Disposable cameras, or one-time use cameras, are popular with those who do not want to invest in a traditional camera, prefer photographs to digital pictures, or only need a camera occasionally. Disposable film cameras for individual sale are available from almost every type of retail store, including discount stores, mini-marts, drug stores, and airport kiosks.
Finding the best selection and pricing for bulk camera purchases is a bigger challenge. Shopping clubs carry cameras in bulk, but selection is limited. Retail stores that also carry electronics may have a good selection of disposable camera models, but they are not priced for bulk purchases. The optimal place to find the most choices of camera manufacturers and camera features, as well as bulk quantity buying options, is online shopping sites. You can often find disposable cameras online in a bulk pack of 10 cameras per case.
What to Look for in a Disposable Camera
One of the biggest mistakes shoppers make about disposable cameras is assuming that all models are the same. At a minimum, buyers should make sure to choose one with a flash option and have a specific film speed in mind. Some disposable cameras also come with features, such as panoramic and zoom lenses. There are even waterproof models that can be used underwater. The more features the camera has, the higher its price will probably be. Research the choices, figure out what features are needed, and do lots of comparison shopping.
Basic disposable camera models are the least expensive, but they usually come with a fixed focus feature. This means the camera lens cannot be adjusted to affect the quality of the shot. There are a few ways to work around the technical limitations of these cameras; they just require a little creativity. Some of the following tricks should also help with deciding which type of disposable camera to buy.
Trick 1: Pay Attention to Film ISO
Film speed is one of the most important factors affecting the photo quality of each shot. Film speed is indicated by a number called an ISO rating. The rating describes the film's sensitivity to light. Lower numbers indicate slower films that require more light. Higher numbers indicate faster films that need less light. ISO also affects image quality by affecting the amount of noise or grain that you will get in the image. Using a high ISO film will get you a picture in low light, but it will also add some grain to the image.
Disposable cameras come in several ISO ratings, ranging from 100 to 800, but the most common ratings are ISO400 and ISO800. Use ISO400 film for settings with the brightest lighting conditions, such as outdoors in bright sunlight. For indoor or other low-lighting conditions, an ISO800 is the better choice. One trick is if you need a higher shutter speed you can use higher ISO.
Trick 2: Keep a Distance
Disposable cameras are designed to focus on objects at a minimum distance of three to five feet. If the subject is any closer, the picture will be out of focus. Also, be aware that what is seen through the viewfinder is not exactly what is seen by the lens. More distance will help to factor in a margin of error.
When the flash is used in darker settings, the subject should be at a distance of 10 to 12 feet, but not so far away that it will not be illuminated by the flash. Judging this distance can as simple as making an educated guess. It might be worth taking a few shots at varying distances.
Trick 3: Adjust the View
Most pictures show the object of the photo smack-dab in the center. These shots can be boring. However, this problem can easily be fixed with a simple adjustment in perspective. Photos taken from unusual perspectives can produce some interesting and even artful pictures.
Find ways to take pictures from any perspective other than eye-level. View subjects from different angles. Even tilting the camera will capture scenes from a different view. Taking a picture while lying on the ground or standing on a chair can produce great shots.
Trick 4: Be an Artiste
Look for an artistic slant on common scenes. Take a picture of an object’s reflection in water, glass, mirrors, or metal surfaces. Take pictures in out-of-focus settings, such as haze, fog, steam, or any condition that, to the bare eye, seems less-than-sharp. You may also want to try a camera with black and white film.
Trick 5: Use the Flash
Almost all disposable cameras have a flash. Unless the subject is extremely close to the camera, it is always best to use the flash, regardless of lighting. For darker settings, this will ensure that the lighting is adequate. For brighter settings, the flash will not make a difference or do any harm.
Trick 6: Pay Attention to Light
A good rule of thumb is to look for the light first and then put your subject in it. Photography means painting with light and if you can get the light right, the rest is easy.
Evaluate the light for factors, such as how it falls on the subject and its color and softness. It is often said that for outdoor shots the sun should be behind the photographer, the problem with this is if you are photographing people your subject will be squinting. Try photographing them in open shade, such as under the shade of a tree, in an alleyway between two buildings, or just under an awning along a city street. Avoid shooting at noon because of the deep shadows you will get in people's eyes and under their chins.
