DIY Pinhole Camera With an Oatmeal Tube




Introduction: DIY Pinhole Camera With an Oatmeal Tube

About: I like to make things.

Did you know you can take awesome pictures with nothing more than an oatmeal tube, a piece of tin can, and some photo paper? It's the oldest form of photography and has a really interesting history - but I won't nerd out on you here, if you're interested in some background check out the links below.

To make a pinhole camera you're first step is to get everything. You will need:

For the camera:

  • Oatmeal Tube (empty)
  • Metal Soda Can (empty)
  • Electric Tape (just enough to cover pinhole)
  • Sewing Needle
  • Black spray paint

For taking/developing photos:

  • Black and White Photo Paper
  • Photo Developer
  • Photo Fixer
  • Dishes to hold developer and fixer
  • Pitch black room with red light

Step 1: Prepare Oatmeal Tube

  1. Cut 1"x1" hole in the side of the oatmeal tube
  2. Paint it black! Spray paint the inside and outside of the tube black. Also paint the lid.

Step 2: Add Pinhole and Shutter

  1. Cut a 1.5"x1.5" square of aluminum from an aluminum soda can.

    • It doesn't have to be exactly 1.5"x1.5", just bigger than the hole in the oatmeal tube.
  2. Using a sewing needle, punch a whole in the center of the aluminum. Pull it straight through, no back-and-forth. This will give a perfectly round hole.
  3. Center the pinhole over the hole in your oatmeal tube. Tape it in place on all four sides.
  4. Add shutter to camera by placing a piece of electric tape over the pinhole. Make sure no light can get in.

Step 3: Load and Shoot

Loading the paper should be done in total darkness. The exception to the this rule is red light. Red light won't react with the photo paper. I've included a picture of the LED strip I used for red light. You can find LED strips like this pretty cheap on eBay
  1. In total darkness, cut a piece of photo paper to fit in the tube and place it inside opposite of the pinhole, with the shiny, partially sticky side facing pinhole
  2. Replace the lid, make sure the shutter is closed and take your camera out in the world.
  3. When you've picked the location for your shot, set the camera on a sturdy surface and open the shutter.

    • The camera must remain perfectly still for the entire time
    • On a sunny day with an Ilford piece of photo paper I used an exposure time of 2 min
    • In the next step you can see some of my results

Step 4: Develop

There are three steps to developing photos. I'm just getting started so I've included links at the bottom to more in depth descriptions of the process. I'm not sure if the way I'm about to outline is the "right" way to do it, but it works. All of this should be done in a pitch-black dark room.

  1. Developer Bath - Ilford Multigrade Developer (got mine at Mike's Camera)
    • My photos developed within about 30-45 sec. It's going to vary depending on the concentration of developer you use. I suggest taking a test photo to watch and see how long your solution takes.
    • Watching the developer is like fishing - it's boring for a while and then all of sudden everything happens, you'll see what I mean.
  2. Stop Bath - I used tap water
    • This step is just to rinse off the developer, I hear it's optional.
  3. Fixer Bath - Ilford Fixer (again from Mike's Camera)
    • bottle says to use 1:4 mixture and allow to fix 1-2min.
    • rinse with water after 1-2min in fixer bath, hang up to dry

Following these three steps with the photo from your oatmeal tube will give you a negative. To invert the colors you can either scan the negative onto your computer and invert the colors with software, or you can make a "photo sandwich" with another sheet of photo paper, expose to light for about 20-30 sec and repeat the same steps above to get a finished photo.

Step 5: Additional Information

If you want to learn more about the history of pinhole cameras (camera obscuras) and different techniques for developing the photos, check out the links below.

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    6 years ago

    I can see your dog in the backround :)


    6 years ago

    Great Job!


    Reply 6 years ago