Pinhole camera

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About Pinhole camera

A pinhole camera is a small, light-tight can or box with a black interior and a tiny hole in the center of one end.  You can design it to accept roll or sheet film. The two ends of the camera are parallel. The end opposite the pinhole is flat so that the film is held in a flat plane. The pinhole has a cover to prevent light from entering the camera when you aren't taking a picture.

Pinhole camera

A pinhole camera is a camera without a lens. An extremely small hole takes its place, which should be in very thin material. An image's light from a scene passes through this single point, and because there is no lens, the image will be clear at all distances from the pinhole. The smaller the hole, the sharper the image, but the more exposure will be required. Also, in order to produce a reasonably clear image, the ratio of the pinhole, or aperture, size to the distance between it and the screen should be 1/100 or less. The shutter of a pinhole camera is usually manually operated because of the lengthy times, and consists of a flap of some light-proof material to cover and uncover the pinhole. Typical exposure times range from 5 seconds to hours and sometimes days

To constuct a pinhole camera you need a box, a shoebox works well. You need a sheet of film that is slightly smaller than the end of the box that you need to affix to that end. You need a small hole, usually no more than a pin prick -- hence the name -- in the end of the box opposite the film. You need a lid on the box. You need an opaque cover over the pinhole. And finally you need to make the box 100% light tight. You also need to assemble your pinhole camera in a complete dark environment. Any amount of light that hits the emulsion on the film will expose it and your project will be ruined before its begun.Once your pinhole camera is constructed, you take it out, find a subject, and take the opaque cover off of the pinhole for some amount of time. Make absolutely certain that the pinhole camera is perfectly still while the pinhole is uncovered. After you have exposed the film for some amount of time put the opaque cover back over the pinhole. (I wish I could be more specific here, but using a pinhole camera is not an exact science.)You now need to develop your film to see if you have captured an image. How you do that is the subject of another question. If there is an image on the film from which you can make a print, congratulation, you have successfully used your pinhole camera. If not, determine if your film was overexposed or underexposed and start all over again.

 Almost any box or container that can be made light tight can be used to make a pinhole camera. A fairly good camera can be make using an empty cardboard oatmeal container (the cylindrical type). It should be empty and clean. First cut a small hole in the front center. The hole should be about half an inch (13mm) across. Paint the inside of the oatmeal container flat black. Also paint the inside of the lid. The pinhole itself is made in a piece of metal foil. Aluminum freezer foil works well. Regular aluminum foil is thinner and difficult to work with. Very thin shim brass is excellent for pinholes, as it is rigid and durable. Place a piece the foil on a resilient surface such as cardboard. The foil should be big enough to cover the hole in the oatmeal carton with some overlap. Use a #10 sewing needle and begin to drill a hole. The hole should be approximately centered in the foil. You don't want to punch the hole, as this will leave burrs and an irregular shape. Drill the needle in slowly until it just punctures the foil. Turn the foil over, and lightly sand with 00000 or 000000 finishing paper. Drill the hole a bit more, turn back over and repeat. You want to eventually be able to insert the needle just up to the taper of the point. You should end up with as smooth and round a hole as possible. Check it with a magnifying glass, if possible. Sand off any burs that remain, and dust.

Tape the foil with the pinhole over the hole in the oatmeal box. The pinhole should be as centered as possible from top to bottom. Electrical tape works well to secure the foil in place. Ideally, the foil should be taped inside the camera, but this is not critical. A shutter will also need to be devised. A piece of opaque black paper taped over the hole is good enough. It will need to be easily removed or flapped open for the exposure. Don't tape it directly to the foil, as it will rip when you try to remove the shutter.

This article assumes no working knowledge of processing black and white photographic papers. If you don't have access to a darkroom, check with your local photo supply house, and let them know that you are doing some simple pinhole photography. They should be able to point you toward the few chemicals and pieces of equipment you need. The basic equipment for pinhole photography (besides the camera) are as follows:

  • Black and white photographic paper, fiber based, single weight. A small 8x10 inch pack should be enough to get things started. It is better to use a medium grade of graded papers, not the variable grade papers (this has to do with the paper's contrast... ask at the photo supply store).
  • Developer for photographic papers (not for films!) ex. Kodak Dektol
  • Optional: acid stop bath mix.
  • Fixer for photographic papers (hypo).
  • 4 cheap non metallic trays, big enough to hold an 8x10 sheet.
  • Tongs
  • The cheapest, most basic screw-in type of safe light you can find.
  • A graduated measuring cylinder

Some of this equipment can be found inexpensively second hand. Garage sales quite often have old darkroom equipment for sale that will work quite well. Buy an inexpensive book on the basics of processing black and white prints. It will also be helpful to have a piece of thick, heavy unscratched glass slightly larger than the largest print you intend to make (tape the edges!) Remember that the chemicals used for photographic prints are toxic and caustic. Heed all package warnings.

