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Pinhole Cameras at the Library

Friday June 13th at 2:00 come make your own pinhole camera at the library. Unlike the digital cameras that are so often used today, pinhole cameras don’t even use a lens and can be made out of just about anything from pumpkins to cans of spam. So sign up, try your hand, and see what you can make out of a cereal box, aluminum foil and tape.

     Picture1   Pinhole Image of Water

Photographs are such a big part of our lives that we often take them for granted. The digital cameras that allow us to take as many pictures as we want, view them instantly and decide whether or not we want to keep them, are a pretty new invention. Photography, though, has been around for nearly 200 years and the pinhole is an important part of that history.


Pinhole cameras can be made out of just about anything and people have a lot of fun trying to find new and strange things to use. Some have used eggs, a teapot, a Quaker Oats box and  one photographer even started using his mouth! Fans of pinhole cameras have even created Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, inviting photographers to send in their best shots from the day.

pinhole panorama


So what exactly is a pinhole camera and how does it work? A Pinhole Camera is actually something called a Camera Obscura, which literally means dark chamber. Imagine you are sitting in a completely dark room on a sunny day with cardboard covering the windows. If you were to  cut a small hole in the cardboard allowing the light to come in you would see an image projected on the wall behind you. It would show you whatever was outside your window, but it would be upside down and backwards!

Camera Obscura


A pinhole camera works exactly the same way. But by adding photographic film to the ‘wall’ where the image is being projected, we’re able to capture the photo.

Pinhole cameras present a few challenges. Unlike most other cameras, our pinhole cameras do not use any type of lens to focus the image. For this reason pinhole images are often soft or even blurry. Additionally, without the lens the exposure time for the film is much longer than it would be for a normal camera.  The size and roundness of your pinhole will also affect hour your image turns out.

Experimenting with the length of your exposure (the amount of time you let light shine through the pinhole), the distance to the thing you are photographing, and the amount of light in the room are all part of the fun of learning to use your new camera.

So come by the library and give pinhole cameras a try. Plus if you just like photography we’ve got some great how-to books that will give you all kinds of  ideas and suggestions to improve your photographs!

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