Tag Archives: diy

Inspiration Week of 8/15

Welcome to this week’s set of pinhole inspiration! It’s been a busy week – as the Call for Entry came to a close, we got a flood of GREAT work! We’re very excited about this upcoming project. Don’t stress if you entered and haven’t heard back yet – we have some catching up to do!

Low Season
[singlepic id=449 w=600]Low Season, ©Vincenzo Caniparoli 2016[/singlepic]

Vincenzo Caniparoli made this image recently in Sardinia, Italy as part of his work looking at popular holiday locations during the less popular hours. He used his homemade 4×5 camera with Fomapan 100 to capture the reminiscent scene. You can find more of Vincenzo’s wonderful work on his personal website and his Flickr page.[spacer height=”20px”]

[singlepic id=453 w=600]Untitled, ©Petr Stul 2016[/singlepic]

Petr Stul provides us this beautiful rushing scene that pulls you in close. You can find more of his work on Live Journal, Facebook, 500px, and Flickr.[spacer height=”20px”]

Lunargraphy in summer
[singlepic id=450 w=600]Lunargraphy in Summer, ©Dirk Ahrens 2016[/singlepic]

Dirk Ahrens produced this lunargraphy photo as a first attempt, and a quite wonderful one at that. The experience has taught him a lot, which he’ll use to produce more. The moon stayed low in the sky because of the summer latitude. You can find more of his work, which will soon include more recent lunargraphs, on his Flickr page.[spacer height=”20px”]

Pordenack Point
[singlepic id=451 w=600]Pordenack Point, ©Mark Rowell 2016[/singlepic]

Mark Rowell made serene this photo with his Zero Image 45 loaded with New55 film from Pordenack Point looking across Zawn Trevilley towards Carn Boel. He has more great imagery on his Flickr profile.[spacer height=”20px”]

Trouville crépuscule
[singlepic id=452 w=600]Trouville Crépuscule, ©Etienne Boissise 2016[/singlepic]

Etienne Boissise likes how “pinhole sets you free from the ordinary eye’s perception” and how holding the camera over a long exposure involves the hand and body in a way that other forms lack. The result in this beach scene is extraordinary. You can find more of Etienne’s work on Flickr.

Inspiration Week of 8/8

Summer is winding down but it has been a looong week here. Lots of meetings, and LOTS of great entries coming in for the Call for Entry (only a few days left!) – we’re looking forward to the weekend here at ƒ/D. Thankfully, some fresh pinhole inspiration to keep the spirits up![spacer height=”20px”]

Summer Eyes
[singlepic id=440 w=600]Summer Eyes Diptych, ©Victor Senkov 2016[/singlepic]

Viktor Senkov made this warm image with his converted Lubitel 2 pinhole camera and Kodak Portra 400. He is a very accomplished photographer and works in many forms of the medium. You can see more of his work on his Flickr profile.[spacer height=”20px”]

Pinhole Session with Ben
[singlepic id=438 w=600]Pinhole Session with Ben, ©Bernie Vander Wal 2016[/singlepic]

Bernie Vander Wal hails from BC, Canada who took up pinhole photography 5 years ago because of the way it related to the aesthetic of painting that he’s trained in. He builds his own cameras and mostly captures his local landscape, but has been branching out to portraiture. This photo is a collaboration with his grandson Ben, as he introduces the young man to the art form. You can find more of Bernie’s work on his Flickr page here.[spacer height=”20px”]

[singlepic id=439 w=600]Restaurant, ©Paul Jones 2016[/singlepic]

Paul Jones made this image outside the Lost Soul restaurant in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC. He’s got a solid body of good pinhole work on his Flickr profile, and I encourage you to check it out.[spacer height=”20px”]

Forest stream
[singlepic id=436 w=600]Forest Stream, ©Alexander Popov 2016[/singlepic]

Alexander Popov made this double exposure to create a wispy feel to the forest using his DIY 6×6 pinhole camera. Double exposures can be tricky, but it definitely worked for him. You can find more of his excellent work on his Flickr page. [spacer height=”20px”]

my favorite tree
[singlepic id=437 w=600]My Favorite Tree, ©Dieter Schneider 2016[/singlepic]

Dieter Schneider captured this moment of his favorite tree using an Ondu 4×5 camera. Dieter has developed a truly remarkable and consistent feel to his work and I encourage you to check it out on his Flickr page.

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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!



