Pinhole Camera


The Pinhole Camera can be created in many ways using cans, boxes, even entire rooms (though this version would be called the Camera Obscura). For this demonstration, I will be showing you how to create the box version of the pinhole camera.


To Build this Camera, you will need

A cardboard box. My specific box was 10 1/2 inches by 10 1/2 by 11 1/2. Be sure that was ever box you use, you know its length, width, and height because you'll need this later.

Black electrical tape or Gaffer's Tape. Duct Tape is NOT light-tight, so keep duct tape as a last resort.

Thin black poster board

Black matte finish construction paper


X-ACTO Knife

Box Cutters

Aluminium Foil Tape


Cutting mats


Cork or Foam Board

Possibly Necessary:

Paper Towels

Duct Tape


Clear Tape

Matte Black Spray Paint

To Calculate the Exposure Time:



The Paint Program on a computer

To Develop the Photograph:

Harmony STEM/PBL: Pinhole Camera Photo Development Materials

Complete materials:


4 Printing Tongs

Graduated Cylinder

4 Processing Trays

2 Storage bottles


Chemicals needed

1 bottle of Developer

1 bottle of Fixer

Photo Paper


There will be two procedures needed to complete this demonstration; one for the creation of the Pinhole Camera, and one for the capture and development of the image. This first one will teach you how to create the Camera.

1. Take the box you've chosen and create a lid for one end. where you will put the photo paper. There are two options; the first is to create a completely separate lid, and the second option is to connect one side of the lid to the camera, as shown in the model above. In either case, the important thing is to make sure that the lid fits snugly onto the box. If it doesn't, be sure to line the edges of the pinhole camera with paper towels until it does.

Once the lid has been created, cut out two rectangles or squares out of the black poster board. The size and shape will depend on the size and shape of the photo paper you use. Take one of the pieces and cut out a smaller rectangle or square so that it is just an out line of the first piece. This will hold your photo paper to the lid.

Tape one of the pieces on all four sides to the center of the inside of the lid. Once that's done, Take the second piece, the out line, and tape the bottom side to the bottom side of the first piece, so that it becomes a lid of some sort. Then take a smaller piece of tape and use it to close the lid.

2. On the box face directly opposite of the lid you've just created, cut a 3 inch square in the center. Once that's done, set the box aside for now.

3. Take the black poster board and cut out a 5 inch square. In the center of that square, cut out a circle that has a diameter of 1/2 inch. Carefully smooth out the inside edges.

4. Take the 5 inch square and center the circle on the 3 inch square hole in the camera box.. Tape the edges to the box and make sure that the piece won't slide around and stay firmly in place.

(The 5 inch square is right there beneath the duct tape)

5. To creature the aperture where the light will stream through, take the aluminium foil tape and cut out a1 x 1 inch square. Flatten it as much as possible and round the corners.

Next, place the aluminium square on the cork or foam board.

Take the needle and press the point in the center of the aluminium square until it creates just a dimple.

Turn the aluminum piece over and carefully sand off the dimple, and then repeat the steps by inserting the needle into alternating sides of the square until the needle goes through the piece cleanly.

The point of this whole process is so that the aperture is a clean round hole free of debris and jagged edges. A magnifying glass will help check its success.

6. After this is done, peel the back of the aluminium tape square, and center it carefully over the 1/2 inch circle opening.

7. Take the remaining black poster board, and cut out a 2 inch square. Using the electrical tape or Gaffer's tape, tape one side of the square in a space above the aperture. This will be the cover to stop light from coming through when it's not needed. Feel free to use tape to close the small lid completely.

Final step

Since this entire process is dependent on the idea of complete darkness so that the light may seep through from only one point, you must make sure that the camera has absolutely no holes or thin areas where even the smallest bit of light may shine through, because it could affect the image that appears. A way to test it is to stand in a completely dark room, and to place a lit flashlight inside the camera before closing it. Make sure that the aperture is also shut. Once you've done this, the flashlight's light should be completely gone, even when you turn the box around. If you see areas where the light shines through, even if it's just small pinpricks, be sure to cover the areas with the electrical tape or gaffer's tape. If the light comes from the space where the lid closes, add more paper towels to 'insulate' it.


Though it's not necessary, you can add different "bells and whistles" to your camera, such as handles, a patterned paper exterior, or cool designs.

Distance from the Object and Exposure Time:

Go to this subpage below in order find out how far you need to be from the object in order to capture the image, and how to calculate the exposure time.

How to Calculate Exposure Time

To develop the photograph:

Once you've taken the image, make sure that no light touches it until it's been developed so that the image doesn't turn out a double image or worse, black. The sub page below will show you how to develop the photograph.

Preparing a Darkroom and Developing a Photo

Scientific Principle

How does this work?????

Harmony STEM/PBL: Pinhole Camera How Does This Work?

Well before explaining that, let's mention what exactly light is. Light is both a wave called electromagnetic radiation and a particle called a photon. It can be refracted, absorbed, and reflected, and the biggest example of this is the moon, which reflects the light from the sun and lights up the night here on Earth. Every opaque object that light shines upon reflects and refracts the light it comes into contact with, in a way, emitting that light.

Now onto the camera. Let's say you place the pinhole camera in front of a sunlit scene. Every object in front of that scene is refracting light, and each pinpoint of light is trying to reach every place it can possibly reach. Since the camera is completely light proof, save for the pinhole, all of the light races to reach and travel through the pinhole. Once it does, it reflects on the wall opposite of the pinhole. Since all of the beams of refracted light are doing this all at once, the light that hits the wall becomes an image of the scene it's facing.


When the light travels, it travels in a straight line. If the object in the scene is near the ground, and its refracted light is racing to reach a pinhole that is above it, it will keep traveling in that direction. When it reaches the back of the camera, instead of being down, it will be up. What was down becomes up.