152: Pinhole

So what is a pinhole camera exactly? Well, it can be anything you want it to be: A shoebox, a bottle, a ball, let your imagination go wild! But the one thing that they all have in common is that instead of a lens, a small hole is used to allow the light to enter the light-proof body to the photographic paper to create an inverted image.
With this small hole being created, calculating the f-stop can be a bit tricky (a few calculations have to be made: dividing the distance from the hole to the paper inside and dividing it by the holes diameter) however it is likely for it to be big…very big!


This means that calculating your exposure can be tricky, as depending on the sunlight available, it is more of an experimental guess in getting what’s right for your picture. At least there is an unlimited depth of field, so you’ve got that going for you at least!

Beer Can:

So this is perhaps one of the most classical ways of doing a pinhole camera to date. All the materials are accessible to hand, so it’s quick to do!

What you’ll need is: A beer can (obviously!), black card, masking tape/equal that’s as strong and black, a can opener, scissors and a pin.

To make things easier in the long run, we start with the card to make the ‘hat.’

  1. Cut out a long, rectangular piece of card, and run it along the outside of the can until it wraps around itself again by about 3cm. Cut off any excess.
  2. Tape the two sides together so that you a circular piece of card around the can.
    photo 3(1)
  3. Along one side, crab your scissors and make a row of cuts about 1cm apart along the whole length.
  4. With the rest of your card, place your can on it so that you can draw a circle, then cut out that piece.
  5. Place the circle into the hole, and secure it by placing the flaps over the edge and taping everything down
    photo 5
  1. Now the ‘hat will be completed for the can! Just make sure that there is enough tape everywhere so that when you look through it, no light gets through as you want this to be light proof.
    photo 2

Now that the ‘hat’ is done, we can focus on the can:

  1. Being very careful, use the can opener to open up the top of the can (where you would drink from.) Once done, use some sandpaper if necessary to dull down the edges to stop it being so sharp.
    photo 4
  2. Grab a pin and place a hole halfway down the can in a memorable spot (I suggest placing the hat on first to get a good idea where the hole will be.)
    photo 1(2)
  3. The final step is creating your “shutter” in order to let the light in and out. For me, I just placed a bit of tape on that hat so that it would stick over the hole. Just make sure to hold down on it so that nothing gets exposed­­­­­
    photo 2(1)
  1. Now everything is done, you can start shooting! To load the camera with paper, go into a darkroom to load it with photographic paper. Just make sure the paper doesn’t expose before you take the picture though!

photo 5(2)

As you can see from the picture here, the photo is slightly curved due to how the paper is loaded into the camera. This causes quite a nice look on the overall picture, which could be useful for certain pictures. This exposure was around 10 seconds for this picture as the sun was out long enough to make the exposure short and sweet

Plastic Bottle:

Now if you fancy a challenge like did, then you can *try* to create a pinhole camera out of a drinks bottle. For me, I decided to use a Fanta bottle for my experiment.
The principles are pretty much the same when it comes to the Beer Camera, just with a few changes. So like before, you want to make a ‘hat’ for the bottle just like for the can.

photo 5(1)

Again, you want to cut open a hole in the bottom of the bottle so that the ‘hat’ can sit there as well as place your paper in. So I just got a knife and made a small incision where I wanted to cut, and used scissors to finish the job.

photo 4(1)

Now with many fizzy or soft drink bottles, they are most likely clear. This is not what you want as it means light will get into the camera and expose the paper. So what you want to do is light-proof the bottle as much possible. Card is not really useful here as it is not malleable. So I just used duct tape instead to cover the entire bottle so that no light can get in.

photo 3(2)

Once this is done, you can go out and take some pictures! I placed a pin in my hole so that I could remember where it was throughout the entire bottle.

photo 1(3)

This was my best picture I got from the plastic bottle. This shot was taken at a 2 second exposure, as anything above that caused the picture to be over exposed.
Here I just managed to get some of the surroundings into shot quite nicely before everything else disappears. I think this may be down to the bottle wasn’t fully light proof.
So to get this light proof, I would place black card inside the bottle to keep out any light, and then place more tape on the outside.
Alternatively, you could use red tape to cover the bottle, as this will allow you to see the paper better as the red light won’t effect the photographic paper.

Overall, I found the pinhole experiments to be good fun as the results were wacky yet interesting. I think what has caught my curiosity the most is that you can make a pinhole camera out of pretty much anything you like as long as it is light-proof, so this could lead to some fun experimentation later on. This is definitely something I will do in my future spare time to try out.


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