The darkroom should be as light tight as possible. A bathroom works well if all of the outside light can be blocked. Using only the safe light, remove a piece of photographic paper, and cut it so that it is the right size to fit into the back of the oatmeal container. It isn't essential to use a safelight if you are experienced enough to load and process in absolute darkness, but I wouldn't recommend this for beginners. The emulsion side of the paper (usually shinier) must face the pinhole. The paper should be centered directly behind the pinhole. Close up the rest of the paper, put the top on your camera, and seal it with opaque tape. Make certain that the shutter is firmly in place, and you are safe to venture out into the world.

Start by making images outdoors. You will need to use the trial and error method, but the exposures will be fairly long, even on sunny days. Try 2 to 5 minutes for a sunny scene, or 10 to 15 minutes for a cloudy day. These are times to start out with. Exposures are going to vary widely depending on the camera, paper, and amount of light. Set the camera up somewhere where it won't be disturbed for several minutes. Put a small rock on top to keep it from blowing over. It is important that the camera be kept perfectly still while the exposure is made. Remove the shutter. After the allotted exposure time, replace the shutter and take the camera back to the darkroom to process the image.

Basically the processing follows these steps:

  1. Prepare four trays of chemistry for processing. The first contains developer, mixed and diluted according to manufacturer directions. The second contains plain water (or dilute acid stop bath mix... water will work just as well), and the third contains fixer. The fourth contains plain water. The first 3 trays should each have their own tongs (avoid cross contamination).
  2. Once the exposure is made, bring the camera to the darkroom, turn out the lights, and unload.
  3. Place the paper in the first tray. Agitate constantly for app. 1 1/2 minutes. Remove using tongs, and allow to drip into tray.
  4. Place into the second tray. Agitate for about 30 seconds, remove, drip.
  5. Place in third tray, agitate for 6 minutes (the lights can go on after 3), remove, drip, and place in last tray of plain water.
  6. Once you are finished for the day, take all of the prints to the sink to wash for at least 20 minutes in gently flowing water (you can use the last tray to wash in).
  7. Allow the prints to dry. You can use window screens for this, or hang them from a string with clips or clothespins.

When evaluating the image, remember that it is negative. If it appears too dark, then the exposure time should be shorter; too light, then longer. Any black streaks you may see are probably the result of light leaks. Make sure there are no stray holes in the camera.

Once you get a negative that you like, you can turn it into a positive image, if you wish. Do this (in the darkroom) by placing the negative face down onto an unprocessed piece of paper that is emulsion (shiny) side up. Set them on a flat surface, and place the heavy glass over them to keep them flat. Using a regular light source (or, better, a photographic enlarger, if you happen to be in a fully equipped darkroom) make an initial exposure of a few seconds. If you are using an enlarger, it is best to make a "test strip" of timed exposures.

Pinhole Photography

Through the Eye of a (Sewing) Needle            By: David F. SteinPinhole imagery may be photographyís equivalent of drawing with chalk. Simple. Cheap. Accessible to anyone. Capable of astonishing, sophisticated results. This is photographyís sleight of hand. The fact that we can produce a quality image on sensitized materials without a lens fascinates and inspires.  Out of nothing comes something — and all that.  Our work can be as studied and precise as traditional view camera photography or as spontaneous as loading some 1600 speed film in a 35mm camera fitted with a pinhole body cap and taking pinhole snapshots.One of my first decent images.  The camera was made from an empty box of 5x7 enlarging paper.  The film was Kodak Commercial, unfortunately no longer manufactured, which was capable of excellent tonality and could be developed by inspection, as we do prints, under a conventional red-amber safe light.  Enlarging paper and lith film can both be used as a negative material and developed by inspection.  A decent, normal tonality can be produced on lith film by employing a dilute film developer, for example, D-76 diluted 1:3 or even more.  Getting Started

I have some things to say about the character of the pinhole image but letís get started.  I will leave the technical details of image formation, how a pinhole actually ìworks,î to the references on my Web Resources page.  

