Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Easter weekend is coming fast. If your family is like mine, it will be a major photo taking day. Smile in your Easter duds, pose with that Easter basket, snap the baby finding an Easter egg. Cameras are everywhere and the pictures, though they may never be hard are quickly admired and easily shared.

It's interesting to look back on the history of photography and not too difficult to repeat it. It could be a fun project to share with your kids or grandkids, once the Peter Cottontail has hopped back down the Bunny Trail, of course.

People have been finding ways to save the images they see for thousands of years.  The Chinese first described a type of pinhole photography in the 7th century b.c.e..  Light was focused through a tiny hole into a dark room.  The light formed pictures on the back wall of the room.  By the tenth century, the camera obscura (dark room) had improved on the Chinese invention.  It used a smaller pinhole and a smaller room. In the 16th century,  the camera now as small as a box was used by artists and astronomers. 

You can make your own pinhole camera with an oatmeal box, an aluminum soft drink can, a manilla folder and some simple tools.

Wipe the oatmeal box to remove all dust.  Carefully spray paint the inside and both sides of the lid with the flat black paint.  Allow to dry.  Make a small hole in the box 2 and 3/4 inches from the bottom.  Enlarge the hole until it is 3/8 inches in diameter.  Clean out any extra paper.  Then wipe the inside clean again to remove dust.  Dust can cause white specks on your pictures.

Make your pinhole lens out of the aluminum can.  Cut a 2” by 3” piece out of the side of the can.  Use a needle to make a tiny hole in the center of this piece.  The tinier the hole the sharper the pictures will be. Sand to remove any rough edges. Clean the hole by running water through it.  Dry with a clean paper towel.

Apply a ring of epoxy glue around the pinhole.  Glue the aluminum piece to the inside ot the oatmeal box. The pinhole should be on the middle of the box opening you cut.  Be careful not to touch the pinhole or get glue in it.  Make sure you have a tight seal to prevent any leaks of light. You can make a shutter for the “camera” with a strip for the manilla folder attached to the front of the box over your hole.  Tape the lid on the oatmeal box to seal out all light.  Leaks of light will cause fuzzy pictures.

Now you are ready to make pictures with your pinhole camera just like the Chinese and the Italians did.
Complete directions with pictures for making and using a pinhole camera can be found at

No comments: