Evidence of man’s wonder and fascination at how an image forms through a small hole has existed for 6000 years and will continue as long as light travels in a straight line and inquiring minds are there to explore it. It is an area where persistence and care is often required, but which, once mastered, can provide wonder to children of all ages and reveal a potential limited only by one’s imagination.

Some qualities of a pinhole image.

* Unlimited depth of field. Everything in focus from pinhole to infinity.
* Absence of a viewfinder. The image needs previsualising.
* Time exposures. Allows the capture of movement.
* Indestructibility. Can be stuck on moving objects, so giving them a vision.
* Distortions are possible through the use of curved film planes.
* They cost £2295 less than a Nikon F5.

Aluminium can (and wheely bin.) 5 years - adult.

These are simple in design and use the principle of imaging on a curved film plane. The final picture gives an angle of view equivalent to an 18mm lens.


Cut out, using thin black card, a circle 6 cm in diameter and a strip 25cm x 7cm with 1 cm notches cut along one edge.
Use some gaffer tape to assemble a light proof cap on the end of a can.(See Photo)
Cut the top off an ALUMINIUM can with a good can opener. Avoid steel as it leaves a dangerous sharp edge. The taller beer cans are best, as not only do they take untrimmed 5x7 paper but they also contain beer!
Sand down the sharp edge at the top of the can with some fine emery paper.
Gently push in and remove a pin half way up the can, then sand down the rough edges on the inside of the pinhole.
Cover the hole with an insulation tape ‘shutter’, then place on the light-tight cap.(See Photo).

Using photographic paper (adults and kids).

Under a safelight, insert a 5x7 sheet of photographic paper curled round the inside of the can, emulsion inwards. Make sure the paper doesn’t cover the hole, then replace the cap.
Take outside and expose for approximately 10 seconds in sunlight, 20 seconds when cloudy.
A test exposure is needed owing to the variations of hole size and brightness.
After exposure, develop as photographic paper.

Tips when exposing pinhole cameras.

* Avoid camera shake by relying on gravity rather than holding the can.
* Don’t point the camera towards the sun.
* Take care in replacing and removing the shutter before and after the exposure.
* Laying the can on its side can be done using a weight held with an elastic band.

Using 5x4 film, (adults).

For more advanced photographers 5x4 film can replace photographic paper. The hole for this should be smaller, at around a third of a millimeter, but the final results can be of excellent quality.


Both paper and film can be contact printed into positives under glass without the need for an enlarger, although the negative images look dramatic in themselves.

Making and using a wheely bin camera.

1, Find and clean a wheely bin. (I found mine next door!)
2, Cut a hole in the side and insert an aluminium pinhole of around 2mm.
3, Buy a 6m x 142cm roll of photographic paper. (A snip at £65-00!).
4, Trim down a 142cm x 100cm sheet and tape it around the inside of the bin.
5, Tape down the lid and place a light-tight ‘shutter’ over the pinhole.
6, Cart it off to the seaside I top of Ben Nevis. (bus drivers love them!)
7, Expose the paper for 8 minutes in sunlight.
8, Wheel it back to the darkroom / bath.
9, Take out the paper and tape it above the bath. Sponge on Dev, Stop and Fix.
10, Wash down the final print with a shower attachment.