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There’s something both nostalgic and satisfyingly tangible about gripping a physical photograph between your fingers. And if you’re a photography enthusiast, you’ll enjoy it, even more, knowing that the photo was taken using a camera that you built yourself, from scratch.
Aside from cherishing the photo in a scrapbook or sticking it to your refrigerator, building a pinhole camera will help demonstrate the principles of photography and the physics of light. It’s also the perfect opportunity to help children learn, and see in practice, how cameras work.
There are almost endless ways in which you can build your pinhole camera, though the principles never change. Whether you’re looking to build an instant pinhole camera, a shoebox camera, or even a foldable pinhole camera, we have the plans for you.
|Materials:||A box of Polaroid film (or Impossible PX 70), a piece of aluminum cut from an empty soda can, black electrical tape|
|Tools:||Scissors, a pin, a marker|
If you’re looking for a quick and easy pinhole camera, then this is the plan for you.
With just a few simple household materials and tools, and a pack of instant film, you can put this pinhole camera together in just a few minutes.
After you’ve taken your photo, remember to cover the hole to stop your film from getting over-exposed. When you’re in a dark room, you can take the instant film out of the box and begin the development process, which is easy to do with instant film.
|Materials:||A 120mm film box, 2 new rolls of 35mm film, 2 empty 35mm film canisters, aluminum foil, black tape, black card, wooden popsicle stick|
|Tools:||Needle, pen or pencil, black marker, ruler, scissors, craft knife|
Perhaps you’d like to experiment with your pinhole camera. This plan for a dual filmed pinhole camera might be what you’re looking for. One photo burned onto a film cell is great, but this camera will burn the same image split across two films.
|Materials:||Empty paint can, black spray paint, nail, aluminum foil, needle, fine sandpaper, black electrical tape, sandpaper|
Pinhole cameras don’t have to come in rectangular boxes. This plan is for a cylindrical aluminum paint can pinhole camera that not only looks great but also produces very large 7×10 inch negatives.
The cylindrical shape of this camera will give your photos a barrel distortion. Building this camera will provide you with endless hours of experimentation with long exposure and an infinite depth of field.
|Materials:||35mm film, a small box made of wood, metal, plastic, or cardboard, 1/4” wooden dowels, black spray paint, heavy cardboard, aluminum foil, and used thread spool|
|Tools:||Black marker, sewing needle or pin, craft glue, electric drill, hacksaw, or dremel cutting tool|
If you are thinking about building a straightforward pinhole camera as a project to do with children, then this plan is perfect. The materials are easy to get hold of, and the project itself won’t take more than an afternoon, but it’s guaranteed to bring hours of fun and a spool full of new pictures.
|Materials:||A cereal box, a small piece of aluminum foil, black tape, and black and white photographic paper|
|Tools:||Needle, sandpaper, craft knife|
This plan demonstrates the pinhole camera in its simplest form. Use a shoebox, a cereal box, or any other large cardboard box, and with a few simple steps, you can produce your very own pinhole camera.
Load it with black and white photographic paper, and your shots will have a vintage and timeless quality that suits the technology perfectly.
|Materials:||1/2” Plywood, wood screws, black masking tape, a small piece of Neoprene, a thin sheet of plastic, a broken SLR camera and Lens for parts, or a lens|
|Tools:||Table saw, powered miter box, fine-tooth hand saw, router, drill and countersink bit, coping saw, hack saw, razor knife, scissors, screwdriver, and dremel tool|
Looking to take your pinhole camera to the next level? This plan will guide you through creating your own working 25mm box camera. This is a good project for those who enjoy woodworking and tinkering.
Complete with a lens, a wooden box, and a shutter, not only does this camera look impressive, but it can also take some amazing shots.
This plan will tell you everything you need to know in order to design and build your pinhole camera from scratch. Aimed at avid woodworkers, the final product will look professional, and take very high-quality photographs.
|Materials:||Poplar board, wood dowel, aluminum sheet, acrylic tube, aluminum rod, retaining ring, washers, screws, nuts, felt, craft foam, shaft knob, glues, black spray paint, stain, spar urethane, sandpaper, film spools, film paper|
|Tools:||Laser cutter, drill press, sheet metal cutting tools, 4-40 tap, other common tools|
This extensive plan is not for a one-day project, but rather a labor of love that may take a few days or even weeks to complete. It’s recommended for those who are proficient in woodworking, as precision cutting is required for creating finger joints and intricate parts.
The final product looks like a professional, antique piece of equipment, and being able to take anamorphic (stretched) photographs can be very fun.
|Materials:||Shoebox, black tape, black paint, aluminum foil, photographic paper|
This shoebox pinhole camera can be made with everyday household items, in just six simple steps. Complete the project in an afternoon, and you can take photographs from your very own camera by the next day.
This camera works best when it is secured to a tripod.
|Materials:||A cardboard box, black Bristol board, cloth hockey tape or black duct tape, white glue, empty pop tin, photographic paper|
|Tools:||Ruler, sewing needle, small clamps|
If you thought that building your own pinhole camera would be impressive, try making a foldable pinhole camera. With just a few materials, household tools, a little time, and this plan, you can produce some very vintage-looking photographs, with a vintage-looking camera.
|Materials:||An empty juice box, empty soda can, black tape, film reel, empty film reel|
|Tools:||Ruler, X-ACTO knife, pen or sharpie|
Maybe a shoebox, or even a cereal box, is too big for what you’re looking for. Well, homemade pinhole cameras don’t have to be big, and this plan shows you how to turn a juice box into a pinhole camera.