Inspiration Week of 6/20

For this week’s inspirational set, we bring 4 movements, all from Europe. Which is appropriate, I suppose, since the whole world is looking to Europe today due to the passage of the Brexit. No matter your political leanings on the issue, we think you’ll find these works inspiring. If you need more, as always, you can check out our recap galleries!

Pinhole No.1
[singlepic id=370 w=600]Pinhole No.1 ©Christian Schaus 2016[/singlepic]

Christian Schaus wielded his Zero Image 2000 loaded with Ilford Pan-F to make this image at Jervaulx Abbey Park, in Yorkshire Dales, England while on holiday in August last year. This trip was his first time using a pinhole camera, where he fell in love with the simplicity of it, and he hasn’t used any other format since! You can find more of his fantastic pinhole images on his Flickr page.


Stockholm Central Station
[singlepic id=371 w=600]Stockholm Central Station, ©Gunnar Eld 2016[/singlepic]

Gunnar Eld loaded his Ondu 6×6 with HP5+ for this scene of the Stockholm Central Station, and as a result of the 6 minute exposure, most of the people have vanished from the image, which “adds another dimension to images where only things more permanent stay visible. Perhaps a thought that applies to other things in life as well.” Indeed. You can find more of Gunnar’s work on his Flickr page.


[singlepic id=369 w=600]Machina,©Zoltan Adam Varga 2016[/singlepic]

Zoltan Adam Varga made this abstracted detail of a washing machine with his homemade 6×6 pinhole camera and Kodak Ektar 100. His camera is made of LEGOs, plastic sheets, a mouse pad, and aluminum beer can for the pinhole. Something to remember if you ever lament not having the shiniest and newest camera! You can find more of Zoltan’s remarkable pinhole photography on his Flickr page.


[singlepic id=372 w=600]Untitled, ©Maciej Mucha 2016[/singlepic]

Maciej Mucha made this impressionistic capture in London with a homemade box camera loaded with Ilford IVMG paper. He held the camera for 25 seconds while making the exposure of skyscrapers. A creative boldness that has paid off very well in this case! You can find more of Maciej’s excellent pinhole work on his Flickr page and on his portfolio website.



Build a Pinholga!

For those of us not endowed with fine builder skills, converting an existing camera into a pinhole camera is one of the surest ways to get yourself a reliable rig for shooting pinhole. In addition to taking care of the camera housing for you, a camera conversion can add other advantages such as reliable film transport, a viewfinder, and built-in tripod adaptor. In this article, I’ll cover how to convert a Holga camera into a pinhole camera.

Holga made a couple different pinhole variants of their popular camera, so why would I convert a lens-based one into a pinhole version? I had several of them sitting around, and I didn’t care for the particular vignetting on this one, so I decided to rip it apart and document the process for you. Some of what I’m going to cover here can be applied to any camera conversion.

[singlepic id=365 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]Start by removing the two screws – one above the square and one below – and the entire front of the camera will come off. That’s all it takes to remove the lens and shutter housing on the Holga! With other cameras it’s not as common to be able to remove the whole housing with just a couple screws. Evaluate the camera construction to see how to remove the lens.



[singlepic id=362 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]With the lens and shutter housing removed, you have access to the most important part of this build on the Pinholga. For other camera types, this is where your most important decisions come into play. Will you use the lens housing at all? If so, you need to figure out how to remove the glass. Will you ditch the lens housing and just use the shutter? Then you’ll need to mount the pinhole with room for shutter action. Or you can ditch the whole lens and shutter housing and mount the pinhole straight to the camera body. But doing that will mean you have to figure out an alternate shutter – not difficult, but a consideration all the same.




[singlepic id=363 w=100 float=left][/singlepic]For the Pinholga, I’ll be ditching the lens, but keeping the shutter mechanism. To get rid of the Holga lens, it’s as easy as unscrewing it enough that it pops off. You’ll unscrew it (focus towards infinity) till you feel it stop – then turn it some more. With the lens out of the picture, you can reassemble just the shutter and housing and mount it back to the camera. You’ll find that the aperture gives plenty of room for the pinhole.




[singlepic id=366 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]On the Holga, the lens focus was stopped by a peg, basically to keep you from unscrewing the lens every time you focus on infinity. But it’s not conducive to pinhole – it’ll be in your field of view, and it’s a light leak. My solution: chop it off with the Dremel tool. But you can use anything that can slice through plastic. Just get rid of it.




