A pinhole camera is kind of a romantic throwback of the most basic cameras ever made. You can make a camera out of anything light tight, but if you don't have access to a darkroom or chemicals, you will need to use a camera that takes some standard film (35mm or 120). These instructions will lead you into making photos that look like some of the soft romantic shots that you may have seen from the early 20th century. They take time and patience, but they will be very unique and invite an element of chance into your photos.
Step 1: Finding the Right Camera to Alter
You are a hunter. The first thing you want to find is an eyeglass fixing kit, they have these teensy screwdrivers in them. When you have said teensy screwdriver in hand, head to your local thrift store and find the section with discarded, disregarded, disrespected, and dashingly simple viewfinder cameras.
Rule of thumb: the simpler, the better. If you can't figure out how it comes apart don't buy it- take your screwdriver and make sure it fits into the teensy camera screws- not all teensy screws are alike!
Step 2: Dismantling
Take that tiny screwdriver and unscrew the body of the camera. Once you're staring into the open body of your camera, you need to locate the shutter. The shutter is the part that opens and closes quickly when you push the trigger to take a picture. Every camera looks a bit different, so don't worry if it's hard to find- keep looking. Once you've located the shutter, you need to find a way to either remove it or hold it open using tape (if you don't want to permanently alter the camera).
This photo is of a different kind of camera, just to illustrate variety.
Step 3: Making Our Own Lenses
When you make your own lens you make the camera your own. No two cameras or photos will be alike. Take some tinfoil and cut it into a square just big enough to cover the lens opening. (Try to keep it wrinkle free!) Now put that foil onto something flat (a pad of paper works well)- and stick it with the sewing needle. Your hole will be tiny- this is good- just make sure that you can see some light through it when you hold it up. A fine focus can be achieved by sticking your needle into the foil just a millimeter or two. Now attach your tinfoil lens to the camera, I recommend using black electrical tape. It's tricky, but try your best to center the tiny hole over the lens opening.
Now find all those teensy screws and put your camera back together.
Step 4: Making the Shutter
Take something rigid like cardboard or stiff paper, the blacker the better. Cut it so it generously covers your lens opening. Apply this to the camera using tape so that your shutter flap is easy to open and close. Attach a bit of tape that trails over the bottom of your shutter to keep it closed.
Step 5: You've Done It! You've Made Your Own Camera!
Now it's time to take some photos.
- Some hints: You need good light to get good photos.
- You have to hold the shutter open from 4-7 seconds depending on the camera, the light, and the size of your pinhole lens, so experiment a bit.
- The camera needs to stay still while the shutter is open, so put it up on something to steady it!
- After you silently and patiently take your photo, you need to click on the shoot button to advance the film. (Or don't- and you'll get a double exposure- which can be really cool to play with!)
Here are some photos I recently took with the pinhole that I made, shown in the instructions. It took some adjustments, I had to take notes and adjust my "shutter speed" according to different lighting conditions. If you modify a little camera like the one shown, a good place to start is 5 seconds of exposure time. Good luck!