Loading a Holga Camera
It is recommended to load and unload 120mm film in subdued light to
prevent any unwanted exposure.
LOADING THE HOLGA 120
- Remove the clips from the sides of the camera to open the
- Select the mask for either 16 images (6 x 4.5cm) or 12 images (6 x
6cm) and insert into the camera. Shooting without a mask also yields
12 images and can lead to more intense vignetting.
- If the Holga has a built in flash unit, install 2 AA batteries
under the film mask on either side.
- Slide the arrow on the back cover to point to the corresponding
image count for the mask that was inserted.
- Make sure there is a take up spool on the right side of the camera
and break the seal on the new 120 roll of film and insert on the left
side of the camera.
- Place pressure on the bottom of the new roll of film and pull out
the paper backing. Insert the tapered edge into the slot in the take
- Turn the film advance knob a couple of turns keeping the film
tight to prevent any slack.
- Please note that it is important to keep 120mm film tight to the
spool. This protects the film from exposure since it is not in a
canister. If you have an older Holga or the foam padding has fallen
off, inserting a piece of cardboard under the film spool can keep the
- Replace the camera back and make sure the clips are in place. It
is recommended to put a piece of tape over the clips to prevent the
back from slipping open.
- Turn the film advance knob until the number 1 appears in the
counter window on the back of the camera. Holga is ready to
Loose Film: Unlike 35mm film, 120mm film spools
have no light-tight canister to protect them from exposure; the only
guard against the sun is its thin paper backing. If your film is
not rolled tightly, light can sneak in under the loose paper causing
light leaks or even fogging.
UNLOADING THE HOLGA 120
- After shooting the last frame, either 12 or 16 depending on the
mask used, turn the film advance knob until the film and paper is
completely rolled onto the take up reel.
- Open the back of the Holga. The exposed film should now be in the
right film chamber. An empty film spool will be in the left film
chamber. Save the empty spool, as this is now the new take up reel
for the next roll of film.
- Extract the full take-up spool from the right side of the
camera. Make sure that the film is wound tightly around the
spool. Fold the tapered end under itself as directed on the paper
backing then seal the film with the provided adhesive tab.
LOADING THE HOLGA 135
- There are no masks included with 35mm Holgas. To load the film,
pull up on the film rewind knob. The back cover will pop open.
- Insert a new roll of film in the film compartment on the left side
of the camera.
- Pull the film out of the camera until the tip of the film reaches
the take up spool. Then insert the tip of the film into the slot on
the take up spool.
- Turn the film advance slightly so that the teeth catch the
sprocket holes on the film.
- Snap the cover back into place and turn the film advance knob to
advance the film until it cannot turn any further and then press the
- Repeat this until the number 1 appears in the frame counter
window. The Holga is ready to shoot.
UNLOADING THE HOLGA 135
- When the roll of film is finished, put the lens cap on the camera
to avoid any double exposures.
- Push down on the film rewind release button on the bottom of the
- Turn the film rewind knob clockwise. There will be some tension
while turning the knob. Keep turning the knob until there is no
tension, indicating the film is rewound.
- Pull up on the film rewind knob. The back cover will open and you
can safely remove the film.
TAPING YOUR HOLGA
© Michael Tullberg - Holga 120N, Red Light Leaks
The unpredictability of a Holga is
primarily due to the light leaks. Many Holga owners look forward to
the light leaks but for those who are not a fan, taping up the Holga
is another option.
The best tape to use is black gaffer’s tape or black photo tape which
is readily available at most photo and studio lighting retailers and
even hardware stores. The tape is re-positionable and generally pulls
There are no guarantees to completely make the Holga light tight but
following these recommendations may complete the task.
Run pieces of black tape along the seam where the
back fits onto the body.
Cover the metal clips that secure the camera
back. This will prevent them from falling off the Holga, especially
when you use the camera strap. Some choose Velcro strips instead of
tape to hold the clips in place, resulting in easier access while
changing film and less tape residue left on fingers.
Behind the 6x4.5 Mask
If you have a standard Holga 120,
removing the mask reveals two holes above the lens that can cause
light leaks. A single piece of tape can cover them both.
© Dave Handler - 35mm film in Holga 120N, Red Light Leaks
Film Counter Window
The most notorious light leak in the
camera comes from the film counter window. Cover the window with a
piece of tape. Fold the tape at the end to create a convenient pull
Keep the camera in your camera bag to
minimize the impact of unwanted light.
Painting the Inside of your Holga
Although the inside of the
camera is black, it is a semi-shiny, almost lustrous black, which can
reflect unwanted light that manages to make it inside. This can be
countered by painting the interior of the camera matte black, which
cuts down on reflections.