[singlepic id=364 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]For the pinhole, I had a couple options. One option was to use some laser drilled pinholes I had from eBay. Another option was a pinhole ordered from RealitySoSubtle. I decided to go with the RealitySoSubtle pinhole largely because it comes premounted on a disk that makes it much easier to mount nice and flat. If you’re working on a different camera conversion, consider what will mount easiest and how you’ll secure it nice and flat – the photo quality will turn out much higher with a flat pinhole.



[singlepic id=367 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]Gaffer’s tape – I could write poetry about gaffer’s tape. If you don’t have any, buy a lot. You’ll use it for years. It’s great because it doesn’t leave residue, but is strong as duct tape. Here you can see that’s what I’ve used to secure the pinhole.






[singlepic id=368 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]Once your pinhole is on there, you’re basically done. But if you’re looking for extras – you can buy a gross of bullseye levels on the cheap from eBay, and it can be perfectly secured with a healthy dollop of epoxy. One addition that I consider a must-have for the Pinholga – if you keep the shutter in tact – is to use the cable release adaptor.

Finally, a bonus feature of the Pinholga: a 46mm filter will screw right into the plastic adaptor that the (now discarded) lens used to attach to. Hello B&W filters!

That’s it – the relatively simple Pinholga build! Once you have the materials assembled, I’ll bet you can get it done in under an hour. Happy pinholing!





Notes on 3D Printing Pinhole Cameras (or “You Can Do It Too”)

Editor’s Note: In many circles today, 3D printing is making huge waves. This relatively new technology, which was once reserved for large corporate R&D departments, is now available for a larger market to make numerous innovative products. One could say that it was only a matter of time before this technology made it’s way into photography circles.

With the numerous possibilities of 3D printing in mind, ƒ/D is overjoyed today to bring you an article written by guest author Todd Schlemmer. Todd joins us to enlighten us on his adventures in 3D printing pinhole cameras and how you can print one of his cameras, even if you don’t have your own printer!

All images in this article are ©Todd Schlemmer.


[singlepic id=190 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]I built my first pinhole camera some years ago, a heavy mahogany box bristling with all the brass embellishments I could find at the hardware store. I had thought about making such a camera for a long time, and I read everything I could find on the subject before sitting down to do the math. I selected a 6X6 format, and despite my ignorance and ham-fisted carpentry, the darned thing worked. To a degree. Sort of.

My camera’s – and my photographs’ – defects weren’t related to the basic calculations of pinhole photography and camera design, but to practical, film-handling considerations. I didn’t trust little red panes to keep photo-destroying light at bay. Without accurate indexing, I wasted film or worse, overlapped my photos. Unloading that first camera became a nervous exercise in destroying exposures. The shutter was a felted blade that pivoted open, often blurring the resultant image with movement.

I loved everything about it.

I designed and built another camera, and another, each an evolution from the previous. I improved the shutter, lightened the construction, and my photos improved. Learning to use a light meter and pre-calculating exposures with reciprocity failure went a long way towards better photographs, but I also came to know and trust my camera and films.

My Background

Three years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do with a 3D printer. Certain patents had expired and the technology was finding its way to hobbyists. I bought a kit of hardware and smoky laser-cut plywood parts and assembled them, intimately teasing out their secrets in the process. Meanwhile, I taught myself how to design objects for 3D printing, using tools like TinkerCad and OpenSCAD. Watching my new machine print an object, layer after layer, fascinated me. As my technical proficiency increased, my designs became more complex and I began to think about making functional objects instead of gnomes.

Which lead me back to pinhole cameras (and got me making pinhole photographs again). I was inspired by the Dirkon, a paper-craft pinhole camera design published in a Czechoslovakian magazine in 1979. A single printed template for the Dirkon could be used by many people to make a camera, and hundreds – possibly thousands – were cut out, folded up, and glued together.

[singlepic id=194 w=200 float=left] [/singlepic]My first 3D printed pinhole camera design was an ugly 35mm job PINHE4D that worked beautifully. I then designed a large format 4X5 camera, the PINH5AD, which worked well too. The PINH5AD received some attention on various blogs and websites. I’ve since designed many more cameras and accessories, all of which are freely available for download.


[singlepic id=193 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]Thingiverse.com is a free online repository for sharing 3D printing files, owned by Makerbot Industries, a 3D printer manufacturer. Posting my work on Thingiverse.com proved a perfect way to share my work and hundreds of people around the world have downloaded my pinhole camera designs. I continue to iterate my designs, improving and refining construction, details, and accessories and I receive priceless feedback from people who 3D print and/or use them. The cameras are licensed as “Collective Commons Attribution-NonCommercial” which means that anyone can share, download or 3D print them, or modify them to their purposes, so long as the original design is credited, and no money changes hands.