Just about any camera or any thing for that matter can be turned into a pinhole camera. A 35mm SLR. A view camera. Old 120 folder. Sheet film or enlarging paper boxes. Shoebox. Candy tin. Suitcase. A Volkswagen van. They have all been tried and succeeded. While many commercially made cameras are now available, you can see the wide range of types and prices at the Pinhole Resource web site, I am a strong believer in make-it-yourself.  This is a great part of the fun and sense of accomplishment. 

Wheat Field

To Do and Notice:

Making a Pinhole Camera

An ordinary camera has a lens that makes an image on film. In a pinhole camera. a small hole replaces the lens. You can construct a pinhole camera using:

  • corrugated cardboard from a box, or stiff cardboard from the back of a pad of paper
  • black paper
  • black tape
  • a cartridge of 126 film*
  • aluminum foil
  • two large rubber bands
  • a ruler
  • a pencil
  • scissors
  • a sharp knife
  • a straight pin or sewing needle

Making a pinhole camera

The diagram shows the basic construction of a pinhole camera. The body of the camera is a cardboard box that is open at both ends. To make this box, cut a rectangle of cardboard that measures 5 3/4 inches by 2 inches

Divide the long edge of the rectangle into four equal sections. as shown. Use your knife to score the cardboard along each of the lines. Fold the cardboard along the scores to make an open-ended box.

Before you tape the edges together to make a box, you need to make the interior black to minimize reflection of light within the camera. You can cut a piece of black paper and fold it to make a black lining for your box, or you can cover the inside surface of the cardboard with strips of black tape. You could also paint the inside flat black with spray paint or tempera.

Now tape the edges together to make a box, and tape all the box's edges and corners to prevent light from leaking into the camera.

Insert the box into the film cartridge as shown. It should fit tightly. When you hold the open end of the box up to your eye, you shouldn't see any light leaking in where the box fits into the cartridge.

To make the front of the camera, cut a rectangle of cardboard that measures about 1 3/4 by 3 inches. Cut a square hole that measures about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch in the center of the rectangle. Line the inside

of the front of the box with black paper or tape, leaving the hole open.

Tape a 1-inch square of aluminum foil over the square hole, and make a small pinhole in the center of the foil.

When you aren't taking a picture, you need to cover the pinhole with black paper. We made a shutter that slides into black paper guides. as shown.

To ensure that no light can leak in, tape the box to the front with black tape. Fasten the camera to the cartridge with rubber bands, as shown

Save all those round holiday and gift candy and cookie tins. With their gentle curvatures and quality construction, they make great pinhole cameras. Refinements include matte board film retainers inside; and a T-nut can be glued through the bottom for a tripod socket. If the T-nut projects inside the tin, remember that it will cast a shadow on the film. That strip can be excluded in printing or the matte board rail can ěhoistî the film above the level of the T-nut. Remember, also, to close off the center of the T-nut with tape; otherwise, light can come through and fog the negative.

What do I take pictures of? Anything you care to. No matter the format, this topic often stymies us, for so much excellent work has come before us. Worse, at many college programs, the cry is for originality-whatever that is. If we start by taking pictures of what interests us, our friends, our house, a favorite lake, our vacation, that lamp in the corner, and get immersed in the core elements of light, form, texture, all else will follow. Donít be afraid of trying something no one else has tried. More importantly, donít shy away from doing something whose potential seems long exhausted. Yes, I can talk up a storm with the best of them, but when it comes to art, I feel that images must precede ideas. This is our quiet time.

My bread and butter sheet film camera (this one is for 4x5 sheet film), built right around a conventional sheet film holder.  Inside is foam board, including rails to guide and secure the film holder and its end flap once the slide is pulled.  This last point is an important one.  Otherwise, the film holder end can flip open, making it difficult or impossible to remove the holder.  I made this mistake early on and have plenty of fogged films to prove it.  The outside is made of pizza box cardboard.  Regular Elmerís Glue (white glue) works great and is safe to handle, avoiding potentially hazardous volatile glues that can also melt foam board.  Note the yellow filter taped over the pinhole and sight lines on top. A T-nut, available at any hardware store, glued into the bottom serves as a tripod socket.

