Pinhole Photography


Pinhole photography forces us to take a step back into history, where fancy lenses and optics weren't available. The first pinhole cameras were made in the 1850s. A pinhole camera uses no lens, has a very small aperture and an infinite depth of field.

The small aperture forces the photographer to use a very long shutter speed, anywhere from a couple seconds to several minutes. This long shutter speed can cause blurry images if the subject moves.

If the hole is too large the image will be out of focus. If the hole is too small the image might be out of focus due to subject movement, or the image might be too dark.


To create a digital pinhole camera and take pictures that are as sharp and well-exposed as possible. Your pictures should be in black-and-white and reminiscent of old photos. Follow editing directions below to help you get this look.

You will hand in two photos. One must be a portrait. The other can be another portrait, or any subject of your choosing.


Find a partner. You will need the following materials:

  • A body cap
  • A camera
  • A square of aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • A pin
  • Drill (some caps are already drilled)

Follow these directions to create your pinhole lens:

  1. Poke a small hole in the aluminum foil with the pin
  2. Tape the foil to the inside of the body cap
  3. Remove the camera lens and seal it with a lens cap
  4. Put the body cap on the camera
  5. Take your pictures
  6. Try again if your pictures are quite blurry
  7. Replace the camera lens and return the body cap to Mr. Prensky
  8. Clean up


  1. Normal Photoshop workflow
  2. Image / Adjustments / Hue/Saturation - you can check the "colorize" box if you want your image in sepia or black and white. Choose the hue, then adjust saturation.
  3. Make your image look "scratchy"
    • Find an image - search for "old photo texture" or "daguerrotype texture". Try to get a nice large image. Copy.
    • Paste the image on top of your picture
    • Command-T to transform the size - drag to the top left corner and re-size by dragging the bottom-right handle. It's OK for the image to be larger than your photo. That way you can move it around to customize the texture.
    • Click "Enter" or the check mark to apply.
    • Change the blending mode to "linear light" or "multiply", depending on the image on top
    • Change the opacity of the top image until you like how it looks
  4. Add a frame
    • Find a frame - search for "daguerrotype frame" or something similar. Try to get a nice large image. Copy.
    • Paste the image on top of your picture
    • Re-size (see above for instructions)
    • Edit the frame if necessary - exposure, levels, saturation, hue, etc.
    • Select the bottom layer in the layers pallette
    • Use the Move tool to position your bottom image. You can also re-size the bottom image if necessary
    • You can also move around the texture image now that the frame is on top
  5. Image / Adjust / Image Size - Re-size the longest side to 10.8 inches
  6. Add your name in a small font - "Photo by..."
  7. File / Save As - Save as a JPG, using correct naming (see below)


1) Content

Create two images (each partner):

  1. A portrait - pay attention to wardrobe, lighting, and background
  2. A picture of your choice - Try looking at old photographs on the Internet for ideas of things to shoot.  Architecture, old objects, nature, landscape, pets, group shot, ...

2) Skills / Technical


  1. Determine the best shutter speed
  2. Use a tripod to keep the camera steady

3) Elements and Principles of Design not marked


4) Creativity / Originality

I want to see that you've put some serious thought into what to photograph. How can you create a feeling of history in your pictures? How can you make your pictures more interesting?

5) Professionalism

Professionalism is based on the attention paid to the accurate and careful presentation of the final project. This includes handing your work in on time, with the proper file name, and in the format specified.

Both images should be framed, with the following information:

Name                 Title                     Month, Year

Proper file names:

  • username_pinhole1.jpg
  • username_pinhole2.jpg

6) Journal Entry

Write two paragraphs on your experience of doing this assignment. How did you decide on your subject, the background, the lighting. How was it for you to work with such a simple and crude camera? How do you feel about the results? Will this change how you approach your photography in the future?