When I shared my first camera designs, some people were skeptical that they worked without any photographic proof. I now post every photograph I make with my pinhole cameras. I aspire first to make good exposures and then good art, and I don’t alter, manipulate, or otherwise edit my scanned negatives and slides. My photos are an objective history of my learning process – 3D printing and pinhole photography.

[singlepic id=188 w=500]Bridge, Taken with PIN5HAD[/singlepic]

About 3D Printing

If you’re not familiar with 3D printing, the concept can be mind-blowing. Essentially a tiny computer-controlled glue gun, the printer actually draws an object in three dimensions, layer by layer. For hobbyist / consumer-type FDM (Fused Depositional Modeling) printers, the “ink” is a thermoplastic polymer filament with desirable thermal, strength, and stability properties. The filament comes in rolls and is either 3mm or 1.75mm in diameter. Filament is usually about US$40/kg, but you can pay more or less.

An object is designed in a simple CAD environment, and saved as a file which can then be “sliced” for your printer’s capabilities and your preferences. Like a player piano, the 3D printer reads the resultant Gcode, obeying the the sequential instructions for building the object.

It is mind-blowing.

Designing for 3D printing is an interesting exercise. Each layer of a 3D printed object requires something under it for support. If you wanted to 3D print a miniature kitchen table, the best way to print it would be to flip it upside-down. Printing it right-side-up works fine until you finish printing the legs and then the next layer, the underside of the tabletop, is mostly printed over thin air. A 3D printer will happily try to make this happen, but expect a pile of extruded plastic spaghetti. The software programs that convert a CAD file to 3D printer instructions can usually build temporary support structures to support overhanging parts, but the table is an extreme example and the required support is wasteful in time and materials. To avoid “overhang” issues, I have designed my cameras as collections of discreet parts which must be assembled with a few bits of hardware. This lets me optimize each part’s design and orientation for “printability”, but they still require finishing and assembly.

[singlepic id=196 w=500]Tank, Photographed with the PINHE4D[/singlepic]


3D Printing Options

[singlepic id=192 w=200 float=left] [/singlepic]I give my designs away because I want people to use my cameras
I recognize that most people do not have (or believe they don’t have) access to a 3D printer. This situation (currently) makes for a technological or economic barrier to entry. However, 3D printers are becoming more common, are becoming cheaper, and the sharing economy is making the technology more widely available. So, lacking a printer, how can you get one of my pinhole cameras?

Use a 3D printing service
Shapeways and Ponoko are two such web-based services, and I am sure there are others. My first foray into 3D printing was having custom Prius hubcaps printed by Shapeways, while I waited for my 3D printer kit to arrive.

These companies use commercial 3D printers that differ from the FDM consumer machines for which my cameras were intended. This would be an expensive experiment, but you could have a camera printed in a variety of materials. Of course, opacity and strength are considerations; so too are post-printing fit and finishing. Ceramic or aluminum are probably not viable options.

Peers with 3D Printers
There are a number of websites that serve to connect people possessing 3D printers with those who would 3D print something. I have participated in such a website as a 3D printer guy, but was discouraged by many designs that were unprintable. Coming up with your own design, from scratch, can take a lot of trial and error that is difficult without a printer at hand. Because of this, I’ve made sure my cameras are vetted designs that print well on a variety of machines, and you can be confident that taking my design to one of these printers should work well.

[singlepic id=189 w=500]Church, Taken with P66W[/singlepic]


Join a Makerspace or Hackerspace
Known by a variety of names, these are community-operated physical places, where people share their interests in tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other. Hackerspaces typically have 3D printers, laser cutters, assorted milling or wood-working tools, but every facility is different. Classes are often available. I learned how to program the open source CAD application OpenSCAD through a class I took at a local hackerspace. Expect to find very savvy people who can help you with your 3D printing project. Costs are often very reasonable but membership or hourly rates may apply.

Find a friend with a 3D printer
Ask around. When someone starts using a 3D printer, odds are good they will share what they’re doing with co-workers, friends, and family. This person may be able to help you. Expect to pay for time and materials.

