The Game Boy Camera was one of the first truly cheap digital cameras, but the trade-off was that it could only snap grainy, 128x112-pixel black and white photographs. Despite its abysmal image quality, there are still a few photographers who love the Game Boy Camera’s lo-fi aesthetic, including Matt Gray who discovered an old-school photography trick that finally lets the peripheral produce color images.
Somewhere between 1905 and 1915, Russian chemist and photographer Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky created one of the first color photographs with Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, as his subject. But instead of reinventing the science of film and photography to create the image, he simply adapted existing techniques, using colored filters to shoot three black and white glass negative images that were later combined in the lab to create a full-color photograph.
That approach became one of the most common ways to create color photographs, and even color movies. Hollywood’s famed Technicolor process even used a similar technique, but relied on prisms to split the light coming into a camera which captured multiple black and white film exposures that were later used to create full-color prints, right up until films like The Godfather Part II in the mid-’70s.
So instead of hacking the electronics inside the Game Boy Camera, or trying to upgrade its CMOS sensor, Matt Gray simply bought three colored filters on Amazon and then held them up in front of the camera’s lens to take three separate black and white photos. The most complicated part of the process seemed to be getting the photos from the Game Boy Camera onto a computer so that Gray was able to combine the three snaps in Photoshop to create the colorful results.
For optimal images, the Game Boy Camera needs to be pointed at a very colorful scene to begin with. And because it takes a few seconds to snap each image due to the Game Boy’s limited processing power, you’ll want to avoid too much movement in a scene. If you’re trying to shoot people, they’ll have to stand very, very still to ensure the three black-and-white source images line up perfectly in the end. It’s a hassle, there’s no doubt about that, but if you grew up fascinated with your Game Boy Camera, this seems like a fun experiment to try yourself.