Before we ever touched an SLR in my high school Photo 1 class, my teacher wanted us to understand the basic mechanics and physics of a camera. There was no better way to do that then by building a pinhole camera.
A pinhole camera works on the same principle of a camera obscura. Light comes in through a small hole (no lens) and is inverted and projected on whatever medium is available.
The camera we built was made out of cardboard, glue and tape. The pinhole was punched into a small aluminum plate. I later added wooden rods for support and to hold a tripod mount.
What really made this camera unique was its sliding film plane that acted like a zoom. If the film plane was right against the front, it was a somewhat wide angle pinhole. When drawn back, it was “zoomed.”
I shoot on cut pieces of photo paper. The same stuff you would use in a darkroom to make prints. It records a negative. You can take the negative back to the darkroom and sandwich it with a piece of unexposed paper to make a positive. For the purpose of this post, I just scanned the negative print and inverted the tones in Photoshop.
This shot was a 1.5 hour exposure in my college newsroom from on top of a shelf.
And here is the positive.
Here is a seven second exposure outdoors on a sunny day on the quad at my university.
And the positive.
I also played around with color darkroom paper a bit, using Fuji Crystal Archive paper.
I’m posting this now after recetly seeing a friends pinhole camera that is small and shoots on 35mm film. It uses two film canisters and a matchbox. Really cool stuff. I love that they can be modified in so many ways. They are so basic. I’m thinking about building one for 120 film in the future. But this 4×5 one is so fun!