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:
- 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.
- A can of matte black spray paint. This is for flocking the inside of the container.
- Black electrical tape. This will be your “shutter” and will also be used to seal up the “camera” once the paper is inside.
- A small piece of tin foil. This is what you will poke a hole in
- 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
- Photographic paper. This is your “film”.
- 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).
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.