Tag Archives: camera

Inspiration Week of 7/18

Usually I start these weekly inspiration posts with some entertaining banter about the photos, but this week I have something more urgent. ƒ/D exists for two main reasons: to promote the art of pinhole photography and to promote those artists who – regardless of reputation or education – work with pinhole.

However, because of my persistent reaching out to photographers through other sites, I’m at risk of being shut out as a spammer. I need to throttle back on the unsolicited messages, and I need pinhole photographers to meet me halfway.

If you have work of your own or someone else’s that you’d like to be considered for sharing, I encourage you to do one of the following:

  • Like and message ƒ/D about your new work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fslashd
  • Email ƒ/D about your new work at [email protected]
  • Tweet at ƒ/D about your new work @fslashd
  • Sign up for my email newsletter (right side of the page) – I haven’t sent these yet, but will be doing so soon

With your help, I can still send weekly updates of great pinhole photography!

Don’t forget our open Call for Entry!

Körök / Circles
[singlepic id=411 w=600]Körök Circles, ©Fitt Tamás 2016[/singlepic]

Fitt Tamás made this dramatic capture with his 6×12 medium format “Natasha” pinhole camera with Kodak Ektar 100 film. Fitt enjoys the super wide angle panoramic format because of the challenge it provides in finding that perfect location and scene. The long exposures and ritual process of pinhole give him the opportunity to observe more of his environment around him. You can find much more great work by Fitt at his flickr page.


[singlepic id=414 w=600]Untitled, ©Michael Nelson 2016[/singlepic]

Michael Nelson has a very strong style to his work, which he applied with great results to this pinhole photograph. You can check out more of his work on his Flickr page.


祝 金沢開業
[singlepic id=409 w=600]祝 金沢開業, ©Takahiro Chiba 2016[/singlepic]

Takahiro Chiba used an Abelson Scope Works Omniscope to make this mind-bending capture of Kanazawa Station, Japan. The Omniscope has an anamorphic feature to it, that allows the light to come in at a 90º angle to the film plane, causing such radical distortion of the image. Anamorphic is also a favorite tool of ƒ/D interview subject, Jana Obscura. I invite you to check out more of Takahiro’s excellent work on Flickr.


My Ninety Seconds
[singlepic id=412 w=600]My Ninety Seconds, ©Eric Li 2016[/singlepic]

Eric Li made this image with an Ondu 6×12 and Kodak Ektar film, with a 90 second exposure over water. This was only his 3rd roll through a pinhole camera – look for great stuff to come from this guy. You can see more of his work on his Flickr page.


Pinhole Photo
[singlepic id=413 w=600]Pinhole Photo, ©Vanesa Henseleit 2016[/singlepic]

Vanesa Henseleit is from Santiago de Chile where she runs a group called Lucky Pinhole. Her group conducts workshops, projects, and respond to calls for entry where pinhole is appropriate. This is a great example of stutter stepping an image – difficult technique to get good results from, but when you do, they’re truly remarkable. You can find more of Vanessa’s work on her Flickr page.

DIY Paper Obscura Camera 6×12
[singlepic id=410 w=600]DIY Paper Obscura Camera 6×12, ©Jason Huang 2016[/singlepic]

Jason Huang made this still life image with a paper 6×12 pinhole camera. It’s an excellent example of the soft and luscious mood that pinhole can give to even simple subject. You can find more of Jason’s work on his Flickr page.


Remember to respond to our open Call for Entry! It’s free!



Book Review: Letting Go of the Camera

“Letting Go of the Camera” is the second Brooks Jensen book that I’ve read. Like the other book, Creative Life in Photography, this is a collection of essays and ruminations. But this time he’s turned his attention more towards the meta of creativity in photography.

He’s touching on a lot of concepts in creativity and photography that, honestly, are what led to my taking up pinhole in the first place. It’s been nearly a decade since I built my first pinhole camera (outside of a photo class) and fell in love with the process. Pinhole for me was a response to the rising trend in DSLR shooting and perfection. At the time, there was so much volume in my shooting. I was filling memory disks like mad. But there was rarely time that I was taking to see. Like a junky, I was voraciously consuming, and the DSLR gave me a fix.

