Pinhole Photography Evaluation (Darkroom and Digital)

Recently we have been learning about pinhole photography, which is a process used in photography to create a lens-less image. Therefore we mainly have to focus on three camera features which are ISO, aperture and shutter speed. adjusting these and getting these right enable us to create perfect lens-less images.

Firstly, we learnt the many things that surrounding pinhole photography and the things that make the picture perfect.

We learnt that the three things that we need to make a successful image would be ISO, Apeture and Shutter Speed. These are only used for digital pinhole photography as this is one of the reasons why we call pinhole photography, a lens-less image. The ISO controls the amount of light exposed to the speed that the image is taken at. The higher the ISO is the more light that will be exposed to the image. It is important to control this as there is only a small hole that the light can get through in order to get to the camera. If the ISO is to high then the image will be under exposed and the whole image will be white, but the lower the ISO is means that image will come out black and this means that the image is over exposed. the aperture is the small hole in which light travels to create the image. In pinhole photography, the aperture is simply a pinhole which you have to correctly make and control in order to have a successful image. In digital pinhole photography the capture can be taped to the body cap of the camera and placed where you would normally put the lens. However in dark room pinhole photography the camera is made using an aperture and a box. When the aperture is exposed to light and is not in the dark room it will just make the image white and you will have no way of recreating the image without another piece of light sensitive paper. So it is very important to keep the aperture covered when using a box camera for darkroom pinhole photography, but when doing digital pinhole photography you just keep the camera off until you are ready to take the image. Finally, the shutter speed controls how long the camera is exposed to the light for. The longer it is exposed for the better the image will be, but this is not always the case, it all depends on your ISO and what type of light surrounding you are in. I found when doing my images that the best shutter speeds to use were a lot higher around 2-6 seconds, rather than using shutter speeds which were a lot lower around 1/20-1/100, which would usually be ideal when using the camera with a lens. The shutter speed is easily changed and can make the image better or worse.

After learning the basics we were shown a variety of different ways in which we could use pinhole photography and how we can develop the images. We were shown different cameras that all are able to create a pinhole image and we were also shown how to make an aperture and also a darkroom pinhole camera. Here are some pictures of different pinhole cameras and also a pinhole aperture.

A pinhole camera is easily made which ever way you want to use it. If you want to make a digital pinhole aperture, all you have to do it take the body cap of the camera and drill a hole in the centre, then you have to take a piece of aluminium and gaffa tape and tape the can over the hole from the inside, then make a small hole in the aluminium using a pin. A dark room pinhole camera is exactly the same, just this time around you tape the aperture that you made to a small square cutout in a cardboard box.

After this we looked at some different photographers that use pinhole photography. The photographers that we looked at included

  • Bill Witliff
  • Justin Quinnel

Looking at there work was to inspire us about what we could use pinhole photography for and how others use it. It was also to show us how different photos come out using pinhole photography. Here are some examples of their work which we looked at for inspiration.

This work really inspired me on what to do for my pinhole photography, as I was very unsure on what to do because I had never done pinhole photography before.

We were then given the choice of whether we wanted to do digital pinhole or dark room pinhole photography first.

In week 1 I chose to do dark room pinhole photography first. We used a black cardboard box filled with light sensitive paper and also with an aperture attached to it. We went into the dark room and found our boxes and attached our paper. We were then sent away to take our pictures. Whilst we were out in the light we had to make sure that the aperture we were using was covered to avoid over exposure. To take the picture we needed to find a flat surface and also something to photograph. The reason we had to have a flat surface is so we avoided camera shake and that none of our images were blurry or dark. Taking the image was a very simple, but sometimes tricky process as getting the exposure time right was something that we really had to focus on. If this wasn’t right then our images wouldn’t be clear and they would either be under or over exposed to light. If the image came out white after development then it meant the image was under exposed and it needed longer in the light. However if the image came out black then it meant that the image was over exposed and it had too long exposed to the light. The size of the box depends on the amount of exposure time needed. If it’s a small box then it needs around 30 seconds to a minute exposed to the light, however if it is a large box then it can take anything from 2-6 minutes exposure time to get the image right. I found this part of the process quite easy and it was very quick to get used to, even though I had some failure images it was still easy to tell the exposure time from the size of the box.

