Clearing my mind of digital bad habits with a pinhole film camera

Feb 22, 2017

Luigi Barbano

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Clearing my mind of digital bad habits with a pinhole film camera

Feb 22, 2017

Luigi Barbano

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Digital photography created a wonderful new world of opportunities but it also changed the way we photograph, instilling in us a lot of bad habits.

One of the worst effects of digital photography is to make us shoot too much and post process even more. It’s kind of strange, even with a strong film background, when we use digital we forget to have a slow approach to our subjects.

Sometimes to remind me of what makes me take great pictures I have to immerse myself for a day in some sort of cathartic experience that will force me to the basics of photography and forget the digital world and the infinite possibilities to post process my images.

Those cathartic experiences are not intended to take great pictures, but simply to clear my mind and have some fun far from a computer.

The most basic way to photograph is with a pinhole camera. I suggest to every beginner to try the pinhole to understand deeply the basic concepts of photography, I even created a full chapter about it in my book Photography: The f Manual. The simple idea is to use a very small hole, instead of a lens, to project the image on the film.

Basic pinholes cameras are easy to build and there are plenty of DIY kits available on the Net.

During a visit to a museum, if I remember correctly it was the FMoPA (BTW a great museum to visit), at the gift store I bought a pinhole paper camera kit made by KIKKERLAND and had some fum to build and use it.

I’m not new to pinhole photography but mostly I did it in the past with some precise pinholes mounted on my Linhof Master Technika 4″x5″ and black and white film.

Building the camera from the paper kit was really fun, at least it is a lot of fun if you as kid were used to open and modify all your toys! There is the need for little manual skills and some precision but it’s a very easy process and for sure the time spent building the camera is much more fun than using filters and plugins in Photoshop.

But the best part is to go around in a warm sunny day, with a paper camera with a manual shutter and take pictures that requires an exposure time in the range of minutes.

Knowing that the pictures will be all in (or out!) of focus uniformly, so without the option of a shallow depth of field, will force to look for subject with precise shapes easy to recognize. The camera does not have a precise viewfinder so the framing must be in our mind knowing the focal length of the camera system. The slow speed means to find points of view where the camera can be put on something solid to use as tripod. The use of film means no post production!

It’s very simple: you have to get the image right in the camera with all the possible limits imposed by a paper toy camera with a non precise pinhole! It is a lot of fun.

The results are not great pictures but to be forced to change the mental habits we acquired with digital photography.

I scanned the negative film with and Imacon 848 scanner and the result without much post processing is what you see.

If you never used a pinhole camera, build one and try. It’s fun, and the greatest fun is when you post the images on social media without telling that are made with a pinhole kit camera and people ask what filters and plugins you used to create that effects and so realistic scratches! It happened to me yesterday!

About the Author

Renowned Italian photographer, artist and author, Luigi Barbano divide his life between Italy and the USA. He started his professional career in 1994 with a specialization in commercial and travel photography.  Author of photographic and technical books, in Italian and English, he can be followed and contacted on his websiteFacebook  and LinkedIn.

Luigi likes to promote the good habits of photography and his last publication “Photography: The f Manual” revisits the classical approach to photography, starting from the photographic technique essential basics that are too often forgotten in the digital era. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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