So it is in that spirit that pinhole provided a very needed detox from this habit. Suddenly I wasn’t shooting bursts of photos but rather waiting seconds or minutes for a single exposure. I wasn’t obsessively composing but rather guesstimating based on angles. And I wasn’t filling memory cards but rather mindfully choosing compositions to use precious film on.

The result, for me at least, is that pinhole photography is a much more meditative process than any other form of photography. Several days ago I was at the West Side Market in Cleveland making an indoor exposure that, once corrected for reciprocity, took 18 minutes. That was 18 minutes of observance that I could do. Looking at what to shoot next. Watching the crowds. Observing how people shopped. Seeing. It was 18 minutes of the compassionate observance that David Foster Wallace described in “This is Water”. If I had shot that with a DSLR, I would have cranked up the ISO and opened the aperture enough to get me 1/60th exposure and just moved on.

So what the hell does watching people for 18 minutes have to do with “Letting Go”? Brooks Jensen is asking us to take this time, so that we may be better photographers. He’s not only a photographer, he’s also the publisher of Lens Work magazine, and the host of a number of workshops. In these workshops he’s seen tons of work, but “rarely see photographs that relate to [photographers’] lives, thoughts, feelings, or experiences.” Throughout the book, he’s practically begging us to take a little extra time and look at things differently.

Brooks argues for mastering the craft of photography so that we can let go as, “the true master is one who, indeed, has total control and then lets go and allows an accident to happen.” That’s practically a mantra for excellent pinhole photography. He challenges photographers to photograph what you feel, so that you “let go of yourself and let your subject speak directly to your audience.”

We all know that travel to an unfamiliar place can help spur the creative spirit, but Brooks challenges us to be better in this regard as well, noting that:

It seems that photography presents us with a choice unique in the field of art. We can work to find something new that has never been photographed before and claim it as our unique photographic turf or we can accept the challenge to use our tools as merely tools and realize that the real task of being a photographer is to develop ourselves as conduits for the inspiration that creates artwork. One path leads to tomorrow’s clichés. The other path leads to artwork that seems to endure. One eventually is easy; one is profound.

Brooks absolutely pulls no punches in this regard, also noting that “a great deal of what passes for fine art photography today is not based on vision, talent, or craft; it is based simply on access.” This is a notion that I identify with strongly, and am also toiled by. In our daily lives, hustling about with work and family duties, it can be extremely hard to develop a vision in the seemingly mundane.

However Brooks too understands this struggle, and provides guidance there. Noting examples such as Sudek and Wynn Bullock as great examples of photographers that have realized that “the key is to integrate our art into our life, not the other way around.” Even so, shooting over and over the same areas of our lives can be drivel, right? But no, says Brooks, noting that “Weston took 29 photos of peppers before he finally took his famous Pepper No. 30, and he may have taken many more afterwards.” Brooks expands to note that:

The paradox is simply this: repetition of what has already been done is a useful technical exercise but rarely produces artwork of merit. Repetition of your own creative vision however, leads to refinement, increased depth and sensitivity, and generally does produce better artwork.

It’s that refinement of craft that he’s really driving at. It’s this level of dedication to a topic, and staying to what you know, that is so readily apparent in the wonderful collection that Andy Adams curated in “Looking at the Land”.

There’s so much more to this book then I could possibly cover here. Brooks has been through the ups and downs of a photographic career that has spanned just about every perspective in photography, and has done an excellent job of compiling the many perspectives that come with that career. This is a great read for any photographer – pinholer or not. I encourage you to give it a read – it’s an easy and accessible one – and pursue your photography with increased passion and mindfulness.

“Letting Go of the Camera” is available at Amazon ($5.95 Kindle edition/other formats available)


On Pinhole Camera Geometry: a Brief Overview

Editor’s Note: For this article, ƒ/D is pleased to present a contribution from guest author Delio Ansovini. We’ve featured Delio’s work previously on ƒ/D, where he showed an expert hand at still life subjects. If you look at his work enough, one thing that quickly begins to stand out is his exacting attention to detail in the framing of his shots. As a trained engineer, he has a firm grasp on the geometry involved in a camera’s configuration, and he’s graciously offered to put together some thoughts on how he approaches the subject for us. So without further ado, we present Delio Ansovini’s take on Pinhole Camera Geometry.

