Pinhole Photography

Manhattan Skyline. Pinhole photography by Alina Oswald

On Pinhole Photography

Tree. Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald.
Tree. Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald.

In April many photographers celebrate World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) by taking, you guessed, pinhole photographs. WPPD falls on the last Sunday of April. This year, WPPD falls on April 30, 2017, only a few days away. I first learned about pinhole photography and WPPD a few years ago, at B&H. That year, Pinhole Photography Day fell on April 26, a reminder of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that happened on April 26, 1986.

But, back to pinhole photography. What is pinhole photography? How can we make pinhole photographs? And is there such a thing as a pinhole camera?

A simplified description of a pinhole camera would be a camera without a lens. Instead of a lens, a pinhole camera has a very small aperture (pinhole) that allows light inside the camera. The early pinhole cameras were built using a light-proof box. A pinhole was created usually in the center of one of the walls of the box. On the opposite wall was placed light-sensitive paper, and later film. Using very long exposures, an inverse image of the subject would appear on the light-sensitive material; hence, a camera obscura (dark room) effect.

Fast forward to digital photography. Nowadays, you can buy a pinhole camera or you can make your own pinhole camera by using your DSLR and drilling a hole in the center of the digital camera cap. Steps of turning your digital camera into a pinhole camera:

  • buy an additional camera cap
  • drill a tiny hole precisely in the center of the camera cap; the shape of the hole needs to be a (perfect) circle
  • cover the hole on the back of the cap (the side of the cap facing the camera body) with a tiny piece of aluminum foil; secure the foil in place using photographer’s tape
  • use a larger-size needle (the one you’d use for thicker material, for example) and punch a hole in the center of the aluminum foil; make sure it is precisely centered (it’s a good idea for the edges to be as smooth as possible)
  • attache the pinhole cap to the camera body
  • give it a try!

Here are some of my pinhole photographs I’ve created as part of an Infinity Photography Society assignment.

Bed of Tulips. Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Bed of Tulips. Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

The backstory of the image posted above: Photographing these tulips was a bit of a challenge. It was springtime, but windy. The wind wasn’t helping. To add to that, there were also people walking by, staring at me as I was stretched out on the sidewalk, trying to photograph with a lens-less digital camera. But I didn’t care.

Manhattan Sunrise - Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald.
Manhattan Sunrise – Pinhole Photography by Alina Oswald.

The above image shows the Manhattan skyline at sunrise as seen through a pinhole.

I find pinhole photography quite moody, offering a ghostly, gloomy kind of look and feel. I kind of like that.

So, this April, give pinhole photography a try. Also, celebrate this year’s WPPD and check out the Pinhole Photography website, submit your pinhole images.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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