Taking photos with your pinhole camera

Through the window in the back of the film cartridge, you'll see arrows. Use a coin as shown in the diagram, turning it clockwise to advance the film in the direction of the arrows. Eventually, you'll see the frame number 1 through the window, the first in a series of 1's. Stop advancing the film when the third and fourth 1 in the series are both visible through the window. Now you're ready to take a picture.

To get a sharp photo, it's important to hold your pinhole camera steady To keep the camera steady. one of our staff suggested that you "tape it to a brick." He attached his pinhole camera to a tripod with rubber bands.

Using ASA 200 film in bright sunlight, we found that we got good pictures with exposure times varving from one to three seconds. The ideal exposure time will depend on the size of your pinhole and the brightness of the day. Experiment with different exposure times, and you'll learn which times give the best results.

After each photo. advance the film until the third and fourth number in the series of frame numbers appear in the window. When you've finished the roll, you can take your film to a commercial photoprocessor for developing.

* Kodak still has a limited supply of 126 cartridges. You can get them directly by calling the Kodak Info Center at 1-800-242-2424 x10. They accept MasterCard and Visa only. If you buy directly from Kodak, you will be paying full retail prices. If you need a large quantity, contact a local dealer who can special order them at dealer cost and possible give you a discount

Two excellent starter cameras are the classic round oatmeal box camera or any old folding camera that takes 120-size roll film. The gentle curved plane of the oatmeal box camera produces pleasing images on a relatively large size negative. As discussed below with the Fall Color image, 120 film is an excellent starter format. Many cameras are available to be fitted with a pinhole, a wide range of film is available and it can be processed for us. We also get multiple exposures from one loading of the camera. In this format, I make an exception to my make-it-yourself rule, as two excellent starters cameras are available: a corrugated cardboard camera that comes ready to go with a quality laser-drilled pinhole (Available at Pinhole Resource, Porterís and many other mail-order stores.); and the Zero Image camera.  While the price of the Zero Vision would cover a bit of film and processing, the camera features quality construction and has a wide following. The Zero Vision site features excellent images done with this camera.  (For more about these cameras, see links below.)

This image of a long-retired John Deere farm machine was shot on 5x7 black and white sheet film.  This is my favorite pinhole format and demonstrates that pinhole images can have excellent detail, tonality and texture.  Each camera has its quirks and personalities.  When you find a pinhole that matches well with a given camera-donít take the camera apart and donít lose it, it can be harder to recreate than we imagine.

Pinholes can be made by careful puncturing of a disposable pie-plate or the brass shim stock found in hobby shops by a common sewing needle. Charts are available that equate needle size to the pinhole diameter needed for a specific distance from the pinhole to the film plane. Today, more precision made pinholes are also available through Pinhole Resource, Calumet and some individuals.

Thomas Hudson reeve 


Handmade pinhole paper cameras

The modern camera is a wonderful thing, but it's nice to remember how simple the mechanism can be. You can strip away the technology until there is little left but the abstraction on which the machine is based. A simple manipulation of space, a few materials, and a couple of hand tools and the magic (physics) is at your fingertips without sophisticated engineering.

To simplify these cameras as much as possible I made them out of the 11x14 inch photo-paper itself. There is no film in the camera because the camera is the film. Like a salad bowl made of lettuce leaf, and consumed with the meal, the camera doesn't exist after its utility is fulfilled. There is no machine. It is more of an arrangement than a thing.

Since it is color paper, sensitive to the full spectrum of visible light, there is no "safe" light recommended for darkroom work. Each paper box camera is cut, folded, and constructed in the dark and kept in a dark bag until its moment in the sun has come.

The pinhole in the brass plate is all that is needed to project an image into the inside surface of the box (more on that later), but light also seeps through the cracks and flaps of the box construction and soaks through the black tape that holds the whole thing together. The streaks and burns and flares that appear on the final image are the result of this ambient radiation and although it can be somewhat controlled, it also depends largely on "random" factors.