Geometry matters – because it is the geometry of a pinhole camera that defines the image taken with it.

The pinhole diameter, the size of the negative, the distance and position of the film and pinhole from each other, and the orientation of the camera toward the subject all affect the resulting image for one simple reason: light travels in a straight line.

Perspective geometry, which is stated simply as ‘…a way to give an illusion of three-dimensional depth when drawing on a flat surface’, very reliably does the rest.

Once we understand these concepts and techniques, the lack of a viewfinder doesn’t need to stop us from pre-visualizing the results.

First: What are view lines?

View lines provide us with a visual axis that defines what will be captured by the pinhole in the final image. The lines are a simple tool that you can apply to any camera to help with your visualization.

[singlepic id=78 w=350 float=left][/singlepic]Top Red View Lines
By visually following the line from the camera, you can observe what is included in the shot. Anything inside the extended two lines will be in; anything outside them will be out of the shot. It helps to use a pointer – I use a pencil positioned on the view line and I look at the sharp end pointed toward the subject. Others use 3 screws and line up the 2 screws with the subject. Regardless of your method, the top red lines are to help you visualize what will be included from left to right in your shot.

Side Red View Lines
Just as explained with the top lines, the red lines on the side of the camera extend from the edges of the film plane to the axis with the pinhole. For a 4×5 negative, the corners of the frame holder opening are the points to project to the sides of the box. For 6×6 the corners of the film mask are the ones to use. Again, like the top red view lines, you can visually follow the lines from the camera to the subject to visualize what will be in the shot, but for these lines, you’re visualizing what will be included from the bottom to the top of the shot.

Blue Horizontal and Vertical Lines
The blue projection lines from the pinhole to the edges of the camera are important to consider when applying your view lines. If the pinhole is recessed from the front plane of the camera, recess the convergence point of the view lines by the same amount.

[singlepic id=80 w=150 float=right][/singlepic]The Four Converging Planes
If you extend out the Red View Lines diagrammed above, you have an ever broadening plane extending from the front of the camera. The result is that the four intersecting lines generate four converging planes that extend from the film plane and intersect at the pinhole, then extend into the space beyond the camera.

To the right is my 4×5, f175 with the 130 deg view lines made with 2mm wide automotive vinyl pin striping. Note how if we visualize the extension of the View Lines towards the subject, we can see what the camera sees at that distance.

Second: Something borrowed from lens photography: the diagonal angle of view

You can find this angle value the fun way (do-it-yourself for those who like trigonometry) or “cheat” and use the app given below. Two factors directly change what the pinhole camera registers on a flat negative. First is the distance from the pinhole to the negative, and second is the size of the negative.

First, let’s look at the size of negative. Imagine that the image projected from the pinhole is a cone with a circular base sitting on top of a 6×6 negative while you are looking at the pointed apex. For a square negative, the vertical and horizontal perspective would not change since[singlepic id=77 w=350 float=left][/singlepic]the cone base will be tangential to both the vertical and horizontal sides, or for that matter with a larger diameter to each opposite corner of the negative.

The geometry will be totally different if the negative is, say 6×12, and we keep the height of the cone (the camera focal length) constant. If we look at the angle formed by the diagonal of the negative (from corner to corner), it is much larger than the 6×6 negative, even though the cone angle remains constant for both the vertical and horizontal planes as before. We call this diagonal measurement from corner to corner of the negative the diagonal angle of view. The diagram helps to visualize the concept.

This means that if we want to obtain a certain geometric perspective in our pinhole image and, for whatever reason, we have to change the negative size, we can use the diagonal angle of view as the constant factor while changing the distance from the pinhole to the negative. In short: a 6×6 cm. pinhole camera with focal length of 28mm has a diagonal angle of view of 113 deg.; the same as an 8x10in. (20.3×25.0cm.) pinhole camera with focal length of 106mm.

