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I Made a Pinhole Camera! Here's How to Make Yours!


A pinhole camera is a small camera with no lens, just a small aperture. Effectively it's a lightproof box with a tiny tiny hole. The light that passes through the hole projects an image onto the film inside. Here's my attempt - it's not pretty but it works! I learnt this technique from Here's a list of everything you'll need to make your own.

  • Ruler
  • Plastic binder
  • Aluminium can
  • New roll of 35mm film (and the box)
  • An old roll of 35mm film (with 1cm film left on the roll)
  • Match box
  • Small sewing needle or pin
  • Scissors
  • Black tape
  • Sellotape
  • Craft nice
  • Black marker pen


First thing’s first, we’re gonna build the camera body. This is what the matchbox is for. Take out the match tray and mark out a 24mm square, smack bang in the centre. This will give you square format pictures. If, however, you want rectangular photos, you need to use a 36mm x 24mm rectangle instead.



Now you need to cut the shape out. The cut edges will be the edges of the photos, so if you cut is rough, the frames of your photos will be rough! You might prefer this!



You don’t want any extra light getting into the camera so internal reflections in the camera need to be reduced. This is where the marker pen comes in handy! Colour the inside of the tray and ideally the matchbox sleeve too.


Mark and cut out a 6mm square in the centre of the matchbox sleeve. This cut needs to be very neat because rough fibres could obscure the image.


Now you need to make the pin hole. First thing you need to do is drink your drink! I went for a nice ale to help warm up this wintery month. Cut out a 15mm square, then using the needle, gently press and twist into the metal to create a tiny hole. Don’t be too rough, the aim is to produce a very small hole - about 0.2mm - with a nice clean edge. I pushed the pin too far through and the hole was a bit to big so had to try again. Go slowly and get it right. 

Once you’ve made the hole, colour the back to reduce internal reflections.

Place the aluminium onto the match box so that the hole is in the middle, and then secure all sides with the black tape.

Like all cameras, we need a shutter to control the light that is exposed to the film. We’re gonna use the box from the film for this. You need to cut out two pieces. The first is a 32mm square and the second is a 25mm x 40mm rectangle. Once that’s done, cut a 6mm square into the centre of the square.

Then, colour the rectangle with the pen to help prevent light leaks. I coloured both sides just to be safe.  

Place the square over the pinhole, tape down three sides making sure to leave the top free for the shutter. Now slide the rectangle into the gap, making sure it covers the pinhole completely. This is the shutter - exciting!

Instead of guessing how far along you need to wind the film after each photo, we're gonna incorporate a little clicker to tell us when to stop winding. For this you need to take the spiral ring binder and trim off one of the loops. 

Place this loop on the new film canister making sure the point enters the sprocket holes of the film. Now tape into place. To test it out, pull the film out slightly, the plastic should slip in and out of each hole smoothly producing a slight click as it goes.




Cut the edge of the film off square ready to load the camera. Pull out some film and feed through the camera, remembering to make sure the emulsion is facing the pinhole. The emulsion is the non-shiny side of the film.



You need to make sure there is some left over film protruding from the old film canister. Tape this very neatly and square to the new film roll. This needs to be aligned well so it can feed seamlessly into the canister. Make sure the empty canister is the opposite way up to the full one.



Now slide the tray back into the box. Make sure the film is at the back of the camera and the square/rectangle you cut into the tray is directly on the film.



Wind the film back into the fresh roll nice and tight. Hopefully you should be able to pull it tight enough that you have no film exposed. Now tape both films in place. Pay careful attention to the points where the film enters the canisters - you don't want to tape any of the film so it can't move. Be especially careful when taping the clicker. Try placing a small strip of card over the clicker where the film canister meets the matchbox. This means the film can move freely under the card.

Also take care where taping the canisters not to impede the film roll - you want to keep this free to wind film on! Make sure every area that could let light in is tape up, this will reduce the amount of light leaks in your photos.




To make it nice and easy to wind on, we're going to add a winder. For this we're just going to use the ring pull from the can. Simple. Just bend the bottom so that it fits into the small cylinder of the empty film canister. Then tape it in place. Be careful when taping that you don't obstruct the winding mechanism on the canister. You need to ensure that the film can still wind freely.

To stop the film winding back after you've wound it forward, you'll need to add some tension. For this were just gonna use a bit of tissue. Stuff the tissue into the hole at the other end of the empty canister, then use a piece of tape over the tissue to secure it. Remember you want resistance, but you still need the film to wind on! 



That's pretty much your camera done! Because some of the exposure times can be quite long, I'm taping mine to a small piece if card and attaching it to a mini tripod. Simply resting the camera on a steady surface will work just fine though.


So there it is - It's not pretty but it's a lot of fun! Time to get out and take some photos. To take a photo, simply remove the piece of shutter card that's covering the pinhole. Make sure you remember to replace the piece of card when finished to stop the exposure. Your camera's f number is roughly f8. Use these timings as a loose guide for ISO 100 or 200 film:

Outside (sunny): 1 - 2 seconds.

Outside (cloudy): 5 seconds

Indoors (regular room lighting): 5 - 10 minutes 

'How do I know how long to wind the film after each photo?' I hear you ask. Well if you've opted for the square hole in the tray (24mm), then 6 clicks should be enough. If you went for the 36 x 24mm rectangle then go for 8 clicks. It's easy to forget to wind the camera on if your used to digital photography, but that can have some pretty interesting effects! Read our blog about double exposures here.

I bet you're wondering what masterpieces I created with this little pile of tape and card... check them out here!

When the film won't wind any further, you've reach the end. How sad - yet exciting! To rewind the film you need to undo some tape and remove the clicker. Light proof it again with the tape and rewind the film back into it's canister. For a more detailed guide on safely removing the film, click here. This way you'll be able to use the camera again by adding a fresh roll of film!

Enjoy! Do let us see what you come up with on our Facebook page. Peace out and happy snapping, Carl.



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