Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

Are you ready for it? Yesterday while I was waiting to do a phone interview with the local newspaper about my Kickstarter project, I decided to make a pinhole camera so that I could celebrate Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day this Sunday (April 28th!).

I found the tutorial on how to make a pinhole camera out of a matchbox on Lomography’s website. The instructions and photos were helpful, and it took me about 45 minutes to an hour to assemble the camera. 

ImageFirst, assemble all of the necessary components:

    • matchbox
    • electrical tape
    • a roll of new, unexposed film (I suggest 36 exposure to allow for error)
    • an empty film canister (you can ask at your local lab–mine gave me a whole bag full!)
    • piece of metal for the pinhole (I used part of a soda can, be careful when cutting!)
    • needle/nail/thumbtack (to make the pinhole)
    • scissors and/or exacto knife
    • key/stick (or anything else you can use to wind the film)
    • cardboard
    • cellophane tape or packaging tape
    • ruler in inches and mm
    • pen/marker

1. If you haven’t done so already, remove the matches from the box. Take out the inner box that was holding the matches and turn it over. Using your ruler and a pen/marker draw lines from corner to corner, diagonally across the box to find the middle.

2. Measure the size of a photo frame on a used 35mm negative (I came up with roughly 1 3/8 inch by 1 3/8 inch if you want to expose the sprockets). Draw and cut this square out of the middle of the box where your lines meet.

ImageWhen you are finished you should have a hole like this:

Image2. Now, take the outer sleeve of the box and draw another cross of lines from each corner to find the middle. As you did in the previous step, measure and cut a 6×6mm square.

ImageYou should end up with a hole, like this:

Image3. Using a can opener you can easily remove the end (the drinking end) of a soda can and carefully cut a square out from the can. You can trim the square down to roughly 15mm x15mm in size.


4. Using your needle poke a small hole in the center of your 15mmx15mm square of metal. The smaller your hole, the sharper your images will be. Centering the pinhole to the center of your 6mmx6mm square, tape your piece of metal to the outer sleeve of your matchbox.

5. The original tutorial I read used a piece of carboard to make a frame around the pinhole to hold a sliding piece of cardboard that can act as your shutter. You can also just cut a 1″ piece of electrical tape, fold over one end and stick the sticky part on your pinhole. I wanted to try the sliding shutter idea though so I cut a rectangle of cardboard, made a hole big enough for the pinhole and taped it over the front of my outer sleeve box. I then cut a piece of carboard long enough to fit into the frame to cover the pinhole so as not to expose the film.

Image6. Take your empty film canister (it should have a bit of film stuck in it, an completely empty canister is not ideal) and your new roll of film. Cut off the leader tongue on the new roll of film and tape the end of your new roll of film to the bit of film left in your empty canister. Be sure not to make the tape too bulky as it needs to be able to feed into the canister. I recommend putting a piece on the front side and back side.


7. Tape the corners of your inner box to cover any holes that may allow for light to leak in.

Image8. This is where you’ll be sacrificing a few frames, unless you are that good that you can do the next step in a dark bag or if you have a dark room set up. Stretch the film (from the new canister) across your inner box with the 1 3/8″ square cut out of it. This will be your frame inside your camera.


9. The next step is to put this whole mess inside the sleeve box. Be sure that when you insert the film and box into the sleeve that the film is farthest away from your pinhole. (The original tutorial was not clear on this and at first–without realizing–I had the film touching the pinhole so there was no focal distance between the pinhole and the film!)


You can see in this picture that the film canisters are in the wrong position, they should be close to your table, on the back of your camera, farthest away from your pinhole.

10. Now tape your film canisters in place so they don’t move around too much and tape up the box and the areas where the canisters meet the box (be careful not to tape the film itself or else you won’t be able to wind it!) to block out all light from coming in!

ImageInsert whatever you’re using to wind your film into your empty film canister. I used a candy apple stick that I’d broken in half (I covered the broken end with electrical tape to avoid splinters).


11. I used a silver sharpie and a black sharpie to draw arrows to indicate which way to turn the film. The silver sharpie came in handy to draw on my empty canister the direction to turn the stick to reel the film into it. I also drew an arrow on the top of the camera to indicate the direction of the film. I even used the silver sharpie to draw a little tick mark on the film canister and a matching one on my stick so I would know when I’d turned the film a full 360 to indicate I’m ready for the next exposure.

ImageYour finished camera should look a little like this:

ImageI wound my film 4-5 full revolutions in order to make sure I had fresh, unexposed film ready to be shot on (which is another reason why I recommended the 36 exposure roll).

I’m using Ilford black and white film in my pinhole camera. I taped the exposure instructions from the box the film came in onto the back of my camera so Scott would know what times to use when developing our pinhole images.

However, if you don’t develop your own film at home, once you’ve used up the film and wound it all into your empty canister, you can drop it off or mail it in to your favorite photo lab to have it developed! Just be sure if you’re using a film different from the label on your empty canister to let your lab attendant know! (For example if your new roll of film is black and white, but your empty canister is for color film!)

ImageThe original tutorial recommended using this site to calculate exposure times, f-stops, etc. for your pinhole camera, you can check it out by clicking HERE.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and that it maybe inspired you to try making your own pinhole camera for Pinhole Photography Day!

Stay Spooky,



3 thoughts on “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

  1. PSsquared says:

    When I was in the 4th grade (1978ish?), we made pin hole cameras, by poking a hole in Quaker Oats containers. We slid a sheet of film paper inside the tube and the exposed it long enough to record the images. Our teacher turned the class storage closet into a dark room and we developed our photos. It was the coolest thing ever, and I’ve been interested in photography ever since. Thanks for reminding me of that memory. 🙂

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