The two cameras will give you the same geometric perspective and both would be considered rather popular wide-wide angle pinhole cameras. Instead of the above, you can find the diagonal angle value with this handy program or this handy website.  Both the program and the website have features that calculate the diagonal of view based on your camera measurements. 

There are also personal reasons why I consider the diagonal angle of view important in designing or choosing a camera for a specific shot: I enjoy being able to have some control over the image. Moreover, I hate cropping 2/3 of the negative needlessly – film is too expensive to waste.

The following photos illustrate the visual difference in geometric perspective according to the diagonal angle of view and camera position on a 6×6 negative.

[singlepic id=81][/singlepic]
[singlepic id=83][/singlepic]
[singlepic id=84][/singlepic]
[singlepic id=85][/singlepic]

Note: the almost normal perspective lines in the first, the predominance of the hand railing on the second, and of course the lines divergence and convergences on the last two.  

Third: light gets tired travelling longer paths

The truth of the matter is that the path from the pinhole to the corners of the negative is longer than the one to its center. And it gets darker and mostly “unpleasant” for diagonal view angles above 130 deg.

On the other hand we photographers do love the drama of the vignette, the exaggerated convergence of lines, and the elliptical distortions in the corners. But there are limits, so we crop what we can’t distinguish or appreciate anymore.

I settled on 130 deg in my designs, based on what I like and my processes. Other will choose according to their own objectives and skills.

Some time ago I made a 4×5; f140; 21mm focal length; 149 deg diagonal view angle camera;  following are the camera and the drastically cropped image taken with it.

[singlepic id=72 w=325 float=left][/singlepic] [singlepic id=87 w=335 float=left][/singlepic]

At this point it is not only about geometry anymore: film used, exposure methods, developing products and methods all will contribute to getting details on the corners of your image and make the vignette less severe.

But above all it will be what you like and what you see in the images that you have made that counts. This is what makes pinhole photography so amazing.

Building Pinhole Cameras: The Meta-How-To

One of the coolest things about pinhole photography – and honestly a key component that got me hooked – is the fact that you can build pinhole cameras yourself and out of anything that you can make light-tight!

Your imagination and craftsmanship are the only limits in this game!

There are already tons of links out there about how to build a pinhole camera. You can spend DAYS reading about how to build a pinhole camera. Believe me – I have. If you have a knack for DIY, figuring out how to blend multiple plans into a single Frankencamera is a lot of fun too!

It is not my intention to add to the piles of how-to articles. We’re going to add something different – this is going to be a Meta-How-To (yeah I just made that term up).

In this article I’m going to arm you with the info you need so that you can decide what type of camera to build.

Modifications, Freshly Built or Modifying an Existing Camera

Some plans require you build a camera body; while others have you repurpose an existing container. Depending on your tools, abilities, or available time one approach may be more appealing than the other. Let’s look at some options and considerations for each choice.

Building a container yourself

  • At a minimum, you must be able to make the camera body light tight.
  • If you’re going to use paper negatives, the film holder can be fairly simplistic.
  • If you’re going to use roll film, consideration needs to be made for the winding mechanism (more on that below).

Using a prebuilt container

  • Feel free to repurpose anything, an old tea tin, a ceramic tchotchke, an old shoe box…
  • You’ll need to paint the interior to make it flat black (no reflections!)
  • You can make a camera out of any oddball thing you find, making you the hippest kid on the block.
  • The same considerations will still need to be made in regards to film holder mechanisms.

Modifying An Existing Camera

  • My favorite option because part of my joy is to pull apart the camera to see how it worked.
  • One advantage is that your film handling structure is already installed –  for film this is a huge advantage
  • Old cameras can be found in the attic or the antique store – often for under $10!

Paper vs Film vs Instant

On it’s surface, your choice of film or, more technically, sensitized material, seems simple.  And it is simple!  It is important, though, to choose a medium that you’ll enjoy. Choosing the right materials will increase your likelihood of enjoying this pinhole journey you’re embarking on.

