Learning Goal

- Students will be able to build and use a pinhole camera

- Students will understand basic photographic principles

pinhole camera
pinhole camera
pinhole camera box


Hopefully after building and using a pinhole camera, you have a better understanding how how cameras (and basic photography) work. Also, you can capture some pretty amazing shots with this basic camera.

Film Pinhole Camera Build

As you can see there are many different types and ways to create a pinhole camera. We are going to build a simple version using a matchbox as our main camera body.

How to Build - Use this link to guide you through creating your pinhole camera

Build Video 1 - Video that shows the steps in making a matchbox pinhole camera

Build Video 2 - Another video that shows the steps in making a pinhole camera

Photo Paper Pinhole Camera Build

Ok, the girls in this video are like 12, but they are making a pinhole camera very similar to ours. Here are a few other videos about making photo paper pinhole cameras.

Shoebox video

DIY cardstock template video

After we've built our cameras, we'll talk about how we will load and develop our prints in the dark room.

Developing Photo Paper & Caffenol

Traditional film developing would use chemicals such as a developer, stop bath, and a fixer. However, you can also use household materials. In the video on the left, they are using mint. We will be using a recipe known as Caffenol (which uses coffee).

CAFFENOL FILM DEVELOPING - The video on this link talks about one person's journey with caffenol. It is a good overview on what caffenol is and why someone might use it.

This video shows someone using caffenol to develop photo paper. It is also an example of how to load and develop photo paper in a darkroom using a red light.

We'll take a trip down to the dark room and explain how things will work in small groups.

Our Caffenol Recipe:

- 900 ml water

- 12 tsp instant coffee (caffeinated)

- 6 tsp washing soda

- 3 tsp vitamin C

Our Stop Bath:

- One part vinegar and four parts water

Developing Instructions:

- Develop 30 seconds and check for up to 4 minutes

- Rest in stop bath for 30 seconds


- Seal light leaks after loading photo paper

- **Knock and wait before entering dark room

- Use phone/camera to take picture of your negative (just in case)


pinhole stairs

You can capture some great images using your simple pinhole camera. Use the shooting tips below to master your pinhole photography.

- You will need to use longer exposures, try:

Old vs New Recommendations:

1-2 sec - Bright Sun - 30 sec to 5 min

5-10 sec - Cloudy Conditions - 1 min to 8 min

30 sec - Pre-dawn - 1 min to 8 min

5-10 min - Indoors - 5 min to 15 min

- Motion will cause blur, get creative

- You need to stabilize your camera for sharp images

- Everything will be in focus to infinity

- About 1.5 turn for each shot (film camera)

- Focus on scenes with structure and contrast (eg. buildings)

Variables: Age of paper, loading paper correctly, light proof camera, exposure times, developing mixture, developing times