Pinhole camera (DIY/homemade)

A pinhole camera is an easy to make thing for looking at the sun, or for general fun experimenting with optics. If you really want to go all out, you can even use it to take photographs by inserting undeveloped film inside, but I didn't use it for that.

Below you can see me using it to view the sun, followed by the image of the sun and also an image of a building. The image is upside down since it appears that way in the pinhole camera.

Using the pinhole camera.
Using the pinhole camera.
The sun.
The sun as seen in the pinhole camera.
A building - appears upside down.
A building seen through the pinhole camera appears upside down
      and reversed left and right.

The diagram below shows why the image in the pinhole camera is upside down. The light rays can only travel through the small pinhole. If you follow the ray from the person's head to the hole and then continue following it through the hole, you see that the ray strikes the bottom of the image inside the camera's box. Similarly the ray from the person's feet ends up at the top of the image. The same happens for rays on the left and right. Notice that the raised arm has changed sides, though it's still the person's right arm in both cases.

Why the pinhole camera's image is upside down.
Diagram showing how the pinhole camera works.

How to make a pinhole camera

As shown below, the first step is to get a box. I used a shoebox. Cut a small hole in one end. Make it as round as possible.

In the photo on the right below you can see that I've cut a second, much bigger hole for putting a camera so I could film the image for the making of the video below. When it's not in use I keep it covered with aluminum foil since that does a good job of blocking light from entering.

The box.
The box for the pinhole camera.
The small hole.
Making the small hole for the pinhole camera.

Below you can see where the small hole is that the light from the image will enter in through, and the area where the image will appear. For viewing the image yourself you can cut a hole in the side, as shown in the photo on the right. I've cut a three sided hole so that I have a sort of flap that can be opened or closed. The photo at the top of this page shows me looking into this hole.

Where the image will appear.
Where the image appears in the pinhole camera.
The side viewing hole.
The side viewing hole for the pinhole camera.

Next, tape up any holes in the box that let light in (see leftmost photo below.) The only place light should be entering is the small hole you'd cut yourself and any viewing hole.

If the area the image will appear on in the box isn't flat and featureless then you can put a sheet of white paper there for the image to appear on, as shown in the middle photo below.

Then, as shown on the right below, paint the rest of the inside of the box with flat black paint or cover it with a black, non-shiny fabric like felt for example. This is optional but will make a difference.

Covering holes with tape.
Covering holes in the pinhole camera with tape.
Making a good image area.
Taping paper where the image will appear in the pinhole camera.
Painting the inside black.
Painting the inside of the pinhole camera with flat black paint.

At this point you have a small hole for letting the image in, but one that's big enough to let a lot of light in so that you can actually see things like buildings, as shown below. It helps if whatever you're viewing is well lit, as it is in this case with sunlight. For comparison I've included a photo of what it looks like to the naked eye. Notice again that it appears upside down. The diagram above illustrates why this happens.

Viewing image of the building.
Viewing image of a building using a pinhole camera.
As seen by the naked eye.
The building as it appears without the pinhole camera.
As seen in the pinhole camera.
A building as seen in a pinhole camera.

Modifications for viewing the sun with the pinhole camera

But the smaller the hole you use to let light in, the better the image will appear. Also, the rounder the hole and the thinner the material that the hole is made in, the better the image will appear. However, there won't be enough light to make objects out except the sun itself. But at least you get a good image of the sun this way.

Note that if you are putting film in the pinhole camera then you can leave the film exposed to the light for some number of seconds to collect more light over time. In that case you could capture objects, like buildings, on the film.

So below you can see that I tape a piece of aluminum foil over the small hole and then pierce it using a pin, hence the name "pinhole camera". I push the pin through from the inside since I can still see the small hole from there.

Putting foil over the small hole.
Putting aluminum foil over the small hole for the pinhole camera.
The foil taped over the small hole.
The aluminum foil taped over the small hole for the pinhole camera.
Pushing the pin through.
Pushing a pin through the aluminum foil to make the pinhole for
      the pinhole camera.
The pin sticking through.
The pin as view from the outside.
The resulting pinhole.
The resulting pinhole for the pinhole camera.

Below you can see me using it again, but this time notice that the image is entering through the new pinhole. You can see what the sun looks like with a normal camera (never look at the sun directly), and then what it looks like in the pinhole camera. Also shown is a neat image of what it looks like when the sun is partially hidden by a cloud.

Using the pinhole.
Using the pinhole camera with an actual pinhole.
The sun using a normal camera.
The sun as seen using a normal camera.
The sun in the pinhole camera.
What the sun looks like viewed in a pinhole camera.
The sun through clouds.
The sun through clouds as seen in a pinhole camera.

Video - Pinhole Camera - How to Make

The following is my video showing step-by-step how to make a pinhole camera, along with demonstrations of it in use, including the resulting images.

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