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A Look at Pinhole Cameras and Why You Should Try One

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Read Time: 3 min

Photography was developed using the concepts that lie behind the pinhole camera. Light bursting through a simple hole and the resulting projection have led to years of research and technological advancements, but even all these years on, there is still a lot that the modern photographer can gain from using this humble creation.

Aren’t They Just an Old Waste of Time?

No! They may be an old idea, but they’re certainly not a bad use of your time and energy. A pinhole camera consists simply of a lightproof box with a single hole to allow the light in. That light is projected through the hole onto the film which captures the image.

There is no lens to speak of and the camera has a single small aperture. Now this may all sound very basic, but taking the time to learn how to use a pinhole camera properly will not only result in some great images, but also help you to understand the basics of light and the essence of photography, without LCD screens, buttons and menus getting in the way.

Photo by JonesPointFilm

Which Camera Should I Get?

In recent years there has been a surge in homemade pinhole cameras, as they are such simple devices it’s actually very easy to construct your own. If you have the time and patience, all you need is something like a coffee tin or pringles tube and a few basic tools. There are plenty of how-tos online, so just google it and find a plan that suits you.

One crucial thing to remember is that you want as small a hole as you can manage, as a smaller hole will increase your chances of getting a sharp image. The other option is to buy a pre-made one, there are a few very good simple plastic models out there or you could even look into converting your digital camera into a pinhole camera, but make sure you know what you’re doing before you start fiddling around!

Photo by JonesPointFilm

What Can I Control?

Once you’ve got your camera ready to go, you’ll be desperate to get out and take some pictures. No obviously there’s no lens to focus and no aperture to set, but there are still plenty of creative decisions to be made.

The primary task is to control the shutter speed, which will obviously be down to your judgement depending upon the available light, but as a general guide, on a sunny day you’ll probably need around 1-2 seconds of exposure, where as indoors or in darker situations you may need several minutes.

The other main point of control is the composition, so take your time to think carefully about the shape and form of your shot and keep the camera steady to avoid unwanted blur and shake.

Photo by JonesPointFilm

What Will the Shots Look Like?

It’s important that you don’t begin using your pinhole camera expecting perfect results, embrace the uncertainty and the natural feel of using the film and the light to expose the image.

You have to be quite methodical and precise in order to make calculated decisions about light and timing to ensure you have the best chance of getting good results, there’s no chance to shoot and check your LCD!

There’s also a high chance of vignetting within your shots, which will happen naturally depending on the formation of the camera and the thickness of it’s construction, so to avoid it, use thinner material!

Photo by MySnapps

Now It’s Your Turn

So there you have it, hopefully an inspiring introduction into the world of pinhole photography, now it’s up to you to have a go for yourself. If you’ve got the time, why not have a go at building your own pinhole camera.

It’s incredibly rewarding when you manage to get it working and to see the results of all your efforts. You can also take park in World Pinhole Camera Day and share in your hobby with thousands of people worldwide. Take your pinhole camera out on your next shoot, then you can compare them with your standard shots and see what results you get.

Photo by JohnRH4
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