A simple DIY way to turn your digital camera into a pinhole camera

Jan 20, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

A simple DIY way to turn your digital camera into a pinhole camera

Jan 20, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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World Pinhole Day is coming up on April 29th. So, if you’ve been thinking about taking part, and want to do it digitally, but aren’t sure how then this one’s for you. Brought to us by Matt Coakley at Blue Mantle Films, this video walks us through the process from start to finish. It’s a very simple process, and the whole video’s only a minute and a half long. Easy to do, and costs pretty much nothing.

YouTube video

The materials needed are straightforward and most of us will already have them, or be able to get them.

  • A spare camera body cap you can mutilate
  • An aluminium drinks can
  • Electrical or Gaffer tape

And the tools list is also something that most of us will already have.

  • A Pair of scissors
  • A sharp pin of some kind
  • A drill
  • Craft knife or box cutter

The first task is to make the pinhole. This involves emptying the contents of your drinks can, and then cutting out a small square of material. It doesn’t need to be big, maybe 1.5×1.5cm (5/8″ x 5/8″). Then just use your pin to make a tiny hole in the centre. If you want to really get the hole perfect, you can sand the surfaces, but be careful you’re not just pushing metal back into the hole.

Then, drill a hole in your bodycap. This also doesn’t need to be terribly large, but you want to make sure it doesn’t obstruct the field of view. Remember, this pinhole will have a pretty short focal length, so it’ll be quite wide. Then, smooth out the edges with your craft knife.

After that, it’s simply a case of covering the back side of the piece of aluminium can with black tape (except for the hole) and attaching it to the inside of the body cap.

Finally, just place the body cap onto your camera the way you normally would, and you’re done.

How sharp the details are will depend on how small and how perfectly circular your pinhole is. This is where sanding can make a difference. It helps to thin out the aluminium a little and gets rid of any burrs around the hole. This will produce a cleaner final result.

But, you’ve got 3 months to give it a go, practise and refine your technique, and get your camera ready for World Pinhole Day.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “A simple DIY way to turn your digital camera into a pinhole camera”

  1. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    But why

    1. Vincent Cyr Avatar
      Vincent Cyr

      For a lot of reasons. Pinhole photography has historical value, as well as being a good way to teach how light works. Plus, not all pinhole photos are like the examples. Some are quite good, and they can add an ethereal quality that is hard to duplicate by other means.

  2. kiwithing Avatar
    kiwithing

    Sometimes it’s fun to just put down the sharp lenses and just chill out with some pinhole photography. There’s some cool stuff in the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day site gallery, too. http://pinholeday.org/gallery/