A pinhole camera, otherwise known as camera obscura, is a simple camera that is, essentially, a light-proof box with a tiny hole on one side that functions as an aperture. Light passes through the hole and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Pinhole cameras have a long depth of field and a very wide-angle perspective. To build a pinhole camera you only need a few simple household objects and various types of darkroom photo paper.
- A lightproof box (thick-walled cardboard box with high sides or a metal box such as an Altoid tin)
- Black spray paint (if using a metal box)
- Aluminum can
- Small needle
- Black electrical tape
- Darkroom photo paper
- Masking tape
- Scanner (optional)
- Photoshop (optional)
To make a pinhole camera you simply use household objects. First cut a rectangular hole in the center of your box. If you are using a metal object you need to use black spray paint and paint the whole inside of the container. Next, poke a hole with a small needle into the side of a clean aluminum can. Cut out a piece of the can big enough to cover the hole made in your container, ensure the needle hole is in the center of this piece. With sandpaper rub the piece of the can on the opposite side the hole was made. Then tape this piece to the larger hole with black electrical tape; make sure the needle hole is in the center. In a photographic darkroom, cut a piece of paper to the size of your box then, insert it into the bottom of the box with the emulsion side of the paper facing out. Close your box and tape the center of the sides of the box with a small piece of masking tape. This ensures no light enters the container. Cover your needle hole with a piece of black electrical tape; this functions as the lens cap. Now your camera is ready to use.
Learning how to properly use your homemade camera uses a lot of trial error, however, the result is worth it. Pinhole cameras work best in partly sunny weather or a brightly lit room. The depth of the box changes the time of the exposure needed to make an image; outside this process takes seconds, however inside it takes minutes. The best time to experiment, for beginners, is on a partly sunny day. If your print is to light add time exposed; if it is too dark, subtract time exposed to the light. When using trial and error, make sure to replicate the event at the same time of day until you learn the correct exposure for your container. Once you create an image using the right exposure, develop the image in a dark room and let the print dry.
Once you develop your print in a darkroom, you have an inverted image of your subject. This functions, essentially, as a negative. To create a positive image, and invert it, simply scan the image and then invert the image in a photo-editing computer program; such as photoshop. Many choose to do this; however, some choose to leave the image in its original form to create the desired effect.