Paper Negatives

  • Can be used in many different cameras
  • Needs to be processed at home
  • Requires the tools, chemistry, and skills needed to develop photo paper
  • Black and white only

How to use:  

Paper negatives involve using black and white photographic paper in your camera as a negative. The paper is cut down to size and placed inside the camera body and used like you would film.  Remember to keep the paper under safelight while you are doing the cutting and placing into your camera.  We don’t want to ruin the paper before we expose it! After you expose the negative and develop it, you can either contact print it with another piece of photo paper or use a scanner to digitize and invert the photo on your computer. Paper negatives are the slowest film type, usually about 6 ISO, however they provide a great and unique image quality that you’ll get from nothing else!


  • Camera design needs to have considerations for film handling.
  • Multitude of films to choose from:  Eg. 35mm, 120 (medium format), or large format (such as 4”x5”)
  • Can easily be sent to a lab for processing and scanning, or black and white can be processed at home
  • Black and white or color

How to use:

When building a film fed pinhole camera, the important thing to consider is the winding mechanism. We’ll set aside the use of large format film for now because that’s very specialized. If you don’t have good structural support for the 35mm canister or 120 spool, you can run into binding issues making it difficult or impossible to wind the film. The film must have a sturdy holding mechanism and also a smooth method of winding the film without disturbing the light tightness of the camera body.  If this makes you nervous, modifying an existing film camera might be more your speed until you have gotten more comfortable with your creations. 35mm and 120 are both roll format films – 35mm being the common canister you’ve often seen; and 120 being a larger film on a spool with paper backing. Both 35mm and 120 are fairly economical, with 35mm being the cheaper option. Both films can be sent to a number of labs around the country for processing and scanning before returning to you.

Instant Film (e.g. Polaroid):

  • It’s easiest for processing so long as your camera must have proper roller system for it
  • Want your photos now? This is super easy – snap in a pack, take the pic, rip the film out, and wait 60 seconds!
  • Black and white or color

The right equipment is necessary. Don’t worry – finding it is not that hard. Hit the antique store and look for old Polaroid Land Cameras. When you find one, open the back and make sure the rollers are clean. Then Google the model number and see if it takes Polaroid 669 film. If it does, you’re in luck – Fuji’s got your film needs covered! All you have to do is remove the lens and put in a pinhole.

Other Considerations

Whatever your film choice, consideration must be given to how your camera will be used “in the field”. Are you ok with only changing the film or paper negative at home? Then little consideration is needed. However if you want to be able to change sheets of paper, rolls of film, or packs of instant film, some forethought is necessary for your design. All this means is – think about your camera design and what it will take to change the film. Is this a process you’re comfortable with doing in the field? Do you care?

Pinhole Sources

The traditional way to get yourself a pinhole is to literally take a tiny pin and slowly bore a pinhole into a piece of aluminum. Here’s a bunch of videos to help you with that. If you’re just toying around, this is a great way to get started.

When you get a little more serious, and want your pinholes to be more precise, you can get laser drilled pinholes to exact diameters.  You can sometimes get these mounted onto a larger disc for easier handling, while others will just be a tiny piece of aluminum. There are lots of options for you to choose the type that suite your own needs.Here’s a Google to get you started.

You might be wondering what size pinhole you should use. Well, lucky for you, there’s a calculator for that!  Just plug in your camera measurements and it’ll guide you towards the right size. Just note – laser cut pinholes are usually measured in microns, and 100 microns is a tenth of a mm (e.g. 100 microns = 0.1mm).

Random Features

There’s lots of room for creativity in your designs.

  • Try a  panoramic camera with a curved film plane to avoid distortion and vignetting over a long film plane.
  • Integrate a film mask to get a super crisp edge or custom image markings
  • Bullseye bubble levels for quick level reference
  • Cable release adaptors are by no means a must-have, but sure can be nice in certain situations.


I hope that I’ve helped you leap a few steps down the path to figuring out which plan works best for you. But, this is just one article, so I’m sure there’s other questions. Feel free to put them in the comments below and I’ll get to them soon!