Pinhole Camera Traditional Photography

Image from Wikipedia, the negative was exposed for 40 seconds.
Image from Wikipedia, the negative was exposed for 40 seconds.


A pinhole camera, also known as camera obscura, or “dark chamber”, is a simple optical imaging device in the shape of a closed box or chamber. In one of its sides is a small hole which, via the rectilinear propagation of light, creates an image of the outside space on the opposite side of the box.

David Balihar is a photographer that has created an informative website on the pinhole camera.  His article on exposure time for the pinhole camera is clear and easy to understand.  Use the chart below as a guide for exposure with your camera, and click on his website link to read more.

CH Levy & Co. dba Lensless Camera

 Lecture Powerpoint for this lesson:

Pinhole Camera and the history of photo Brief History of Photography and seeing like a camera


Lesson Plan Overview:

  1. Students will review a brief history of photography. They will copy the sites that they referenced in order to create their camera.
  2. Journal entry: Find the oldest photograph in your family photo album.  In a google doc, students will take a photo of the photo, then talk about the details in the photograph. Who are the people?  What do they look like?  When was it taken? Are they posed or a candid photograph? What does the photograph say about the lives of the people in it? Write about your connection to this image.  This part should be no more than two paragraphs.  It must be typed.
  3. Email to me.
  4. Take the Pinhole cameras and measure the exposure time, based on the aperture size (F300), focal length (75mm), and lighting.  What will be the equation?
  5. Cut and load sheets of photographic paper in the darkroom.  Sheets should be no larger than 4×5 inches in size.
  6. Once the camera is loaded in the darkroom and then create a series of pinhole images based on a theme outside.  Students will create 2-3 negatives with the camera, then pick the best negative to make a positive image.
  7. Students will take the negative pinhole image and create a contact print of the image.  A contact print is produced by placing the negative on top of another sheet of paper, emulsion side touching.  They will create a test strip of the negative to find the proper positive exposure time.
  8. Mount all images together on a matboard for critique. Positive and negative sets should be mounted together.
  9. Name/date on the right side of the board and title on the left side.

Rubric for this lesson:

Rubric for Pinhole

Artist Statement:

Type this statement in Word then copy and paste it into your Weebly. Please, write in complete sentences and check your grammar.

1) Describe the process of the pinhole assignment. What is the difference between the positive and negative?  Why do they look the way they do?

2) Analyze: How were the elements of art applied to this project? What Elements of Art do you see in the negative and positive? Explain in detail. Hint you will only use a couple of them to this project.

3) Interprete: Explain why you choose to take the photos you did. Was it a nice space or was it just the light was good?

4) Judgment: How do you feel after completing this project? What was successful or unsuccessful? What did you find interesting about this project?