Introduction: Juice Box Pinhole Camera

Picture of Juice Box Pinhole Camera

Remember those juice boxes from when you were a kid?
Well, aside from containing some of the tastiest beverages known to humankind, they now have an ulterior purpose.
Ladies n' Gents, I present the Juice Box Pinhole Camera.

(Note: Credit is deserved where credit is due-- I based much of my plans off of this website. I changed some things around, most notably the matchbox to a juice box, to fit what was laying around the house.)

I was recently doing an article for my school newspaper about the Glasgow twee-pop band Camera Obscura. My editor wanted me to do a side assignment researching camera obscuras, so I poked around and I eventually came up with this design.
Now, granted, pinhole cameras, especially those of this caliber, are not designed to take beautiful Ansel Adams-esque panoramic masterpieces. Since there is no lens, the focal range of said camera is terribly small. (I'll go into greater detail about what are ideal conditions for pictures and all that later.)
But, hey, they're fun and creative. If you're looking for a good rainy-day photography project, this is it.

This is also my first Instructable, so bear with me. If you've got any questions, I'll answer 'em.

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

So we need to gather our stuff before we get started.

We need:
--A Juice Box (I chose Yoo-Hoo because it's oh-so tasty)
--Black Electrical Tape (A lot of it. Not red nor green nor camo-colored. Needs to be non-translucent.)
--Film (I've experimented with color the previous times I've made the camera, so I thought I'd give 100 speed Kodak T-Max a go this time. Anything slow, like 200 or 100 ISO, is optimal. But, by all means, experiment!)
--Empty Film Reel (Ask your friendly neighborhood Walgreen's employee for one of these. They've got bunches of them. Make sure a bit of film is still sticking out of the reel!)
--A Metric Ruler (or a standard ruler and a Master's in mathematics)
--An X-Acto Knife (Be F'in CAREFUL. I am not responsible for anything you accidentally do to yourself with it.)
--A Pen or a skinny Sharpie (dry-ink ballpoints don't write well on juice boxes, use something felt tip or wet ink.)

--Aluminum Beverage Canister (Like, a soda can. Or beer, perhaps. Either, really.)
--Cardboard (Perhaps packaging for said canister?)

It might be good to have these too, although I didn't picture them:
--Scissors (If you're really afraid of X-Acto knives like me)
--Tweezers (They tweeze. Hence, the name.)
--Scotch Tape (Made from real Scots!)

Step 2: Prepping the Juice Box

Picture of Prepping the Juice Box

So, in order for us to take pictures through our juice box, we need to cut two squares in it, one on each side of the box. The large square will function as a frame for the exposures taken, and the smaller one for the pinhole.)
Measurements are very important at this point, so follow the old carpenter's mantra: Measure twice, cut once. (And the new carpenter's mantra: X-Acto knives are hellas sharp!)

One square needs to be 24 millimeters, and the other 6 millimeters.
First, measure and know the dimensions of your juice box. Yoo-Hoo boxes are nice, because all the dimensions fit pretty nicely in the metric system-- the width of the box is 4.5 cm across.
Now, we're using 35 mm film, so the width of the film is (quite obviously) 35 mm, and half of 35 mm is 17.5 mm.
Grab your sharpie and make a mark exactly 2 cm (20 mm) down one side of the box. (20 mm is slightly larger than the bare minimum of 17.5 mm, and allows a little room for error.) This mark should also be in the middle of the container (4.5 cm across divided by two = 2.25 cm from one side). Make a little cross (a plus sign) here. (See first picture.)

So now you have the center of where your large square will be. Since we need our square to be 24 mm, measure 12 mm in each direction (up, down, left, right) from the point in the first picture, making the lines that make up the plus sign 24 mm. You now have a bigger plus sign.

After this, make the plus sign into a square by drawing sides.
Grab your X-Acto knife and (very carefully) cut out this square. You don't need the square anymore, so pitch it or what have you.

The next square needs to be 6 mm, and on the opposite side of the box. Use the same "20 mm from the top and in the middle" logic to make another point- it should be exactly above where your previous point was. Instead of making a 24 mm square, we're making a 6 mm square, so draw 3 mm in each direction- up, down, left, and right. Complete the square and cut it out just like the larger one.

Also, if your box has been sitting around for a while, now might be a good time to clean out all that old Yoo-Hoo. Few things smell worse than spoiled, warm, coagulated chocolate drink. Yum.

Step 3: Adding the Back

Picture of Adding the Back

The next big step we need to take is to add the back on the camera.
The back will cover the larger hole on the box, but we need to need to tape it correctly in order to get it to work right. The film will feed from the right side of the box, between the back we're going to make and the larger hole, and out again.

So, to start, we know that the width of the film is 35 mm, and for room's sake, we'll round that up to, say, 38 mm. And we also know the width of the Yoo-Hoo box is 4.5 cm (45 mm), so we should take our cereal/beer box cardboard and make (in our case- your box may be different) a 35 mm by 45 mm square.

