This is a project that I did in Photography Class and not only is it a fun way to teach about the very fundamental mechanics of photography, it creates some fun and interesting photos too. The shoebox camera is the simplest of all cameras. It has no moving parts and can be built and used by just about anyone(that has access to developing equipment). It has no lens, rather a pinhole which, because of physics, will act like a lens because of its small size.
-Matte Black Paint
-Small piece of thin metal(I used flashing)
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First step is to tape up your box. The objective is to make it 100% light proof, otherwise your paper/film will be exposed and your picture ruined. Tape up any and all holes. Tape all the edges of the box and lid so when you close it, it will make a nice seal. Then paint the interior of your box matte black.
Cut a finger-sized hole in the middle of one of the long sides of the box. Then tape your piece of metal to the outside of the box, centered with the hole. The piece of tape should be larger than the metal and completely cover it.
The pinhole is the most crucial part of the camera. Use a sewing needle to make it. The smaller the needle the better. Poke it through the outside and pull it all the way through. Do not pull it back out of the hole, as it will not be as clean and circular then. You may need the assistance of a hammer to get it to go through the metal.
This step is for making a tripod compatible attachment, it is optional but if you have a tripod I highly suggest doing this. Make a whole in the center of the bottom of your box, only big enough the poke the stud on your tripod through. Find a nut that screws onto your tripod and a large washer with a small hole. Arrange them as pictured and tape or glue them in place. You should now be able the screw your box onto the tripod.
Now your shoebox camera is complete and your ready to test it. Before you load your camera be sure to cover the pinhole up with a small piece of electrical tape. It makes an easy to remove and replace shutter. Then in a darkroom, cut a piece of photo paper in half so that it will fit on the back wall of your box. Tape it in place, being sure that it is flat against the side. Close your box and its ready to shoot.
When you go to shoot your first photo, you will really be completely guessing on the exposure time. Some only take 30 seconds whereas others may take tens of minutes. It all depends on how big your pinhole is, how sensitive your photo paper is, and how bright the scene your shooting is. Your first photo will probably not come out very good, so plan on doing it again after you have a better idea of the needed exposure time. After you've exposed your photo paper, place the tape back over the pinhole and head back to the dark room to develop your photo.
Follow the standard procedures for developing your photo paper as directed by the manufacturer. Now you have your negative. To make a positive, simply place the negative on top of another piece of photo paper and expose it with an enlarger or other developing light.