Posted in DIY, HANDMADE, PINHOLE by Nicole Gelinas on March 4, 2012

Here are my first photos using a matchbox pinhole camera. These cameras are very inexpensive and really easy to build. You probably already have the materials you need in your junk drawer!

These images might not be the best reproductions as I did not have a film scanner when I developed these. I used a light tracing box and a macro lens on my digital camera to take pictures of the negatives and then inverted the digital image in Photoshop. I still love the results though! The white streaks you are seeing are from a light leak in the camera that I built. I actually don’t mind them as they sort of give the images character and a ghostly spirit affect. As far as the really dark edges, I am not exactly sure why it did not expose the whole negative, other than I might need to make my pinhole a tiny bit larger to expose more of the film area.

Just like with any camera the aperture size does matter in terms of what will be in focus or not. The cool thing about pinhole photography is you can get your foreground and background to infinity into focus if you keep the pinhole very small. Remember the smaller the pinhole, the sharper the images will be!

There is no viewfinder, you literally just point the camera in the direction of your subject and expose the film. You won’t really know what to expect until you see the images!

There are ways to actually calculate how long to expose your film based on the measurements of your pinhole, but it is quite a process, and if you are not very good at math can be kind of confusing. For the images above I just used my “educated guessing skills” and stuck with these guidelines: outside with sun 1-2 seconds, outside and overcast about 5 seconds. Be sure and keep your camera steady as you are exposing the film to get a clear photo.

As far as film, I prefer black and white for pinhole photography, but color film can also be used. For film speeds, I would keep it at iso 100, 200, or 400 to keep some clarity and detail in the photos and it helps to keep the grain low. These photos were shot at iso 400 on Kodak Professional BW400CN film.

If you would like to make your own, here is a stop motion video on how to build a matchbox pinhole camera! If you have any further questions there is a TON of information all over the web that is really helpful! There are also a bunch of different versions of pinhole cameras, but this seems to be the most basic and straightforward design.


Don’t forget that there is an annual worldwide pinhole photography day, on the last Sunday in April. This years is on April 29, 2012. Thats only 55 days away! On this day there are a bunch of websites that will allow you to upload your pinhole photography to their sites and celebrate the magic of this simple art form!!


9 Responses

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  1. Rachel Bussieres Photography said, on December 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    hello nicole. first, thanks for following my blog! i just decided to look at yours and i have to admit that i’m really glad to have discover it. a friend of mine made me a little matchbox camera years ago, but i wasn’t into film camera at that time and i kept it, thinking about it more like a gift then an actual camera. i don’t think it still works but i’m very excited about making one myself now! thanks for sharing all your experiments and photos! rachel

    • Nicole Gelinas said, on December 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Rachel! Pinhole cameras can be really fun and addictive! There are so many ways to make them and you can use almost anything that keeps the light out. I have seen pinhole cameras made from pumpkins, soda cans, altoid mint tins…they are all so fun and interesting! I just bought a few cookie tins at Goodwill the other day and I plan on turning them into cameras as well! Thanks so much for looking at my blog! I really enjoy all of your posts! Oh and I also have another blog you might like: http://happytobecreative.com

      • Rachel Bussieres Photography said, on December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

        The cookie tins camera sounds very fun! I think I will try to make a simple matchbox camera before I try with fruits and cookies 🙂 I just looked at your other blog and your work is very interesting. You have a new follower 🙂 Rachel

  2. Aware of the Void said, on April 14, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Great series of photos, I may just give this a try. Thanks for sharing

    • Nicole Gelinas said, on April 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Cool! I hope you do try it and post the pics so we can see your results! Have fun!

  3. TheForeverRemember said, on March 5, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Reblogged this on TheForeverRemember.

    • Nicole Gelinas said, on March 5, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for the reblog!

  4. Jim said, on March 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    When I was 19 (a quarter century ago) and getting fitted for contacts for the first time, my optometrist (who thought he was a comedian) handed me this funky pair of glasses. Where the lenses should have been, instead there was black cardboard with a pinhole in the center. He said, “Take a gander out of these.” Once my eyes focused on the hole, holy cow, I could see clear as day.

    I got fitted for contacts anyway. Walking around with blackout glasses wasn’t a long-term strategy.

    Same goes for pinhole cameras, in my book. But certainly it’s fun to try them and see what turns out. You’re right, the light leak in your camera adds to the experience.

    • Nicole Gelinas said, on March 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      That is a super great story! I had no idea that would work with bad eyesight. Walking around with black glasses would have been so Andy Warhol-esque looking, even better if you were walking around town with a polaroid camera or something!! But yes, I do agree, that these are just fun cameras to experiment with. This is definitely not a camera I will use too often.

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