Pinhole Camera Project Description

Goal: An Annotated Portfolio of Pinhole Photographs

  • 10 learning photos with description of what you learned from them. (Photos that show what you learned about exposure time, what not to do when developing pictures, f-stop, focal length, and depth of field.) This counts as 10 points toward the "Familiarize Yourself with New Physics" grade. (Grading Rubric #2)

  • Your 10 favorite artistic photos.

  • Your 5 favorite "special effects" photos. For these photos, try something new. Mirrors, multiple pinholes, motion, alternate light sources, lenses in addition to the pinhole,...

  • At least 3 of your favorite pictures that you scanned into the computer and then printed with the colors inverted (making them come out in the correct black & white).  Instructions on how to do this are on Moodle.
  • Your compilation of photos could be in a scrapbook of sorts or the photos could be scanned and made into a digital album at


Resources: We have the following materials that you may find helpful:

  • Darkroom, darkroom equipment and chemicals, photographic paper.

  • Books on pinhole cameras and film developing are available from Mr. Falk.

  • Light sensors to help you calculate ideal exposure time.

  • The internet has a ton of resources as well. There are links to some of them on Moodle below this project description.



  • Fuss, A., Pinhole Photographs . Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

  • Reemer. E., Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering an Historic Technique . Boston: Focal Press, 1995.


Week 1

  1. This project works best using lab notebooks instead of recording things in Moodle. See Mr. Falk if you'd like to buy a cheap spiral bound notebook. Otherwise get your own by day 2 of the project.
  2. Darkroom setup and orientation.
  3. Look through the resources on the internet (links to some on Moodle). In your Lab Notebook, describe what you find about:
    • Camera types
    • Specifics about pinholes - sizes, how to make, characteristics of a good one,...
    • Camera construction
    • Exposure times
    • Other things?!?
  4. You'll need about 250 mL of each of the four chemicals. They all have different mix ratios that you can get off of each package. Figure out how much chemical and how much water you need for each to properly mix up somewhere between 200mL and 250mL of each. Record your calculations in your lab notebook. Also record, for each chemical, what it's shelf life is. That's how often you'll have to mix up a new batch. (Shelf life isn't listed for the Stop Bath - you can keep using it until it turns purple.)  Don't actually mix the chemicals until your camera is finished.
  5. Ideally your camera will be finished by the end of the week.  Most don't quite get it done in one week so plan to at least have made significant progress on it.  (Better to focus on making a good one than quickly making a bad one.)

Weeks 2 & 3

  1. It may take patient experimentation to find the right combination of pinhole size, light conditions, and exposure time. Record what you did in your notebook for each photo and then, when the photo is dry, lightly tape the photo into your notebook (so you can remove them later for your final product).  The exposure time and light conditions and such can be helpful later.
  2. Before the end of week 2, come up with the question you want to ask and turn it in to the green folder.  (See Grading Rubric #4 for more information.)
  3. Take a bunch of photos - the types and number you need of each type are listed in the Goal section above.
  4. Invert at least two of your photos using the instructions in Moodle.  Print them and put them in your notebook.
  5. You may want to consider starting one of the week 4 & 5 experiments in week 3 if things are going well.


    Weeks 4 & 5

    1. Do one of the experiments listed below: Make sure you set it up in your lab notebook and report your results.

      • Determine the ideal exposure time for a certain light level and then determine how to calculate ideal exposure time for different light levels.
      • Determine the effect of pinhole size on exposure time, depth of field and picture "sharpness". (This will only work if your camera design allows for interchangeable pinholes.)
      • Determine the effect of camera length (distance between the pinhole and the film) on exposure time, depth of field and picture "sharpness".
      • Determine how to figure out the f-stop of the pictures you take with your camera and take pictures with at least 5 different f-stop values.

    2.  Take a bunch more pictures and prepare your portfolio. The portfolio is described above in the Goal section. Make it great!


    Rules for Dark Room Use

    To use this project you will be using a dark room to develop your pictures. It is a secluded room that you will be able to lock from the inside and that should help you feel safe. It is my expectation that only students who are working on this project will be in the dark room and/or exterior room with you. Any visits from friends without prior permission from Mr. Falk will most likely result in at least an immediate and permanent loss of dark room privileges in addition to a significant grade reduction.