Back in the darkroom, the brass lens plate is folded back like a hatch-cover in the Mark I (the Rectangle), revealing the hole in the box. In the Mark II (The Square) the lens plate caps the apex of the pyramid and can be removed by tearing away the tape that holds it in place. A funnel is placed in the hole and the camera becomes like a leaky juice carton as the chemicals are poured in and sloshed around for a couple of minutes each. Rigorous adherence to optimal chemistry technique is already out the window here, so I decided not too worry too much as long as the times and temperatures were in the ballpark.

Finally, with the lights on, the whole box is immersed in a pan of water, the black masking tape is peeled off and the box is opened flat to display its inner surface.

The first design, subsequently called the Mark I, is shaped like a camera. It allows for a largish rectangle as the main image area in the center of the paper and provides an overlap of paper at the front, which I figured would help in achieving a properly squared-up and light-tight construction working by touch alone. It also uses up a great deal of paper as box flaps.

The Mark II is the design that puts the maximum surface area on the back wall of the box. The light passing through the pinhole is conical in structure and the pyramid conforms with this, wasting no paper on the front corners. It is also a little easier to build in the dark, requiring 12 instead of 22 cuts. It is simpler to align and tape up, and easier to open when done.

These are extremely wide-angle pictures. the angle of view seems to be about 170° as the image wraps around the inside of the box almost all the way back to the aperture. There is no "fish-eye" optical distortion as with a wide-angel lens because light travel through a pinhole in a straight line whereas a glass lens bends light as it gathers it. the distortion that is evident here is caused by the various planes of the box sides intersecting the sphere of light at different angles. This stretches sections of the field of view like a mercator map projection.

The curved film plane carried to a greater extreme; camera is fashioned of a mailing tube. 

For single-load cameras, resin-coated enlarging paper (matte, without printing on back, is probably best), lith film, black and white sheet film, color negative film and color slide film will all work. Enlarging paper (and lith film) works amazingly well and it can be developed by inspection in a darkroom. The effective speed is about ASA 5, so exposures will be on the long side - great for subjects with some slow movement or multiple exposures where we move the camera position. Conventional film must be handled with all the regular safeguards, plus with the long exposures needed for many pinhole photographs, we often run up against reciprocity considerations. In this respect, T-Max 100 is noted for its outstanding reciprocity characteristics. Overall, it isnít that important. All pinhole exposures are to a great extent empirical, misses come with the territory, and after a while we develop a feel for how much exposure each camera needs with under different lighting conditions. This may be weird science but not an exact one.

What Do I Have?

It isnít completely accurate to speak of depth of field with the pinhole image, but itís overwhelming qualities are a pure geometric perspective and that each part of the image is rendered with the same degree of definition. This is why pinhole images have been described as having limitless depth of field. Something an inch away will be rendered as sharply as something a mile away. No lens that I know of can really equal this.

Still, compared to images formed by lenses, the pinhole image is less distinct and much lower in contrast. If we choose, we can counter this by using as large a negative as possible (Most pinhole images ìlose itî when we try to enlarge them.), using one of the high contrast films in abundance these days, or developing for greater contrast. Our pinhole images need not look ìclichÈd,î with vignetting and a fuzzy, low contrast quality-unless we want them to do. By using quality pinholes, matched properly to focal length, and careful camera steadiness, exposure and development, our images can show marvelous detail, tonality and luminosity. Take your pick. 

The Pinhole Camera

In this laboratory exercise we will make a simple camera. This project will illustrate both the properties of light and the basics of photographic processing. To complete the experiment you should have a good quality (not blurry, not too dark or too light) photograph. You may need to repeat some of the steps until you have a good picture.

Read and follow all instructions carefully especially those on page 3. If you do not follow the instructions you will have problems later on and will have to go back and correct your mistake. This will waste your valuable time.

Part 1: Making the Camera
Making the pinhole camera may not take very much time, but it is important to work with care so that the camera will function properly in later use.

