How To Make a Pinhole Camera 12

I love pinhole photography. At the least, it’s the most hands-on from start to finish form of photography that you can participate in and, as an artistic tool, is a great addition to your photographic toolkit. At most, it is literally the oldest form of photography.

And you can still do it.

It’s also a perfect project for summer, when the light is hard and the days long as apertures are typically extremely small.

Anyway, this is all you need:

  1. A light-tight container. The classic container is the Quaker Oats tube, but really anything will do. A mint tin, like an Altoids container, is great because it’s small enough to slip into your pocket. If you want larger photos, pick a larger container.
  2. A can of matte black spray paint. This is for flocking the inside of the container.
  3. Black electrical tape. This will be your “shutter” and will also be used to seal up the “camera” once the paper is inside.
  4. A small piece of tin foil. This is what you will poke a hole in
  5. A bathroom in which you can cover up light sources (i.e. windows and door edges). You need someplace light-less to load your camera and develop the image
  6. Photographic paper. This is your “film”.
  7. Basic photo development materials (developer, stop, fixer, trays). These are available in many photographic supply stores.

Once you have everything you need…

YouTube Video on Making a Pinhole Camera

There are also a wide variety of pinhole cameras on the market today, from simple “camera body caps” for a couple of bucks, to things like the Holga 120WPC, which is what I used for the images in this article, to hand-crafted wood cameras that accept large format sheet film holders. One benefit to using commercially-produced pinhole cameras (or camera modifications) is that you don’t have to worry about needing a dark area or your hands smelling like fixer (assuming you don’t already self develop). The Holga 120WPC, for example, takes 120mm rollfilm, which can be processed by any minilab. The “camera cap” pinholes are meant to be screwed right into the lens mount of your camera, which opens up digital SLRs as a pinhole tool (albeit the long exposures needed don’t mesh well with the digital format, it’s still something that can be played with).

Have fun!

Here are some sample pinhole photos taken with my Holga 120WPC over the past year. Click on a thumb to open the full 1:2 image.

About Brian

Brian Q. Webb is a photography enthusiast from Los Angeles, California who spends most of his time in Taipei, Taiwan. He is especially interested in street photography as well as large format portraiture and pinhole photography. He also likes to shoot lifestyle portraiture and occasionally acts as an agent for foreign newspapers wanting event coverage in Taipei. He was also on the staff of deviantArt and is co-founder of PhotoMalaysia, the largest photography community in that country.

  • Ashish

    Love the first 2 photos in this post. You have got me hooked onto pinhole photography. I might just go ahead and buy Holga 120WPC :) Thanks

  • Brian

    Thanks! It’s great fun and really interesting. You’re in Taiwan? There are loads of “pinhole-compatible” scenes around…later this month I’m probably going to head down to Kenting and will definitely bring along my pinhole.

  • Ashish

    Yes I’m in Taiwan. I will be going to the Taipei PhotoWalk on 18th this month. See you there if you are coming too. I am also part of Taiwan photo club. I went to the second club meeting I guess but then stopped going from Feb just when my daughter was born.

  • Brian

    I *should* be going. I have my wife’s permission, but since I start a new job in late July she may want to take advantage of my free time and go on a trip before I start.

    I hope to see you there. :-)


    Thanks for this simple and yet awesome tips! :)

  • tzywen

    nice write up! might just modify my flim slr cap 😛

  • Brian Webb

    Ahh…modifying a body cap is the pinhole “entry drug”. I started that way, too…now I’m using a 120mm 6×12 pinhole cam and considering making something LF since I have 4×5 sheets of film lying around. 😆

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  • Nina

    i am doing a school art home task on pinhole images and i really like your Tamsui Fishing boat one.
    I was wondering what your last name was and when you took the photo of the Tamsui Fishing Boats because we have to give those details in our annotation.
    Thank You!

  • Brian

    Thanks, Nina.

    That was taken in February of 2009. You can actually find a larger version at

  • Galerii Foto

    Great tips. Also, great photos. I love them.

  • photojazz

    Thanks so much!