The smaller scale does make this project a little more intricate, which is why we label it as moderate difficulty. But with some patience, and good hand-eye coordination, you can build this little camera in just a few hours.
|Materials:||A large Jello pudding box, aluminum foil, empty film canister, wooden clothespin, black spray paint, tape, black paper, 35mm film|
|Tools:||Ruler, sewing needle, sandpaper, pliers, scissors, marker|
This plan is for a medium-sized cardboard pinhole camera that uses 35mm film.
The box camera looks similar in shape and size to the old disposable cameras, and the resulting photographs are pretty impressive. This camera works especially well with Lomography films.
|Materials:||Metal coffee can, black spray paint, wood clothespin, sandpaper, cardstock, black tape, black paper|
|Tools:||Sewing needles, sharpie|
The great thing about using a small metal can, is that the curved shape gives it the effect of using a wide-angle lens.
This plan is easy to make, though the smaller details require time and patience. The end product, however, is well worth it.
|Tools:||Sewing needles, sharpie, scissors, craft knife|
Pinhole cameras are great when they can produce actual photographs, but even without that function, they can be used to demonstrate how light, and the eyes, work. This plan guides you through making a pinhole camera for demonstration, then goes further to explain how to turn it into a functioning camera.
|Materials:||Stock board, popsicle sticks, colorful plastic sheets, an empty soda can|
|Tools:||Sewing needles, sharpie, scissors, craft knife|
This little camera has a unique sliding mechanism for closing and opening the shutter, made from popsicle sticks. The final product produces some great quality photographs, ready to hang on your fridge.
|Materials:||Wood, Pinhole camera set, hinges, latch, lumber|
Many people enjoy making pinhole cameras as a hobby, which means that there are pinhole aperture kits, pinhole film holder kits, and other pinhole DIY sets available to buy. This plan is for a camera that makes use of high woodworking skills, and pinhole DIY sets.
Using such kits in your DIY pinhole camera can aid you to produce very focused and good-quality photographs.
|Materials:||A small mailing box, black tape, foam, parcel tape, aluminum foil|
|Tools:||Ruler, scissors, sharp knife, pen, pin, sandpaper|
Next time you get a nice, sturdy box delivered to your home, maybe you can use it to create this easy-to-build pinhole camera.
This plan gives a clear list of instructions, so all you need to do is gather a few items and follow along.
|Materials:||An Instant Back+, a box, cardboard, aluminum foil, black tape, black paint, instant film|
|Tools:||A needle, black tape, scissors, brush|
This plan takes an instant camera and converts it into a pinhole camera with a few simple steps. The advantage of creating a pinhole camera in this way is that the photographs are easy to develop. Using this film will result in photos that have a slightly inverted, negative-like quality to them.
|Materials:||Lens, cardboard boxes, cyanotype paper, duct tape|
|Tools:||Box cutter, ruler|
Cyanotype cameras use a non-silver photographic process. Known also as blueprints, the cyanotype method is easy, and produces striking, blue-tinted photographs, with deep expressive beauty.
Using a lens from a magnifying glass can take your pinhole cyanotype camera to a whole new level. Experimenting with cyanotype is a must for photography enthusiasts, and this plan will show you how you can, with just a few materials.
|Materials:||Plywood, glue, cardboard, nuts and bolts, black paint, slide projector, tuna can, 120mm film|
|Tools:||Carpenter’s square, drawing compass, drill, ruler, hacksaw, hammer, jigsaw, file, sewing needle, utility knife, screwdriver|
With some clever calculations and positioning, you can create your very own panoramic pinhole camera. This plan needs precise measuring and advanced woodworking skills in order to achieve the desired outcome.
The wood camera looks great when built, and it’s perfect for landscape and cityscape photography.
|Materials:||Gaffer tape, aluminum foil, shoebox, black pain|
|Tools:||Sewing needle, paintbrush|
This plan is another take on the classic shoebox pinhole camera, however, instead of spending time developing the negatives in a darkroom, they suggest using a hybrid method of digital and analog. By scanning the negative, you can then invert or reverse the colors in your favorite photo editing software.
|Materials:||Wooden pencil box, black foam board, 35mm film, empty soda can, craft foam, wooden dowel, wooden spool, metal nut, washer, black paint|
|Tools:||Needle, brush, craft glue, scissors, craft knife|
If you’re looking for style as well as functionality, then this plan may be what you’re looking for. Using a store-bought wooden pencil box creates a very elegant and slender finish for this working pinhole camera.
|Materials:||Cardboard, 35mm film, used film canister|
|Tools:||Glue, black tape, craft knife|
Except for the film, film canisters, and pinhole, this plan will guide you through creating an entirely cardboard-based camera. Simply print off this plan and follow the instructions.
|Materials:||Empty soda can, small matchbox, 35mm film, old film canister, plastic page binder, black tape|
|Tools:||Black marker, scissors, craft knife, pen, sewing pin, ruler|
The principles of pinhole photography don’t change, no matter how much they are scaled up, or down. This plan is for creating a pinhole camera using a matchbox. The steps are easy to follow, however, the small size of the project requires precision.
This ultra-large format camera is the perfect project for DIY enthusiasts. The folding bellows on this camera allow it to be compressed and extended, changing the focal length, and therefore altering the depth of field.
Crafting a pinhole camera is a rewarding project, and with so many plans available, there’s a plan out there for every level of ability. It doesn’t need to be an expensive project either, with so many of the classic shoebox methods using only a handful of household items!
Featured Image Credit: Camillo Kearns, Shutterstock
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Cheryl is a freelance content and copywriter from the United Kingdom. Her interests include hiking and amateur astronomy but focuses her writing on gardening and photography. If she isn't writing she can be found curled up with a coffee and her pet cat.
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