Pinhole camera (noun): a simple camera in which an aperture provided by a pinhole in an opaque diaphragm is used in place of a lens.
In other words, a pinhole camera is a light-proof box with a tiny hole in the front. It’s a really simple concept and thankfully really simple to make your own. I’ve often stumbled across many different types of pinholes cameras on the internet and there are brilliant and creative designs out there (you only have to take a quick google search to see for yourself) but if you’re on a cheap budget how about making a matchbox pinhole camera? Here are 15-steps to creating your own, tried and tested by myself. So from the very top, let’s see what you need to get started.
In order to make this camera you need to ensure you’ve got all the right equipment. You’ll need to gather up:
- a matchbox
- new 35mm film
- used 35mm film canister
- empty drinks can
- plastic page binder
- thin needle
- black tape
- black marker pen
- thin black pen
- a ruler
Step 1: The body of your camera is made with the empty matchbox. Take the inner part of the matchbox and draw two diagonal lines from corner to corner on the back, marking an ‘x’ shape. Then mark out a square in the centre and cut this out using the scalpel.
Step 2: Cut off strips of the black tape and stick these around the square hole you have just made to reinforce the sides.
Step 3: Your matchbox needs to be entirely light-proof so take the black marker pen and colour in the inside of the tray, around the black tape, making sure you don’t miss a spot. Once you’ve done this you then to colour in the inside of the matchbox sleeve.
Step 4: Repeat a similar process to Step 1 but this time on the matchbox sleeve. Mark out a diagonal cross and then a much tinier square hole. Cut this out using the scalpel.
Step 5: Take the empty cans and cut out a small square, a cm or so bigger than the small square you’ve just cut out on the front sleeve of the matchbox. Once you’ve got this small aluminium square, pierce it directly in the centre with the needle to make a small pinhole.
Step 6: Tape the square metal pinhole over the square hole in the sleeve of the matchbox, making sure it is exactly in the centre. Be sure not to cover the hole when securing all four sides down!
Step 7: Now to make the shutter. Take the camera film box and cut off one rectangle side of cardboard. Snip off the end in order to make it into a square (the end piece will become your sliding shutter).
Step 8: Once again, repeat the same process as Step 1, marking out an ‘x’ and cutting out a square in the centre of the cardboard.
Step 9: Lay the square piece over the front of the pinhole and tape it down at both ends with the black tape. Leave a space at the top for the small end of cardboard to slide down into as your shutter. Make sure the shutter can be pushed down to fully cover the hole.
Step 10: Take the plastic page binder and cut off one of the curled spirals. This will be used to determine how far you need to wind the film on. Tape it to the 35mm film canister, right at the edge where the film emerges, and make sure the end of the spiral curls into a sprocket hole. Now when you gently pull the film out slightly the curled spiral should make a clicking sound as it drops into each passing sprocket hole. If not, you need to reposition it.
Step 11: You now need to load the film into the camera. Take the new 35mm film and snip off the end to make it straight. Then, feed it the through the body of the matchbox until the straight edge appears from the other end. When you do this, make sure that the lighter-brown side of the roll of film is facing upwards towards the pinhole as this is the side where your images will be captured.
Step 12: Take the empty film canister and with the cellotape attach it to the edge of the film you have just fed through the matchbox to make one continual length of film.
Step 13: Slide the match tray back into the box.
Step 14: To use up the slack film turn the spindle of the empty canister in order to wind up the film.
Step 15: There is one last final stage which is making sure the camera is light proof. Make sure the two film canisters are tight to the matchbox at each end and then tape it tightly with the black tape. Wind the black all around the camera, paying particular attention to gaps around the two film reels This makes sure that no light can leak onto your film.
And there you have it, your very own matchbox pinhole camera. To start shooting photos all you have to do is lift the shutter for a few seconds, and when winding on the film listen for between 6-10 clicks. It’s as simple as that.
If you need more visual direction in how to make this funky little camera, check out the Youtube video that inspired me in the first place:
On a final note, watch this space for my pinhole camera photos to follow. And if you have any pinhole camera photos to share, I’d love to see them!