Pinhole photography and the art of making your own camera
Want to get into photography? Can’t afford to buy a camera? Got a shoebox, plenty of masking tape, lots of patience and a bit of tinfoil? Then you too can make your own camera and get busy exposing your world onto a photograph!
Pictured here is my first effort at making such a contraption. Having obtained an old shoebox, I set about cladding the inside of the box with black paper to darken the entire interior. The main object is to completely reduce the amount of light seeping in to the box through cracks and seams. Be liberal with the masking tape and do not leave any gaps for light to seep into your shoebox. The darker the interior, the better exposure you will achieve.
Once all the gaps in the shoebox have been covered with paper and sealed with tape, the next step involves making a shutter for the camera. After cutting a square hole about 2″ x 2″ in the shoebox lid and applying tin foil over the hole from the inside, you must then create a shutter frame. This is done by finding some more cardboard and cutting out a section that will act as a sheath. A second piece of cardboard can then be cut to size to act as the shutter flap.
Now the camera is almost ready to take photographs. Using a pin, make a tiny hole in the centre of the tin foil and attach the shutter flap to the frame.
Now your pinhole camera is operational. You will require some photo-sensitive paper and a dark room. When loading the paper into the camera, I used a small amount of tape to attach the paper to. This will stop it from moving round inside the camera.
Exposure time is anywhere between four to six minutes depending on the brightness of the day. The brighter the day, the less exposure time is needed. It is important to note that the camera must be kept as still as possible during the exposure time.
It is also important to remove and replace the shutter flap as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Pictured left is the result of my first exposure with the camera. It is very grainy, has little contrast and is hard to make out.
This print was developed from a negative. The original print had to be developed in a dark room and then it was converted from a negative exposure to a positive one using a De Vere enlarger. Technical equipment which requires someone who knows what they’re doing! This was left to our lecturer.
Pinhole photography involves a lot of trial and error, but also a lot of fun, and there is great satisfaction to be had from creating your very own camera and producing your first photograph. The method I have described here is very basic and can be improved upon to achieve results of a higher quality. The less light that gets in to your shoebox, the better! The tighter the box lid fits, the less likely it is that light will seep in. I personally, am going back to the drawing board to create the Mark II!