While wondering what to do on a boring summer day, four friends, Greg, Michael, Doug (nicknamed Bird) and Shari decide to investigate the Coffman House, an old, abandoned house that several spooky stories revolve around and is the home of a strange, old man nicknamed "Spidey", because of his spider-like appearance. While searching the home, Greg discovers a strange camera within a hidden compartment in a basement wall. Amused at the idea of having a camera Greg takes a picture of his friend Michael who is leaning on the stair railing. Suddenly, the railing gives way and Michael falls. Michael is found to have hurt his ankle upon landing. Greg discovers that the picture doesn't show Michael standing by the railing but instead falling. While the friends cannot come up with an explanation for the strange photo, all discussion ceases when footsteps are heard and the four friends flee the house taking the camera with them.
As time goes on Greg takes a picture of his father's new car, but the picture depicts the car totally wrecked. Later, Greg takes a picture of his brother, Terry, who is in his room on his computer. But the picture shows him elsewhere, in a worried state, and in front of a house.
The next day, Greg goes to his friend Bird's baseball game; a picture of Bird is taken and the picture depicts him lying on the ground with his neck bent in an unnatural angle. Bird dismisses this idea and even fakes the picture's scene coming true, in an attempt to show Greg and Shari that the camera is simply broken. However, while playing the game he is hit by an oncoming baseball and does in fact land in such a way that his neck is bent into an unnatural angle. Now, Greg is convinced that the camera is somehow responsible, but his friends are still unwilling to believe these ideas. It is at this point that Terry's picture comes true, as he comes up and claims that their father was in an accident, and the car is totally wrecked.
Greg then has a nightmare of taking a picture of his family during a backyard barbecue but is horrified to see them as skeletons. This part mirrors the book's cover picture.
Shari, still skeptical of the camera's powers, has Greg bring the camera to her birthday party and insists that he takes her picture. Greg reluctantly agrees but finds that when the picture develops, only the background has come out, Shari is nowhere to be seen. Not long afterwards, Shari disappears.
In the days that follow, Greg's picture is taken and he sees that he and Shari are panicked by a shadow that comes over them. Greg is worried, yet hopeful, when he sees this picture because at this point, Shari is still missing but the picture clearly shows Shari.
Shari remains missing for days, until Greg tears up the picture. Shari then returns as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared. She apparently has no memory of where she went.
While talking to Greg about her disappearance the picture of the two being panicked by a shadow over them comes true when Spidey appears before them. He chases them for a while until a neighbor threatens to call the police on him. They finally are safe.
Finally, deciding that the camera is too dangerous to be kept, Greg and Shari decide to return it to its hiding place in Spidey's home- Bird and Michael will have nothing more to do with it. However, Spidey catches the kids on their way out and reveals the camera’s origin: Spidey turns out to be a mad scientist, named Dr. Fritz Fredericks, and his lab partner had created the camera. However, Spidey, being greedy, decided to steal the camera and market it as his own invention. But his partner was evil- not only a scientist, but a master of the dark arts, and he decided that if he could not profit from the camera, no-one would. He put a curse on the camera making it show bleak future events which would then occur and it was impossible to break, meaning that the camera would survive till the end of the world. Spidey says that the camera caused the deaths of people he loved.
Spidey had spent most of his life trying to keep the camera from being Say Cheese and Die 2003 CoverAdded by Antony13discovered and had sacrificed all he held dear to do so, but now that Shari and Greg know of it, he is afraid that they will blab, and so resolves to keep them imprisoned in his home forever. However, during a fight over the camera with Shari, his picture is (accidentally) taken with the camera and he dies of fright. The picture depicts this very event occurring. With the camera returned to its hiding place Shari and Greg escape the building and believe it to be over.
At the end of the story two bullies, Joey Ferris and Mickey Ward, who had previously shown interest in the camera, are shown to have found the camera and taken a picture with it. The story ends with the boys waiting to see what Mickey's photo shows.