Introduction: Matchbox Pinhole Camera

Picture of Matchbox Pinhole Camera

We are going to make a pinhole camera from a small matchbox.

Yes, you will actually take pictures with it, so be sure to make it as best as possible!!!

Step 1: You Will Need...

Picture of You Will Need...

§ A matchbox

§ A new roll of B&W 400 ISO 35mm film

§ An empty roll of 35mm film with at least 1cm stub of film sticking out.

§ Thin cardboard (The box the new film comes in is fine)

§ An empty drink can

§ Black PVC electricians tape

§ A plastic bottle

§ A fine needle

§ Scissors

§ An Exacto knife

§ A black sharpie

§ Decorating tape

Step 2: ​The Box

Picture of ​The Box

- Remove the inner part of the matchbox; the matchbox tray.

- Mark out a 1" square exactly in the centre of the match tray.

HINT: You can find the middle of the box by drawing an X from corner to corner.

- Carefully cut out the square shape with a sharp knife. This will be the frame of your image.

HINT: You can keep the edges clean or make it messy, it's up to you!

- Color the inside tray completely black with a Sharpie.

Step 3: Cutting the Hole

Picture of Cutting the Hole

- Mark out a 1/4" square on the font of the matchbox sleeve.

- Cut this square out neatly with an Exacto knife to avoid fluffy fibers from obscuring the image.

Step 4: Making the Pinhole

Picture of Making the Pinhole

- Cut out a 1" square from the aluminum drinks can.

- Color the 1" square black with a Sharpie.

- Ask Ms Britz to make your pinhole in your aluminum can.

HINT: Ideal pinhole diameter is 0.2mm. Smaller is OK, larger and the images produced will be less sharp.

Step 5: Tape Pinhole to Matchbox

Picture of Tape Pinhole to Matchbox

- Place the aluminum onto the box so that the pinhole is exactly in the centre of the square hole.

- Tape the aluminum onto the box, securing all four sides.

HINT: Do not cover the pinhole!!

Step 6: Making a Shutter

Picture of Making a Shutter

- Cut two pieces of thin card.

1. 1"x1" square. Cut a 1/4" square in the middle of the square. This holds your shutter.

2. 2"x1" rectangle. Cut one end rounder. This is your shutter.

- Put the square over the pinhole and tape the sides and the bottom. Leave the top open.

- Slide the rectangle, rounded side down, in the opening of the square.

HINT: Make sure the shutter goes over the pinhole.

Step 7: Make and Add a Clicker to Your Roll of Film

Picture of Make and Add a Clicker to Your Roll of Film

- Grab a new canister of film (higher iso's work better with pinholes)

- We need to know how far to wind the film after each picture. For this we make a clicker from a plastic bottle.

- Cut a piece of plastic from a plastic bottle.

HINT: Cut it on the curvy round side.

- Tape the plastic to the new film canister securely.

- Test clicker by gently pulling out some film. It should slide over the film holes smoothly and make a click.

Step 8: Loading the Camera

Picture of Loading the Camera

- Trim the leader off the film, cutting in between the sprocket holes.

- Pull out a little film and thread the film through the matchbox.

HINT: Make sure the emulsion side (non-shiny side) is facing the pinhole.

- Using some clear sticky tape, splice the ends of a new film with an empty film canister together neatly.

HINT: Make sure the edges are lined up so the film can pass into the empty canister. Tape both sides and make sure the joint is secure.

- Slide the match tray back into the box, with the square on the film.

- Turn the spindle of the empty film canister so that the slack film is wound into it.

- Make sure the edges of each film canister are pushed up tight to the matchbox and no film can be seen.

Step 9: Light Proof Your Camera

Picture of Light Proof Your Camera

- It's important that no light can get into the camera other than through the pinhole!

- The most important places to seal are between the film canisters and the matchbox.

- Tape the slits between the matchbox and the film canister.

- Tape all over the back and sides of the box so that no card is showing.

HINT: Do not tape over the pinhole or the slit where the shutter slides into.


Step 10: Image Exposure

Picture of Image Exposure

- Download the free app, Pocket Light Meter, on your iPhone or iPad.

- On a small piece of paper, write down this chart and stick it to the back of your camera.

EV: [Exposure Value]

13: 2 sec

12: 6 sec

11: 13 sec

10: 25 sec

9: 50 sec

8: 150 sec

7: 400 sec

- From here, Ms Britz will teach you how to take pictures.

Step 11: Just a Few of Many Examples... Will Add More Soon!

Picture of Just a Few of Many Examples... Will Add More Soon!


amberrayh (author)2015-05-12

This is a fantastic first Instructable. Thank you for sharing and for the clear instructions!

JadeImperial234 (author)2016-10-01

this is very good! I could understand it well!

darshankoi (author)2016-01-26




Scumm7 (author)2015-11-10

How many clicks are you advancing the film for each photo?

lbritzphoto (author)Scumm72015-11-11

6 to 8 clicks I find is sufficient if your inside box is square. 8 clicks if rectangle. ?

NathanSellers (author)2015-05-12

This is really awesome. Great instructable. Is your first image taken using this camera?

MakerBox (author)NathanSellers2015-05-12

I would guess not that's the kind of photo if you used a DSLR with fisheye lens and a long exposure

lbritzphoto (author)MakerBox2015-05-14

A camera is a camera. In theory what you can do with a dslr you can do with any camera, even a matchbox pinhole. The ability to create these types of images you are referring to is in the knowledge, not the camera.

Movement is determined by shutter speed and because of the tiny pinhole, they tend towards longer exposures, giving you the ability to show movement and time to allow a person (in the case of the picture your enquiring about) to walk through the scene slowly and be captured. Hope you enjoy!

I am curious about that as well!

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More by lbritzphoto:Photographic Composition ElementsMatchbox Pinhole Camera
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