Introduction: How to Make a Pinhole Camera

Picture of How to Make a Pinhole Camera

Make your own camera out of materials around the house and take black and white photos with it.

Step 1: Gather Materials

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You will need a box, photo paper, thin piece of metal like a can or brass shim, tape, xacto knife, needle, and sand paper.

Step 2: Make Pinhole

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The pinhole is like the lens of the camera. Poke a tiny hole in the brass shim with a needle and sand it smooth. Trim the shim so there is a little space around the hole.

Step 3: Make Camera Box

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You can use a shoe box, oat meal box or whatever. The box must be light proof. When the lid is on and the shutter is closed the inside is completely dark. The only light comes through the pinhole. Make sure there are no holes or openings in the box. Seal it and paint it flat black. Cut a small square opening in the box for the pinhole to go in.

Step 4: Put in Pinhole and Make Shutter

Picture of Put in Pinhole and Make Shutter

Tape the pinhole behind the square opening. I use electrical 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 tape.

Step 5: Load the Photo Paper

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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 lid on and make sure the shutter is closed. Now you can go out in the light.

Step 6: Taking a Picture

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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.

Step 7: Developing

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You will need developer, fixer, water, tongs, towels, and a safe light in you dark room. It must be pitch black when safe light is off. I found out you can use orange LED halloween lights as a safe light. It is cheaper and you get more light than a small red darkroom bulb. 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.


JAC14413443 (author)2017-11-01

what kind of photo paper should I use?
I assume not just glossy photo printing paper from Tesco that you use to print on from a standard printer?

please help

slimjay123 (author)2017-10-28

I made it!!!!!! Woohoo!!!!!!!!!

Pranjal_Kumar_123456789 made it! (author)2017-07-04

Very good

slimjay123 (author)2017-10-28

As we speak, I am making mine right now!!!!!!!!

MacarenaS8 (author)2017-06-09

Does any photo paper work? How do I know that it hasn't previously been exposed to light?

NicoleM198 (author)2017-03-07

Id like to do this experiment with some students. They would enjoy this.

BradnMariaP (author)2017-01-19

So we made a pinhole camera, we were having trouble developing it. I'm not sure if its our darkroom or what. But the edges around the paper were black and the middle white , but the next day the middle was purple and cloudy

letstakea_selfie (author)2017-01-12

how abt parchment paper?

mcantu4 (author)2012-03-25

where would i get a brass shim from

progectict (author)mcantu42016-12-18

At a hard where store

Hanzalaibnzahid (author)2016-10-02

can i use oil/wax paper as photo paper?

No, you need to use traditional black and white photographic printing paper.

Nigato (author)Hanzalaibnzahid2016-10-03


Nigato (author)2016-10-03

i don't understand anything, pls send help.. immediately! ASAP! IM CLUELESS!

Sureaidan101374 (author)2016-05-26
LindaD110 (author)2016-04-29

I use this paper from B&H photo for pinhole photography. It comes in glossy or pearl. Hope this helps!

phyno (author)2016-04-21

Hi! I'm super new to the world of older techniques like this. I've been trying but an having a hard time finding photo paper online. It's all shiny printer paper... Can someone give me a link to the right place? Thanks:)

phyno (author)phyno 2016-04-21

Also, What I think is the right stuff is a all MEGA expensive... Anything cheap but really functional?

EstherL12 (author)2016-02-15

This is a great article, but could someone please explain the use of the shutter in more depth? Thanks!

Mark 42 (author)EstherL122016-03-04

You put a piece of tape over the pinhole, then you lift the tape to expose the image.
Exposure time is determined by how long you wait to put the tape back over the hole.

ManasvC (author)2015-01-14

can we use Butter Paper?

