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How to make a camera with a coke can


High-school student Kate, who plans to study photography at university, joined our agency for one week. Here she tells us what a ‘pinhole camera’ is and how you can create one yourself…


A pinhole camera is a lightproof box, with a small hole in one side, and, usually, photographic paper placed on the opposite side. A shutter is used and is normally manually operated. It can be made of practically any kind of box (as long as it is lightproof) from a Coca-Cola can to an oatmeal box. It is great for new photographers to start out with and experiment, as it does not involve any electricity or professional equipment. The pinhole camera was even used in the 5thcentury BC!

The box is left for a certain amount of time – this is what is used for Solargraphy – the tracking of the sun’s movements over a long period of time. They are also often used as spy cameras because they are tiny and so, difficult to spot.

The image produced is inverted and negative, as it works by the photographic paper absorbing the light from the areas where it is most prominent, which turns the paper black, and so creates a white outline of the areas that are blocking the light – such as trees, houses etc. which gives the overall appearance of the image in negative.

To make your pinhole camera, it can be as simple as taking a metal sheet reclaimed from an aluminium can or tin foil, using fine sandpaper to reduce the thickness of the material in the centre to the minimum. Using a suitably sized needle can create the pinhole, although in professional cameras, the circle is cut out using a laser for optimum precision.

The pinhole can be any size, depending on how sharp or bright you desire the image to be. The smaller the pinhole, the less light is let in, but the image is much sharper than when a larger pinhole is used.

The depth of field for this type of camera… is pretty much limitless. This means that the image can still blur, but not because of distance. If the image blurs, it is because of other factors such as the wavelengths of the light source.

To make your own pinhole camera, just follow the instructions here. Good luck!

Image via Matchbox Pinhole.