot. If your light meter suggests that your shot will be a radical overexposure you can always hold a neutral density filter over the lens. There are flat Cokin-type ones that are handy for this.

Click or tap on the thumbnails below to view the photos full-size.

I like the UWS because everything is fixed, including focus, leaving you nothing to do but love your life and frame your shot.

Shots that didn’t work on my roll didn’t work because they were boring or underexposed, but there weren’t too many of them because IR is thrillingly dark and contrasty! And because you can mostly rescue underexposure in post, if you are really keen on it. You can shoot tons of Rollei because it’s pretty cheap, and you’ll save more if you develop it yourself.

One thing to note if you are new to IR is that however tempting the backlight is, it isn’t optimal for IR photography. Direct front light works best. Having said that, it’s sometimes worth a try:

Fatso IR - Infrared photography with the Superheadz UWS and Rollei Infrared 400 - backlit grassy

Fatso IR – Infrared photography with the Superheadz UWS and Rollei Infrared 400 – backlit grassy

Most people shoot at around midday, and a few hours either side, when the amount of IR in visible light is at its highest. Interestingly, at dawn and dusk the amount of IR is lower but as a proportion of the total available light, IR is very high. So don’t rule out shooting at 6am and 8pm, because you might be surprised.

I’d love to see your results! The most amazing thing about the film community for me is just what a strong, tight and KIND community it is. All the advice and encouragement you need, and it will even send you a Christmas present! [EMULSIVE Secret Santa!]

Huge thanks to She Shoots Film, Film Shooters Collective and everyone keeping warm around the #believeinfilm and #shootfilmbenice hashtags at Twitter!

Tag me on Twitter or Instagram and let’s start an IR party!

~ Lucy

 

 

EDIT: Thanks to Michael Raso for the advice/nudge on the updated title!

 

 

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About The Author

Lucy Wainwright

Lucy Wainwright is a trainee art therapist and amateur photographer based in Derbyshire in the UK.

12 Comments

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  1. Lucy

    Hi Malcolm, great news, you’ll enjoy that!
    I don’t use a dark bag for this kind of thing, but I know other people do. I daresay I might regret it one day 🙂
    Tag me on insta if you post there, I’d love to see what you get. It’s @thelucywainwright

    Reply
  2. Malcolm Myers

    Lucy, thanks for sharing this, both the ideas and the photos. It’s inspired me to have a go. By the way, I’ve always thought you needed to load/unload IR film in complete darkness (e.g. in a dark bag). Is that correct?

    Reply
  3. Lucy

    Hi Vincent & thanks for the appreciation! I originally wrote the article about the camera that I used, which was a Superdeadz UWS. It’s a clone of the legendary Vivitar UWS, but also I think a superstar in its own right.
    Then EM edited the headline a while back, but I’m not quite sure why. There are NO disposable cameras that come loaded with IR film, but actually you can reload a disposable, so this would work if you did that. It works for toy cameras of all kinds. I’ve shot IR in a Holga too. They are a bit leaky, which can dilute the effect, but it does look good still.
    I wrote this about colour IR and BW IR in toy cams: https://www.filmshooterscollective.com/analog-film-photography-blog/olga-and-fatso-go-goth-aka-shooting-infrared-film-in-toy-cameras-lucy-wainwright-5-9
    I’m on Instagram @thelucywainwright if you want to chat film.

    Reply
    • I’m baffled as to why I changed it… I’ve updated “disposable camera” to “toy camera” 🙂

      Reply
  4. Good work! I absolutely love this high contrast look that you got. I am so a beginner when it comes to using filter and I know absolutely nothing about infrared film. I’ve got 2 stupid questions: Why do you need to use a disposable camera to do that? (I’m guessing you can’t focus with so little light so you need to use a point and shoot camera.) And why do you call it a disposable camera if you can load it? (I’m guessing it is some sort of a toy camera like a Holga…)

    Reply
  5. @Lucy_Shoot_Film @RolleiGermany Love. Going to convert one of my holgas. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. I looooooove my Superheadz UWS and used to take it everywhere with me, but making lo-fi photos of the boring places I go around here has left me a bit uninspired. Plus I’ve always wanted to try some infrared photography, so this is just the ticket.

    My 49mm Zomei filter already arrived. Now for some IR film…

    Reply
  7. @Lucy_Shoot_Film @RolleiGermany Fun mod!

    Reply
  8. Lucy Wainwright

    Thank you Michael, that means the world!

    Reply
  9. @Lucy_Shoot_Film @RolleiGermany Very cool! Thanks, I can’t wait to try it.

    Reply

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