No, It Has To Be Photo Paper

delia.besabellalapa (author)2015-04-05

This Was My Science Project.

htuneaindrakyaw (author)2015-03-15

RyanO3 (author)2014-11-22

I think you forgot to mention that you need to develop the first image in order to actually get your negative. Once you have your negative you can use the glass to press the two pages together to make the positive. But thanks for these steps! I am giving this as a christmas present!

taeya (author)2014-10-22

eclipse , on October 23 so make your box tonight

abelw (author)2014-10-05

maybe this can help:

annerbernaner (author)2013-10-25

is photo paper the glossy paper used in printers?

russpolk (author)annerbernaner2014-01-08

No, photo paper is the light sensitive paper used by photographers to make prints from negatives. Print paper used in printers is a special type of ink jet paper and isn't light sensitive.

mtownsend (author)2009-01-18

Am I the only one who thought this meant a tiny little spy camera? I feel so uncultured when I'm on this site.

There was a famous photographer a while back who made a pinhole camera out of a button and went around Japan photographing people. I wish I could remember his name though, his work was amazing.

markinstruct (author)mtownsend2012-05-22

Yes, but the digital camera guy is right there with you.

a.nony.mouse (author)mtownsend2009-10-02

I was thinking the exact same thing, but this is cool, too :)

100038373 (author)2012-11-11

how can i download this article

100038373 (author)2012-11-11

it is amazing

mcantu4 (author)2012-03-25

i think u need to elaborate more on the last part. that is the hardest part and there are no pics

saharahoveybaldwin (author)2010-06-07

can i use a safelight for this step? like, while loading the paper...

Using a safelight should be fine. Just don't use a bulb higher than 25 watts and be sure not to get the paper closer that 3 feet to the safelight.

DemeGeek (author)2009-09-09

Why does everthing have to be perfectly still?

 the picture would be blury, like when you take  picture and your hand moves slightly, so it turns out a bit blurry, when the shutter is open taking a long exposure picture, its just like that shaky hand, but on a larger scale, if you can understand what i mean

right... and now everybody should have a little more appreciation for the photos taken of they great-great-great-great-great-grandparents if they are lucky enough to have any of them at all. :-D

kimm123 (author)DemeGeek2009-09-10

the picture will come out blurry and not right, i suppose XD

j_wo (author)2011-05-13 we know how they manufactured that picture of Lee Harvey Oswald...

andyoaryoga (author)2010-07-28

whether it is possible to replace the paper with a regular camera film? how to apply and the required distance between the pinholes with a regular film camera

andyoaryoga (author)andyoaryoga2010-07-28

if you read this comment, i have the answer for my question up there . check this site, it explaining how to applying regular camera film into a pinhole camera

Quest for Questions (author)2010-06-05

what is a pinhole camera for ?

as the name would indicate, they are strictly for taking pictures of pinholes... I am only kidding. they are one of the simplest means of taking pictures, by using a very tiny hole to create a small inverted image on a fixed plane at the back of the device, they do not require any lenses.

92033 (author)2010-06-06

Look up my postings on the other 'Making a Pinhole Camera' pages. Also, to everyone of your questions...simply go to your local camera photo shop dealer. They have everything you need for developing film and prints, printing papers to use, information, etc. Just visited your page...great photos. You can make an easy tripod base for use on the camera. Use a piece of 1/4" thick plywood or plastic. Drill a 1/4 inch hole in the center. Use double-face carpet tape or layer of rubber cement on face of the wood/plastic base and layer on bottom of camera. Stick together for a permanent bond. Screw your tripos screw into the hole and you're all set. Want 'simpler'? Lightly duct-tape it to tripod. Removes easily. Idea is to hold the camera still and level..this'll do the trick. Great Instructable mind-refresher for me...have been in photography all my lifetime...'1200 Year Old Highlander Immortal', y'know. :-) Which reminds me...Do you know what Jesus said to the Apostles at The Last Supper? "All you guys who want your picture taken, sit on this side of the table with Me". Moses was The First Photographer. He used a Pinhole Camera and Bolt Of Lightning for the FLASH. Came out pretty good, eh?

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