  1. Have the instructor or TA check to see that your box is suitable for use as a pinhole camera. Obtain a signature on the last page.
  2. Start with a box or other suitable container which is relatively sturdy and easily sealed. Decide where you are going to put the pinhole, where you are going to put the film, and how you will load the film into the camera. The film will be about 4 inches x 5 inches in size. There is a piece of paper in your tool kit which shows the size of the film. The film must be located opposite from the pinhole. If your box is smaller than 4 x 5 inches, the film can be cut to a smaller size. If your box is larger than about 8 inches on a side, you may need to construct an inner cardboard wall to hold the film. If this is the case, consult the instructor or a TA.
  3. Make an opening 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch to hold the pinhole. This should not be larger than 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch or you will not be able to do the next step. Measure with a ruler. If working with a metal container such as a coffee can punch a hole 1/8 inch in diameter or larger using a hammer and a nail
  4. Obtain a piece of yellow brass sheet. Be careful the edges are sharp.
  5. Make a pinhole in the brass sheet with the needle. Hold the brass against the metal base in the tool kit. Push the needle through the brass and pull it out. The idea is to make a nice round hole that is exactly the size of the needle. Do not tear the brass. If you have problems with this step ask for help.
  6. Using the black tape, attach the brass sheet with the pinhole to your camera. Be sure the brass sheet is well-sealed on all sides. Also make sure the pinhole is visible from inside the box. The pinhole must be visible from the film location
  7. Carefully seal as much of the box as possible using aluminum foil. First seal over the corners and obvious cracks and openings using duct tape. Of course leave a method to load the film. Put the foil everywhere possible on the outside and seal around the pinhole. It might be useful to imagine that you are gift wrapping a present. Do not put any foil on the inside. It is absolutely essential to have a well-sealed box without any light leaks. The most likely source of problems is light leaking into the box. See the instructor for guidance if you have any questions
  8. Fashion a shutter over the pinhole using a piece of aluminum foil. Cut a piece of foil 6 inches x 3 inches. Fold this in half so it is 3 x 3 inches. Attach this as a flap over your pinhole. Tape securely at the top of the flap above the pinhole. At the bottom of the flap put one small piece of tape which is just sufficient to hold the flap down. Put a piece of plastic packing tape over the foil below the pinhole. This will help to keep the foil from being ripped by the tape holding the shutter closed. Remember you will need to be able to open and close the shutter to take your picture
    1. If your camera is made of some kind of shiny metal (like a coffee can), line the inside with black construction paper. This keeps internal reflections from exposing the film.
    2. Calculate the "f-stop" of your camera. This will be used in determining the exposure time. Measure the distance from the pinhole to the location of the film. It is easiest to do this in centimeters (cm). In a camera the "f-stop" is the ratio of the lens focal length to the lens diameter. For the pinhole camera this will be the distance from the pinhole to the film location. In this case the "lens" is the pinhole. The diameter of the pinhole is .06 cm. Record your calculations below.
        1. Distance from pinhole to film:_____________ cm

          f-stop = Distance = ______________ = _____________

          Pinhole diameter 0.06 cm

      2. Use the exposure table to determine the exposure time to for your f-stop. If your f-stop is not listed, use the closest value. If you are not sure how to use the table, proceed to the next step and ask the instructor or TA for assistance.

          Exposure Time:_____________________
      3. Make a piece of aluminum foil to serve as a final cover over your box. This sheet should cover the entire top of the box. It should also fold down about 1 inch over the four edges (but not interfere with the shutter). Obtain a rubber band to hold this aluminum cover sheet in place.
        1. Your camera is now almost ready to go. Have the instructor or TA check the camera. Things that will be checked:
          • Brass sheet sealed on all edges.
          • Pinhole visible from inside the box
          • Box light tight.
          • Film location accessible.
          • Shutter to block pinhole functions properly.
          • Aluminum cover ready.

            Checked by: __SIGN ON LAST PAGE

        2. When done, proceed to the film loading room to load the film into your camera. The film loading room and the darkroom are located in the basement of Vanderwerf in room 6 or room 17. IF THE DARKROOM DOOR IS CLOSED DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR TO THE DARKROOM. KNOCK AND WAIT FOR IT TO BE OPENED FROM THE INSIDE.


