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What is Pinhole Photography and How Can I Use it To Get Great Photos?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

What is Pinhole Photography and How Can I Use it To Get Great Photos?

If you like to get experimental with photography, pinhole photography is a genre that’s worth exploring.

Pinhole cameras are basically cameras with a very small hole. They are ideal for capturing motion blurs, dramatic vignettes, and gently warped images. If this sounds good to you, read on to find out how you can use one a pinhole camera to diversify your portfolio.

How Does a Pinhole Camera Work?

The pinhole camera dates to the 5th century BCE with the invention of the camera obscura. This type of camera reflected light through a small hole into a dark space making the image appear flipped and inverted. But later, mirrors were added to the back of the box so the images would come out right side up.

As technology developed, photo sensitive materials were created to capture images in physical form. A shutter and film were also added making for a version closer to a modern film camera.

Today, pinhole cameras still exist. While you may not be able to buy one in the store (unless it’s vintage) you can purchase a lens that makes a pinhole effect. You can also make your own pinhole camera.

Film Pinhole Cameras

Film goes well with a pinhole camera. Black and white produces an especially stand out effect, but color works well too.

The type of film you use will vary depending on the camera. For example, if you make your camera out of a matchbox, used film cartridge or aluminum can, 35 mm film may be best. A medium format camera will work better with 120 mm film.

If you prefer a large format camera, you can load in photographic paper. The camera will print the image directly on to the paper. It will produce a negative image which can be easily inverted digitally.

Keep in mind that the small aperture used in pinhole photography will require a long exposure, sometimes many minutes long. A metering app will help you determine how long your exposure should be or you may be able to find this information with online research. You will also want to use a tripod to minimize camera shake.

Pinhole Photography with Digital

You can also use a pinhole lens on a digital camera. The lenses can be purchased at a store, or you can make one. For example, you can simply put a piece of cardboard on top of your phone lens to produce a similar look. The pin opening can be made with a needle or pen.

Pinhole photography is a great medium to experiment with. It can get you some great looking shots. Will you be trying it out the next time you are looking for something new to do?

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