After taking the images we had to develop them. It was quite an easy process as we already learnt development when we studied phonograms. We had to take the paper out of the boxes and put in the first tray of liquid which is called developer. A developer reacts with the exposed areas of silver in the paper’s emulsion turning these parts black to form an image. Areas that receive more light become blacker when developed. Areas that receive no light stay clear. You have to keep the paper in this for around 2 minutes. Then it goes into a process called stop bath. An acid solution that quickly counteracts the developer to prevent over development of the paper. You should keep the paper in this liquid for around 30-40 seconds. Then the paper goes into a process called fix. This dissolves any unused silver halides that were not developed and stops the paper from being light sensitive. This should be done for around 5-10 mins. Then you have to leave the paper under cold running water for around 15-20mins and this is to ensure all traces of fix are removed before the paper is dried.

Then the paper must be dried and all of the photos should have clear results which you can then asses.

My results were varied. I had some pictures which were both under and over exposed and also some which were very clear. I really enjoyed shooting the pictures and using the different types of cameras really intrested me as it was something that I had never done before. Here are some examples of the work that I did during the darkroom pinhole photography.

As you can see I had some good results and some bad results.

The first image that I have was a bad result. This is because it was over espresso slightly and the light became to much for the paper causing it to turn black,however there was some white still on there. This image was slightly successful as I still got some of the intended shot in. The reason it was over exposed is because I left the aperture open for too long and this caused the paper to go black. I will next time look at the camera carefully and try to roughly estimate the right exposure time. Even if it takes me a few try’s with difference in seconds, I will still try and get it right.

My second image was my best image out of them all and also one of my favourite. I used a small box camera and my rough exposure time was around 45 seconds. I placed my box on the floor to avoid camera shake and I believe that I achieved successful exposure as it has the right balance of black and white tones and it also captured what I wanted. If I had to do this picture again, I would experiment with different sized cameras which require different exposure times and with this I can see how different cameras and different exposure times would affect the image.

My final image was a mixture of success and failure. The image was half under exposed and the other half had the right exposure time. I think it was a good image overall but it could have been a lot better. I used a medium sized box which required an exposure time of around 1 minutes and 45 seconds. Even though this was the time I tried the exposure time at 45 seconds to start off with but during development I knew this was wrong. If I did this again I would up the exposure time to be sure that the image came out a lot clearer.

Secondly, I chose to do digital pinhole photography. This can be achieved by taking the lense off of a digital camera and using the body cap with your pinhole attached. To make the body cap suitable for the camera, it needs to have a small Ho,e drilled into it, in the centre and then a small square piece of aliminium with a small pinhole through it, attached to the back of the hole in the body cap.

As there is no lens, it is important to make sure that the settings are set correctly on the camera in order to achieve a successful image. We had to make sure that our ISO and shutter speed were set correctly in order to obtain the perfect image.

My shutter speed was set between 1 and 4 seconds throughout the whole shoot and my ISO was set very high as my shutter speed was very slow. It was hard to manage as the light was constantly changing throughout the day and it meant that I constantly had to change my shutter speed and ISO to suit the lighting. I also had to keep my camera and something flat and still to avoid camera shake, because of the slow shutter speed anything that moves it or shakes it during that time can ruin the whole image.

I enjoyed using the digital pinhole and I thought that the majority of my images were really succsesful.

Here are some examples of my digital pinhole images from the shoot.


This was one of the first photos that I took and it was hard to judge the settings on my camera because I took the photo inside and a lot of the other photos I took were outside and I knew how to easily adapt the settings for outside. This was one of my most successful images and even though I had some help setting up the camera I think it was very good for a first try. The light was very bright in the hall way so I had to make sure that my shutter speed was set to something fast so that my image didn’t end up over exposed. If I had to take this image again I would change a few things. Firstly I would change the location of where it was taken, as a lot if our images where taken outside I would take this image outside also to test how the shutter speed and ISO would look outside. I would also have a go at adjusting the shutter speed and ISO further to see how this would affect the final result of the picture.


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