        Part 2: Taking a Picture

        1. In the Darkroom, the TA will help you load a sheet of photographic paper (film) into your camera. The shiny side of the paper should face your pinhole. Make sure your pinhole is covered once the film is loaded.
        2. Obtain a weight to use in keeping your camera steady. It is essential to make sure the camera is held firmly in place by a weight, otherwise your picture will be blurry. Go outside to take a picture. In selecting a subject, it must be something that does not move as the exposure time will be several seconds. Buildings usually make good subjects. Also, try to find something that is well illuminated rather than in shadows. If it is sunny, position the camera so the back is to the sun, so the sun illuminates the subject. Subjects with a range of tones from dark to light photograph best. Something that is very dark or very light may not show much detail when photographed.
        3. Find a place to set up your camera. The only way to aim the camera is to simply point it at the subject. The pinhole tends to produce a wide-angle image. Pointing the camera slightly upwards, or positioning it on a wall or bench will help to avoid getting too much of the ground in your picture.
        4. Secure your camera so that is does not wobble or move while you are making an exposure. You cannot hold the camera while taking a picture since your body will move too much. Use the weight to secure your camera.
        5. Remove whatever is covering the pinhole and make an exposure for the recommended time. Note that the exposure time may be a little different for each camera. Time the required exposure. Timing with a watch is essential.
        6. When done making the exposure, carefully cover the pinhole (without shaking the camera). Hold the shutter down to keep it from opening accidentally.
        7. Return to the darkroom for processing.


        Part 3: Processing the Negative.
        In processing your picture we will see how black and white film is developed. We are working in black and white because it is easier to process. Color film requires strict control of temperature during developing and is generally more difficult to process. Black and white is also less expensive. The pinhole camera, however, could be used to take color pictures.

        1. In the darkroom, open your camera and remove the photographic paper.
        2. Developing the negative involves 4 principle steps:
          • The developer: develops the image.
          • The stop bath: stops the developing process.
          • The fixer: removes unexposed silver particles from the film.
          • Wash: removes chemicals and residues from the photograph.
        3. Proceed to develop your negative:
          • Put the paper in the developing solution. Leave it in for 1 minute. Hold the paper with the tongs and move it in the solution.
          • Move to the stop bath for about 30 seconds.
          • Put in the Fixer solution for 1 minute.
        4. After fixing, the light can be turned on in the darkroom. The processing is almost completed, only the final wash remains.
        5. Wash it for 3 minutes.
        6. Examine your negative. Do you recognize what you were trying to photograph? Is the exposure time about right? If the exposure was correct the negative will have a range of tones from black to white. Here are some of the things to look for:
          • Totally black negative: light leaking in, camera is not well sealed.
          • Very dark negative: over exposed, use shorter exposure time.
          • Very short exposure but still all black: light leaking in, cover with foil.
          • Very light negative: under exposed, use longer exposure time.
          • Blurry: Camera moved during exposure.
          CONTINUE TAKING PICTURES UNTIL YOU HAVE A GOOD NEGATIVE. The negative should not be blurry and it should not be too dark.
        7. Hang the washed negative up to dry. Drying should only take a few minutes. The negative can also be dried by blotting it with a towel.


        Part 4: Making a Print.
        When you have a good negative, the next step is to make a print (a positive) from the negative. We will use the simplest method for doing this called contact printing. In contact printing, the print is made exactly the same size as the negative. As the negatives are fairly large, this is not a problem in our situation.

        1. Make sure your negative is dry.
        2. Return to the darkroom.
        3. Show the negative to the TA or instructor and obtain a recommendation as to exposure time for the print.
        4. We will use the controlled light source with a timer. Obtain another sheet of photographic paper and place the negative face down on the film side of the new sheet. Put the glass over the two sheets to hold flat.
        5. Set the timer for the recommended time and make the exposure.
        6. Process the exposed photographic paper the same way that you processed the negative, using the developer, stop bath, and fixer.
        7. Hopefully you now have an interesting picture.

    Taken on 120 color slide film.  The camera was a Zeiss Ikon Nettar whose lens/shutter unit had gone belly up.  These old folders, with their 645, 6x6 and 6x9 formats, can be made into excellent pinhole cameras.  Advantages include solid construction, good film wind mechanisms and they usually have tripod sockets.  As noted above, 120 film is a good starting place for pinhole photography: there are many camera possibilities, a great range of black and white, color negative and color transparency emulsions, the image is of a size that will bear modest enlargement, and film can be processed by a wide range of local and mail order laboratories.  Regarding color: by careful exposure, we can get good images even on slide film.  Also, while the pinhole image is inherently low contrast, most modern films have such great color saturation and contrast that the film and ìobjectiveî match well.  The same can be said for using vintage, uncoated lenses-they yield fine images.