Once we have our square, whip out the electrical tape, and tape around the edges of the cardboard square. Then, tape the cardboard square down on the back of the juice box.
However, DO NOT tape the left and right sides of the camera. Remember, the film's feeding from left to right between the square and the box.

Note: Use tape liberally. Very liberally. Any light that gets through can ruin the whole thing, and since black electrical tape is non-translucent, it's a surefire way to keep it light-tight. When in doubt, tape more.

Step 4: Getting the Pinhole Started

Picture of Getting the Pinhole Started

Next, we need to get the place where the pinhole goes fixed.
Take your soda/alternative beverage can and cut out a square. In all honesty, it doesn't really matter what size of a square you cut out, except it needs to be larger than the 6 mm square you cut out earlier. I didn't really measure mine, but I think it was a 12 mm square, more or less.

Now that we have the square, we need to tape this down above the 6 mm hole. It's important that you just tape the square down along the edges. Do not entirely cover the aluminum square- We're poking a hole in it later.

Step 5: Getting the Film In

Picture of Getting the Film In

Okay, so, thus far, the camera has been missing an important facet: film.
In order to do this, we'll need our film, that empty film canister, the X-Acto, and a bit of patience.

First, cut the "tongue" of the new film off. The tongue is the awkward little flap of film that goes in a bell-curve-ish shape up to where the film expands to its full 35 mm size. Throw that away, or find a better use for it.
Next, pull out approximately 4.5 cm of film, just enough to stretch across the width of the box. Proceed to feed this in between the cardboard backing and the large square that you cut out. (The tweezers might come in handy a little to get the film through at this point.) Make sure you feed the film through so that the matte (dull) side is facing towards the can square and small square. The other side won't expose, it'd be kinda silly to do that.
After you feed the film through, you need to fuse the empty canister of film's small tail of film and the full canister together. Two layers of scotch tape should do this well. Turn the empty canister's spool counter clockwise, which pulls the now conjoined reel taught.

Get out the ol' electrical tape and get it all stuck in place.

Step 6: Tape It All Up.

Picture of Tape It All Up.

Pretty self-explanatory.

If it has the remotest possibility of exposing any film, layer it in electrical tape. Any exposure can cause ruin of the whole thing.

Step 7: Poking a Hole

Picture of Poking a Hole

Another easy one!

Well, not entirely. If you want to invest in very scientific and specific instruments, you can precision-drill your pinhole. (See here for precision measurement)
But this is DIY, after all, so cross your fingers and poke a hole in the aluminum square. Don't hurt your finger or anything with that needle.

Step 8: Getting It to Work

Picture of Getting It to Work

So you've got a cool juice box with a hole and some film. Who cares?

All that form is of no use without function, so let's get to that.

The light goes through the pinhole and exposes the film. So in order to keep the pinhole from constantly inundating the film with light, we need a shutter. The easiest way to do this is another piece of handy-dandy electrical tape. Slap a piece of the tape over the hole and pull it open to expose the film.

In order to advance the film, you'll need a car key or another type of key. Put the key in the EMPTY SPOOL'S reel and turn COUNTER-CLOCKWISE to properly advance the film.

Step 9: Results/ Go Crazy!

Picture of Results/ Go Crazy!

These are two exposures (one multiple exposures) of things I took with an identical camera I made. I used Kodak 200 Gold, I think. I haven't processed the ones from the camera pictured in the Instructable. They were both about 7 second exposures, so use that for a judge if you wish.

It will be very difficult for your local film processing place to make prints of these pictures, so it will be much more effective (and cheaper) if you ask for just the negatives to be processed.
Then scan them in with a negative scanner (or a regular scanner and some Photoshop skills).

If this project works out well for you, please FEEL FREE to go crazy and make some other weird pinhole extravaganza.

Medium format film? Why not?
Maybe use a cigarette box instead of a juice box?

Just have fun. Taking pictures is wonderful.

Good Luck!


g00d Idea bOy (author)2013-05-30

Cool... But call it a tetra pak to be more specific. Oh, and check out how to make a tetra pak gun. It's so coool...

g00d Idea bOy (author)2013-05-30

Cool... But call it a tetra pak to be more specific. Oh, and check out how to make a tetra pak gun. It's so coool...

gl0rious (author)2013-03-07

Can i get one of those at a local film store? (an empty canister)

kaikoi (author)2011-06-23

Soo, the film I got is 36mm, would there be a problem in that? Also, my ISO is 400 (O.O). Wanted to know if it would still work… And is there anything else I can use to replace the empty film canister? Because where I live there are very few camera places and they are far away (btw I live in Brazil)
Thanks, I would be happy if you could respond :)

commentnlookr (author)2010-06-08

coolol! mine works,but how come my photos come upside-down?

Tokoloshe (author)commentnlookr2010-12-13

When you project something through a pinhole it turns the image upside down. Just turn your photo the other way round :P

rrrmanion (author)2010-10-31

Quit Tweezing us and get on with the Instructable! sorry, but i had to use that pun, just because i could.

