Pinhole Camera Photography

SLOW photography

We are fortunate here at La Vigna Art Studios that students work with an excellent photographer, Alessandra Capodacqua, who specializes in lens-less camera techniques. We recently had a workshop on building and using a pinhole camera, which I will share with you here. This technique allows students to create unusual images through an intense experience of process in making and using the camera and darkroom, with cross curricular links to physics... a perfect antidote to the plethora of fast photography we are accustomed to. ( Although nonetheless soon to come is a page on iphoneography)

The pinhole camera is the most basic of all cameras, essentially a lightproof box with a tiny aperture that allows light to enter and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, where you can position sensitive paper or film.

Due to the lack of a proper lens, the light enters not as a point but as a sort of circle of light, resulting in a slightly out of focus image ( and magical it can be!)

There is an optimal size of the pinhole for each focus distance. You can obtain this by using the , Optimal pinhole and needle sizes chart  that relies on the depth of the container to determine the focus distance.

Exposure times vary according to the amount of natural light, form several minutes to hours even.

Characteristics of pinhole photography images

An image made with a pinhole camera has characteristics that you won't find in classical lens or digital photography.

SPACE  due to the infinite depth of field, objects are captured with equal sharpness whether they are close up of far away, resulting in a different sense of space., or what we might call " ideal space".

LIGHT the pinhole camera can take in extremely wide angles, the edges of the negative however are much darker as the light takes longer to reach.

TIME Fast moving objects are not recorded but slow moving objects, or objects or people that enter into the frame for partial exposure time can result in beautiful effects.

ACCIDENTAL effects can be both surprising and beautiful- pinhole cameras are harder to control and we learn to allow and even welcome the accidental and unintentional. Not a bad lesson for any artist.

Building a pinhole camera is simple if you follow these steps. Download or share the PDF Building a Pinhole Cameraight or follow the instructions below. I recommend using a metal tin or a firm cardboard very fitted box with lid, not a shoebox, too much light enters. Round containers work well too.

You arent finished yet! You will need to process your film or develop your paper for a printed negative image. You can also take your film to be developed but it is fun and instructive to learn to do it yourself, and not that difficult. We set up a temporary simple dark room for this, more on that next time!

Further Resources

For students wishing to develop this art making form and Critical Investigation in their PPs, some background research

History and images of Pinhole Photography 

and an overview video from Khan Academy


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