    Refining Our Work Without Budget Busting

    First, most cameras are extremely wide angle. Generally, much more so in the field than they seemed on the drawing board. Many of my images are taken just inches away from the subject. Watch out for the camera casting shadows on the image or otherwise obstructing the light. Still, get close, get close, get close applies gloriously to pinhole photography.

    Overall, it is easy to work against conventions. Shooting right into the sun, multiple exposures, capturing slowing moving or re-positioned subjects, are all easily and naturally handled. We can have something like a movie camera and sophisticated view camera rolled into one.

    Going further, interesting effects can be achieved by exposing a single sheet of film with a multiple pinhole camera, moving the position of the pinhole off-center or moving the film plane off-perpendicular-whether curved or slanted. It is also possible to combine a pinhole exposure with a lens exposure. You get the idea, although it seems to work better if these refinements flow naturally from our interests and the subject at hand. I know when I start with a ìgimmickî rather than a subject, I fail much more often than I succeed. Even in pinhole photography, an honest effort will show through.

    How to Make and Use a Pinhole Camera

    By using common household materials, you can make a camera that will produce pictures. Making and using a pinhole camera will acquaint you with the basic elements of photography while providing an inexpensive and interesting way to take pictures. This bulletin explains how to make and use two types of pinhole cameras-a cartridge pinhole camera and a can or box pinhole camera. You'll be proud of the pictures you can take with the camera you have constructed

    What is a Pinhole Camera?

    A pinhole camera is a small, light-tight can or box with a black interior and a tiny hole in the center of one end. See illustrations below. You can design it to accept roll or sheet film. The two ends of the camera are parallel. The end opposite the pinhole is flat so that the film is held in a flat plane. The pinhole has a cover to prevent light from entering the camera when you aren't taking a picture.


    During the 1970s, magazines published in Communist Czechoslovakia were controlled by the state, like the majority of other enterprises. Very few good magazines were available and were difficult to get hold of, so people would borrow and exchange them when given the opportunity. This also applied to magazines aimed at young people, which was probably one of the reasons why almost everyone from my generation, when we get on to the subject of pinhole cameras, has fond memories of the cut-out paper camera known as Dirkon*, published in 1979 in the magazine ABC mladých techniků a přírodovědců [An ABC of Young Technicians and Natural Scientists].

    Its creators, Martin Pilný, Mirek Kolář and Richard Vyškovský, came up with a functional pinhole camera made of stiff paper, designed for 35 mm film, which resembles a real camera. It may not be the most practical of devices, but it works!

    My first attempt at putting together a paper Dirkon a few years after it came out fell victim to a total lack of patience on my part. Today, twenty years later, I decided that I had to include this unusual pinhole camera in my collection. So I got hold of an old copy of ABC and set to work. This time I was successful, and here are a few sample photographs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

    * The name Dirkon is a play on words based on the combination of the parts of two words: Dirk- is the beginning of the Czech word dírka – pinhole, and -kon is the end of the name of a well-known Japanese camera which needs no introduction.

    A few notes about the original instructions

    For the patient among you, here are the instructions for making the Dirkon camera which you can download in Adobe PDF format. But first a few notes which I've jotted down after my experience with making it, which you might find useful.

    The camera must be cut out of stiffer paper than ordinary office paper (or thin card). If the paper isn't entirely opaque, you need to stick very thin black paper underneath the important sections so that no light gets into the camera. This is particularly important for sections 1, 2, 3, 10 and 23.

    It is very important to print the cut-out to the correct size, i.e. 1 : 1. When you are printing from the Acrobat Reader, the option "Fit to page" MUST NOT be selected, otherwise the pages might come out smaller and the film won't fit into the Dirkon camera. I've added a ruler on each page so that you can check that the size is correct.

    The instructions recommend using Foma 21° DIN film. This was film made back in former Czechoslovakia but it's similar, for example, to today's Ilford PAN 100. You can of course use any 35 mm film, even colour.

    I discovered from the makers of Dirkon that, even when it was published, people often came up with improvements on their model. The design was significantly improved by sticking on a thin piece of metal with a hole, rather than making the hole in the paper, as described in the instructions. I didn't follow this suggestion, however, since I wanted to experience the real magic of Dirkon photography.