Pinhole Photography

We had a workshop on pinhole photography and how to create your own pinhole camera; this is an alternative photography process.

A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture; a pinhole camera is basically a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.

Generally, the smaller the hole, the sharper the image, but the dimmer the projected image. Optimally, the size of the aperture should be 1/100 or less of the distance between it and the projected image.

Because a pinhole camera requires a lengthy exposure, its shutter may be manually operated, as with a flap made of light-proof material to cover and uncover the pinhole. Typical exposures range from 5 seconds to several hours.

Making a pinhole camera is much easier than I expected, all we did in the workshop was use an empty beer can to create our camera. We started by cutting the very top off the can, we then created a top out of thick black card to cover the hole; this had to make sure that no light could enter the can. We then created a small pinhole in the centre of the can and covered this hole with a bit of tape that could be removed when needed. The camera was then ready to load; taking it into the dark room we loaded the can with a sheet of photographic paper, making sure the emulsion side was facing and not covering the pin hole, then resealed the can with the black card lid. The camera could then be exposed. Selecting the shot we wanted take, we took off the tape covering the pinhole, exposing the paper for about 30-40 seconds (this will change depending on lighting conditions); once the paper is exposed, you must keep it sealed in the can until in the dark room, then developing the image is the same as normal developing of film photographs, in all the chemicals.



My Pinhole Camera

The results from the pinhole camera were surprisingly good; they are in negative form, so a negative converter would be needed if you wanted a true representation of the subject. However I like the unusual quality of it being negative, it makes the photographs a bit more interesting as makes the viewer think more as to what is being photographed.

IMG_5786Overall I am really pleased with my first attempts at pinhole photography; I feel I have selected interesting subjects and created unusual photographs. Due to the curve of the can, the photographs look wide angle and almost like fish eye. Furthermore because the images are true representations of the light and subject, the photographs are in focus and it does not matter whether the photograph is a close up or a wide view, the photographs will always be in focus; I like this quality in pinhole photography. I will definitely consider using this type of photography for one of my tasks, where I have to create a body of work using alternative processes.


Justin Quinnell is a great pinhole photographer, using a wide range of items to create his cameras, and taking a variety of different photographs using these simple cameras. I especially liked Quinnell’s project Slow Light, in which over a long period he created photographs of long exposures using pinhole cameras, of locations for the winter period to the summer period. He set up small pinhole cameras at locations and left them for around six months, letting them capture images over a long period of time showing the light changes and pattern of the sun, while still showing the different locations. These types of images are called solar graphs.


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This whole collection of work is stunning, showing the beauty of each location, as well as the lines and movement of the sun. These are very flowing photographs, with the curves created by the light of the sun as well as the curves created by the small canisters that contained the photographic paper.

I feel this is a creative way to use pinhole photography, even though due to my time constraint I will not be able to create exposures over six months, I would like to experiment with longer exposures, and also look at the idea of movement like Quinnell shows in these beautiful photographs. One idea I had was to look as the idea of how humans have routes in their life, creating paths where they have been, I want to represent these using lights from cars mainly, showing the movement and paths people create by using long exposures like Quinnel does.



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