With “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day” on Sunday 24 April, I thought I would make a real effort this year by making my own pinhole camera and developing my own images.
I’ve been creating pinhole imagery since June 2014 on my faithful “Zero 2000” pinhole and it’s been a lot of fun so much so that it’s now become an obsession to the point where my first thought for any composition is “would it work best as a pinhole?”. I have found with pinhole photography that I am a lot more methodical and measured in my approach, so much so that in under 2 years I’ve only shot 7 rolls of film, that’s a total of 84 images. The main reason for this conservative approach is primarily cost, (approximately 50p per image, add another £1 if you want it scanning). I would love to experiment more thus shoot more, so I’ve looked at ways to make it more economical. For starters, I created my own light box that allows me to digitally photograph the negatives so I no longer have to request the negatives be scanned, but still 50p per image can add up quickly if you start taking more. So what about using a direct positive photographic paper, would this be cheaper? At a cost of approximately 60p per image plus £20 outlay for the chemicals in which to develop the paper it would cost £1.40 per image. That’s assuming the chemicals only last for this little project. Essentially I’m comparing apples to pears, as my standard practice is to have a lab develop my 120 film (effective negative area of 6x6cm) where as I will be using 4″x5″ photographic paper which produces a print ready for framing and is approximately 2 times larger than the afore mentioned negative. To summarise, it’s never going to be cheap to work with film/paper, but the superb results can’t be denied so I can forgive the cost (a little anyway).
I wanted to involve Evie, my 6 y/o daughter who has shown an interest in photography, it’s a great educational tool where she’ll learn some engineering & design, mathematics, physics, chemistry and of course art plus it will give her an appreciation of photography and how far along it has come.
For #WPPD2016 I am hoping myself and Evie can capture 1 or 2 pinhole images each on Sunday 24 April and develop them pretty much straight away. We will both choose our favourites and scan them for upload to the pinholeday.org website. Sounds straight forward, right? Let’s get started.
DIY 4×5 Pinhole
If you feel like joining in please feel free to download a pdf version of my template to help you draw it out. Download 4X5 pinhole design. This pinhole will have 90mm focal length, aperture of f/225, pinhole size will be 0.4mm.
Materials required for constructing the obscura part:
- A1 sized black card (any colour would do, but the inside needs to be blacked out)
- craft knife
- PVA glue & brush
- cutting matt
- straight edge (I used a steel rule)
- black gaffer tape/duct tape
- Roughly cut out the printed design making sure you don’t cut too close to the cut lines. If you can print large enough to match the dimensions, you can print across several pieces of paper and stick them together, alternatively use a pencil to mark out the card.
- Apply PVA glue to the rear of the template and stick on to the black cardboard. Ensure it is not placed too close to the edge of the card. I use A1 size so if I make a mistake I have spare to use. (Skip this step if you’ve drawn directly on the black card)
- You don’t need to wait for it to dry, a couple of minutes will ensure it is tacky enough to adhere to the card. With a sharp craft knife and straight edge cut out the profile of the template.
- Cut out the small square aperture in the middle of the front.
- Using the craft knife and straight edge, lightly score the fold lines and bend card whilst against the straight edge.
- Remove the template as best you can. Don’t worry if paper has permanently adhered to the card you can use black paint or gaffer/duct tape to cover this.
- Repeat steps 1-3 for the rear section of the obscura template that will house the photographic paper.
Material required for creating a pinhole plate (take care when cutting and handling the cut aluminium drinks can):
- aluminium drinks can (clean and dry)
- sewing needle (may need cork, pliers or something to hold needle firmly)
- sand paper or emery paper (fine grade)
- cutting matt
- Cut the top off the aluminium drinks can with the scissors and then cut out a 1-inch square piece of aluminium. Ensure edges are flat.
- With the sand paper lightly sand off the paint on the can.
- The sewing needle needs to be held firmly so I would recommend pushing it into a cork from a bottle, or holding it in some pliers. I took out the blade of the scalpel that I used to cut my card and managed to get the needle to grip in the vice of the handle.
- Place the cut aluminium plate flat on the cutting matt and centre the needle on the plate. With a twisting motion apply gentle pressure, a couple of turns to start with will do. A dimple should appear on the reverse, if you have a hole at this point you have applied too much pressure and the hole could be elongated.
- Lightly sand the dimple until plate is flat.
- Repeat steps 4 & 5 until a hole starts to appear. The sewing needle will probably only need to go about 1mm through the plate.
- For this particular design I need a 0.4mm diameter hole, so to measure the hole with some degree of accuracy I scan the plate at 9600dpi and use Adobe Photoshop’s ruler tool. If you don’t have access to such software you can eyeball it by placing a scaled rule next to it. To be honest my first guess of the size was only 0.1mm out which isn’t going to adversely effect its use.
- Repeat steps 4-7 until you get the desire pinhole size.
To create a shutter:
It’s up to you how you want to do this, the simplest solution is to use a piece of black electrician tape to cover the pinhole. It’s relatively low tack so won’t damage the pinhole camera. For this design I used some of the card offcuts to create a sliding shutter.
- Fix the pinhole plate to the inside of the obscura using gaffer/duct tape ensuring the pinhole is centrally placed in the aperture, be careful not to tape over the pinhole itself.
- Fold the sides of the obscura ensuring the tabs are on the inside. These can be glued/taped, I used some double sided tape that I use for making mounts which is very strong, just make sure the joins are light tight. Any gaps tape up.
- Repeat step 2 for the rear section.
- The rear section should fit tightly over the main body. You can secure this by using a couple of elastic bands.
With the construction complete it’s time to load up the 4×5 photographic paper and get out there and make an exposure.
To be continued…
P.S.: If you’re interested in participating in a workshop please check our latest one here