Pinhole Camera and Photos


Pinhole cameras, despite their simplicity in equipment and capture can yield some of the most unique pictures unmatched with current state of the art cameras. It requires a little trial and error that requires a little more patience than a digital camera, but the results can be quite interesting. Looks like the name "Mr. Oats" is close enough:


Instructions for Pinhole Camera Pictures:

  1. As you come into the classroom, get one (1) pinhole camera. Get the camera that is the same as your Roll #. After your first trip outside, you can pick up a 2nd camera, if available. Make a note of the camera #...and if any notes that have been written on the bottom of the camera regarding the exposure.
  2. After you get your camera, head straight to the darkroom with your paper safe, your camera(s), and your supply coupon. Partners, share your station and/or spread out to empty stations. Keep your photo paper safes at your station so when you finish your first set of picture(s), you can reload.
  3. Buy your photo paper. (We buy in small amounts so we don't have to worry about waste...or unfortunately, theft.)
  4. Cut down your paper to 5x8...or the strip of paper to be used later as a test strip. If you do NOT cut your paper down, make sure your name goes along the edge of the short side.
  5. Put your name and period very small only along the very edge of your paper (on the back). Do NOT put your name in the center. This will RUIN your negative.
  6. Load your pinhole camera(s) with a sheet of 5x7 paper.
    • The paper will be horizontal in the box. It could be vertical, but it tends to include too much sky and ground, so you will have to be more careful about your subject. In the case of the vertical, you will want to put a small piece of masking tape behind the paper to keep it pressed against the back of the box. Especially for vertical, avoid shooting too much sky. Instead, shoot really close to subjects that will fill the frame. Look at cone picture below.
    • The emulsion should be facing the lens of the camera. IOW, the armadillo is doing a back bend inside the Oatmeal can. Be careful to notice that the shutter is closed and that you have place the black sheet over the end secured with a rubber band.
  7. Go outside (and stay outside) and find a picture you want to capture. You will only be getting 2-3 shots...maybe four tops. So, make them count.
    • For the FIRST trip outside, take a self portrait. Get in front of the camera with your face into the sun. You can look right into the camera if you are VERY, VERY still for the vast majority of the picture. If you move, it will be blurry. I like to look off to the side of the camera, or maybe even assume a prayerful or thoughtful pose. The choice is yours.
    • If you get a 2nd camera after the first trip outside., you can shoot both on the same trip. You may continue to shoot self portraits. If you shoot other scenes, make sure there is an object closeup. Avoid scenes of far off areas. Try staying very still during the entire exposure. Or, staying very still during half of the exposure and then leaving during the exposure. Place one or two books on top of the camera. Make sue the camera does not move during the exposure, so make sure it is place on sold ground. Never place it in the grass.
  8. Position the pinhole camera so that it will be very steady. SLS...shoot what is lit by the sun. Try to find an evenly lit scene...which means do not shoot SUNLIT and SHADED areas. Avoid point the camera directly at the sun. It could starburst, but more than likely it will just blow out the paper (solid black).
  9. Carefully open the shutter. Be very careful that the camera does not move during the exposure. I will give the exposure time during class, but generally, if it is sunny, your exposure will be 30-60 seconds. If it is completely overcast, the exposure could be as long as 5-7 minutes.
  10. Carefully close the shutter.
  11. Return to the darkroom and remove the photo paper and process.
  12. Repeat process, increasing and decreasing time for your camera and/or specific scene. Remember, you are shooting a NEGATIVE…so light areas will appear dark. So, it is normal to have a dark negative. However, there should be some light parts of the pictures. If your print is TOO dark, there might be something wrong with your camera.
  13. The following week, you will be making the picture from the negative you made initially. At that point, you will be able to shoot another picture if your your first results did not turn out like you wanted.


Tips and Suggestions:



Negative to Positive

 *Hang on to your Pinhole Positive...I will call for them all at once. You may also want to shoot your negative with you cell phone and/or digital camera.

See Digitizing a photo with your Cell Phone  - Photogram or Pinhole Negative



Samples (see more in the Public Folder of "Examples, Resources for Student Projects")










Negative...initial image                                                                                                          Positive....2nd image