The best outdoor lighting is at sunrise and sunset. Putting the sunset or sunrise behind your subject will create a rim light, or hair light, and separate your subject from the background. Use your flash to illuminate their face and you will get a great-looking shot.
Do not take pictures in complete darkness. Even the flash will not help. Disposable cameras are not designed for nighttime photography. If there is not enough lighting for the shot, it does not matter if the photograph is of the Grand Canyon or the pet dog. They will both look the same. At night, try moving people under a streetlight or near the light coming from a sign or reflecting off a window. If you position them so that their face is turned toward the light, you will get a nice pleasing photo despite the difficult lighting conditions.
Trick 7: Use a Lens Filter
Disposable cameras are not high-tech, but they can be modified to take more interesting shots. One way to get creative is by doctoring up the flash. Hold a flash filter, also called flash diffuser, directly in front of the camera’s flash to add an extra splash of color. Flash filters for professional use are found in camera stores. Homemade versions are cheap and easy to use. Tape cellophane, colored wrappers, waxed paper, or any other experimental material over the camera’s flash or even color the lens with a permanent marker. Objects like sunglasses, soda bottles, and prisms can also be placed in front of the camera lens as a filter. Do not use the flash with these reflective materials because it will likely cause glare.
Another option is to use a Holga-type camera. These are inexpensive cameras that shoot film, look more like a traditional camera, and often have a series of cheap lenses for different filter effects.
Trick 8: The More Color the Better
Disposable cameras tend to emphasize bright colors. This can make a photo’s subject look even more exciting than in real life. Keep this in mind when picture taking. Focus on colors and go wild knowing how extra-vibrant the photos will turn out when developed. Also, try taking photos just after a rain shower. When things are wet, the colors are more vibrant and saturated.
Trick 9: Use the Rule of Thirds
There is a basic tenant of professional photography. It is called the rule of thirds. It means taking shots that offset the picture’s focal point instead of positioning the subject dead-center. Studies have shown that when people look at images on a page or in a photo, their eyes usually go to one side or the other of the center of the shot. Using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image and generally makes photos more appealing.
Imagine a series of lines dividing the photo into nine equal squares: Three columns with three rows. Place your subject at the intersection of two of those lines. This will make your photo much more appealing.
Trick 10: Watch the Finger
Accidentally putting a finger in front of the camera lens is probably the single biggest issue with using a disposable camera. With small disposable cameras, the size and shape of the camera makes this a problem especially for people with larger hands.
Unless fingers are the subject of the photograph, keep them away from the camera lens. Remember, the camera lens is lower than the viewfinder, so forget being able to spot finger interference by looking through the viewfinder.
Buying Disposable Cameras on eBay
eBay has hundreds of listings for disposable cameras. Search the entire website by entering your keywords into the eBay search engine on the home screen. Disposable cameras will appear under the Cameras and Photo category.
If that type of eBay search does not bring up the disposable cameras you are looking for, try the eBay Stores site. You will find eBay vendors with all their goods listed in one place.
If you need to come back to a search, eBay lets you save searches in your "My eBay" account, under the subsection "My Saved Searches."
If you like to "touch and feel" an item before making a purchase decision, many eBay vendors have their own storefronts. Look for sellers in your area. eBay Classifieds also lists items for sale in your area.
eBay has both buyer and seller protections in place. eBay monitors all transactions and provides a seller rating and feedback system. Check seller reviews and see what other buyers have to say about their purchase experience. Take note of sellers with generous returns policies and top ratings. These sellers are not afraid to give guarantees. All buyers and sellers are also supported by the hassle-free Resolution Center.
Only pay for your purchases through PayPal. Just like eBay, PayPal also provides purchase and refund protection. Go to the PayPal website if you have any questions about how this works.
Disposable cameras still have their place in the digital world. They are a nice alternative to buying a digital or film camera, or using the camera in your smartphone. They are fun to play with, readily available, and easy to turn into actual printed photos. There is definitely something to be said for holding an actual photograph in your hand.
As this guide demonstrates, there is no big secret to taking unique, interesting, and even exciting photographs. This can be accomplished by finding unusual angles for the shots, making your own lens filters, paying attention to lighting conditions, and other tricks.
While many believe that the disposable camera has been relegated to a wedding reception throwaway and a last-minute replacement for the camera that was accidentally left at home, they are cheap and convenient. Learning to use them requires little more than pointing and shooting. With a few basic tricks, a disposable camera can take great shots, even in the hands of an amateur.