Being a classic Do It Yourself (DIY) project, the pinhole camera has been a project for students discovering photography for many decades. Building a pinhole camera helps one appreciate deeply the basic DNA of the modern cameras we see around. Consisting of a black box, a place to put photo-sensitive material, and a pinhole-sized opening that projects a faint image on light-sensitive material, pinhole cameras are bare-bones cameras, as all cameras, both film and digital follow this design when stripped off their bells and whistles.
- A completely sealable box.
- Photo paper.
- Pin or paper clip.
- Aluminum foil.
- Black paint and brush or spray paint.
Tape the box along all the edges to create a light seal when you close it. Also tape over any potential openings, no matter how small, on the outside and inside. Black or silver gaffer tape will block light effectively. Hold the box up to a light and look at the corners and edges for potential light leaks, and seal them by covering them with gaffer tape.
After completely sealing it, paint it flat black. Matt black paint is ideal and using spray paint is cost-effective. Make sure to get the entire inside.
Cut a small square opening in the box measuring about 1/4-1/2-inch-wide in the front of the camera for the pinhole to go in. (you can use a pen, scissors or razor blade). Tape 1-2-inch square of aluminum foil over it.
The pinhole is like the lens of the camera. Poke a tiny hole in the aluminum foil with a needle so it shines through the larger hole you made in Step 3. Trim the shim so there is a little space around the hole.
Tape the pinhole behind the square opening using the tape. Center the pinhole in the square. Then, make the shutter which is just a flap that covers the pinhole from the outside. It can be made from some more light-proof tape.
Load the photo paper. This must be done in complete darkness. You can make a darkroom in a bathroom or closet and use it for developing and changing paper. Tape a piece of photo paper to the inside of the box across from the hole. Put the lid on and make sure the shutter is closed. Now you can go out in the light.
This involves taking the picture, the sole purpose for which the pinhole camera has been built for. Point the camera at what you want to shoot. It works best when it is bright and sunny. Depending on lighting and clouds hold shutter open for 30 seconds to 4 minutes then close. Everything has to stay perfectly still. Go back to the dark room and take paper out to develop.
Here, the picture taken in step 7 above is developed with the help of a developer, fixer, water, tongs, towels, and a safe light in you dark room. It must be pitch black when safe light is off. The paper from the box will be a negative. To make the positive, put another piece of photo paper under the developed negative face to face. The negative must be on top. Use a piece of glass to press them together and turn the lights on for a few seconds. Make sure your extra photo paper is safe and covered or it will all develop black. Now develop the positive. It goes in the developer then water then fixer then water then air dry.