Eldarodo (author)2009-12-31

Great instructable but all the reflective surfaces should be darkened

nfornicoley (author)2009-04-30

This is awesome. I want to do this. Tell me, how did you go about developing the film without a scanner? That's where I think I'm going to get stuck. I'd greatly appreciate it if you can let me know.

oatmealfight (author)nfornicoley2009-05-04

uhhhh, film is never developed with a scanner. Maybe you're using the wrong term. Take the roll of film to Walgreens or CVS or whatever and ask them to develop the negatives from the roll, but don't make prints. Then take the negatives and scan them in on a scanner. Make sense?

jimmy joe (author)2009-04-02

how long should i wait after taking picture to take another

jakestah1601 (author)2009-02-01

I am with him, how many tomes do we spin it? some one said 2.5 full rotations. what did you use?

It's a shot in the dark. The design on which I based this off of used a piece of plastic binding comb (you know, like the plastic binding used to keep together reports or whatever) to rub against the rebate (the perforated edge on 35mm film). The idea is that this clicking gives you some sort of reference of how far you've advanced the film.
X amount of clicks while winding= an exposure? Go for it. I've never done this but it sounds pretty effective.

thx0138 (author)2008-12-22

Vintage Vinyl is awesome.

oatmealfight (author)thx01382008-12-23

Concurred! Very much so.

Admiral Puffinfresh (author)2008-08-04

Maybe you could attach a motor to the film reel and turn it into a juice box video camera hahaha. =]

aceLED (author)2008-04-26

can you make a camera with one film canister instead

-_- (author)2008-04-14

how many times should i turn the key for each new exposure?

Razboz (author)2008-02-15

I may have fallen in love with your jacket.

NinJA999 (author)2007-09-15

This is cool, I will attempt to make one. Please, though, update the link to the matchbox camera:

oatmealfight (author)NinJA9992007-09-15

Ah, good eyes! I didn't catch that one. Thanks!

NinJA999 (author)oatmealfight2007-09-15

no problem--it wasn't too hard to find the real link, but I figured I would make it easier for you.

mindtrip (author)2007-08-15

how long should i expose the film (one photo) and how would i know when to stop unwinding the reel for a new shot? these are probably dumb questions, but i'm highly curious.

oatmealfight (author)mindtrip2007-09-15

The photo exposure is totally dependent on how much light is in your surrounding. Unlike regular cameras that have f-stops and things, you only have one way to control the image- how long it's exposed. So just mess around with it. Mess ups are awesome too.

pixbytrix (author)2007-08-08

How about an adult juice box?! Ever made a camera with a wine box? Now just think of all of the fun you'd have emptying the box first! You might just say the heck with making the camera. Or think of how all of that adult juice would inspire photo taking : )

oatmealfight (author)pixbytrix2007-09-15

Oh my...using a box of Franzia or something to that sort would only lead to great things.
Alcohol + photography - inhibitions = awesome.

roban (author)2007-02-18

Good project. Just a quick correction: you said the "focal range" of a pinhole camera is terrible because it has no lens. Actually, the depth of field (meaning roughly the range of distances over which a particular lens configuration can focus reasonably well) for a pinhole is infinite. You can take pictures of things either very close to the camera or at infinity without having to refocus. That's one of the really cool things about them.

skullbadge (author)2007-02-17

Nifty as it may be; it's not a Camera Obscura. You need projection for this. But it does remind me of how I got my one and only badge in cub scouts. That was a happy day. And, can't you just tape the thing to a stable object to remove any shake, or is that the point of art?

oatmealfight (author)skullbadge2007-02-17

Oy Vey! I thought a camera obscura WAS a pinhole camera. Perhaps find a way to use a mirror inside the juice box? I suppose you could tape it to the table. Hadn't thought of that, makes sense. But never underestimate the power of shaky hands! Art is dead and Juice Box cameras further kill it.

ongissim (author)2007-02-17

Nice Instructable! How good quality pictures does it give, though?

oatmealfight (author)ongissim2007-02-17

Thanks. Well, quality is subjective. Like I said, don't expect to be Ansel Adams or something. They definitely have a lo-fi feel like a Holga or a Lomo camera. Expect vignetting, blurs, shakiness, and all around weird looking things not typically found in a real lens camera. But- I find all the "errors" and "problems" with the exposures to be 90% of the fun of pinhole photography. The other ten percent is drinking the Yoo-Hoo, of course.

ongissim (author)oatmealfight2007-02-17

I've made my own pinhole cameras out of oatmeal boxes and styrofoam cups, and they don't give that good quality pictures either. Also, what is the approximate exposure time? I would guess about .7 - 1.3 seconds.

oatmealfight (author)ongissim2007-02-17

I used 7 second exposures, actually, and they came out pretty well. I guess this mostly depends on how much light there is, anyway, so give it a go. Mess around, make mistakes!

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