[singlepic id=191 w=500]Mt Si, Taken with PINH5AD[/singlepic]


Get a 3D printer
It’s not as crazy as it sounds! A versatile printer that can produce my cameras and other nifty things can be had for less than US$500. Obviously, I believe in the future of this technology and I hope my pinhole camera projects serve to evangelize and promote it. There are all manner of clever people designing clever things and sharing them online. You can join their ranks.

Some advice, should you set out on this adventure: Buy and use open source products whenever possible. There are a number of contentious patent wars being waged by big players against smaller players. This situation is ugly and threatens to stifle innovation and increase costs. MAKE: magazine regularly reviews 3D printers and is a “Maker” Consumer Reports. Secondly, a 3D printer can be a fiddly beast and you will benefit from assembling a kit for your first printer. You’ll save some money, and you’ll learn exactly how your printer works, making your printer a tool, rather than an appliance.

[singlepic id=195 w=500]Space Needle, Taken with P66W[/singlepic]


Buy a pinhole camera from me
3D printing is not a process that lends itself to mass-production. 3D printing is best applied as distributed production, meaning that everyone who wants an object can just make their own. Originally intended for rapid prototyping, it has become an engine for novelty and customization, but cannot compete with other production technologies like injection-molding or even sand-casting. I don’t want to be in the 3D printing business. I want you to 3D print your own cameras, assemble them and make awesome photographs.

However, I recognize that the intersection of pinhole photographers and 3D printer owners is a tiny set of interesting people. So, occasionally, I sell cameras to photographers on Tindie.com. I haven’t listed everything that I can make, and demand is small, but if you want a camera, I can print and assemble it.
CAD software allows me to accurately dimension focal lengths and frame sizes, and the pinholes in my cameras are hand-made with equal precision. I use 0.001-inch-thick brass sheet and “drill” the aperture with a tiny precisely-measured awl. Finally, the pinhole is measured under a digital microscope and examined to check for flaws and roundness. This degree of precision allows me to specify an f-number for my cameras with confidence.

[singlepic id=197 w=500]Tube, Taken with P66[/singlepic]


Guidelines for 3D printing one of my cameras

Source files
As mentioned, all my camera designs (et al.) are freely available for download from Thingiverse.com

Some of my designs feature optional or redundant parts that can be confusing. Parts are “plated” (grouped for printing multiple parts simultaneously) and available as discreet objects. Additionally, my recent designs have a zip file containing all the necessary parts to 3D print a camera. Start with one of those. If you have questions, or problems with the files, I am very accessible through the Thingiverse messaging system and/or comments section for an individual design.

For FDM 3D printing, the two primary filament choices are ABS (think LEGO) or PLA (think compostable picnic ware). Prices are usually comparable, but the materials differ in various properties.
ABS is absolutely opaque, resilient, but stinky when printed. It also has a vexing tendency to warp while being printed. PLA is more pleasant to use, smelling like maple syrup (really!), is not prone to warping, but is often translucent to light which is a negative for camera production. I have found a PLA made by Shaxon that is both opaque and cheap (US$25/kg) and there may be other suitable filaments from other vendors. There are a number of other plastics that people are experimenting with, but they tend to be pricey, fussy, and are typically transparent-ish.

This may mean nothing to you at this point, but when you get a 3D printer, this will begin to make sense. The objects to be printed are files in an STL format. Essentially a numerical representation of a three-dimensional volume, this shape must be “sliced” into layers before printing. The slicer (ex. Slic3r or Cura) serves as a printer driver to your 3D printer and controls tool-pathing, layer height, speed, and infill density among others. The slicer generates a set of instructions in “Gcode” to explicitly tell the printer how to build your object. The Gcode controls the temperature of the extruder and the heated print bed, the speed of the extruder while printing, the diameter of your filament (Yup, it varies), cooling fans, among many other parameters. It is beyond the scope of this forum to walk you through all the possible settings for your slicing software, but most 3D printers come with a configuration to get your started.

Once you have set up your slicer software, the important parameters are:
Layer Height – All my camera’s parts are some multiple of 0.20mm in height. Setting layer height to 0.20mm will provide dimensional accuracy.

Infill – I usually print with at least 50% infill for durability, but you can get away with less if your filament is opaque or you want to save some time printing. Infill can take a number of forms (rectilinear, hexagonal, and exotic mathematical structures), but simple is often best.

Top and Bottom Layers – Again, opacity and strength are very important, and I use at least three solid layers top and bottom. This means that the 3D printer will print three solid layers before it begins to use a fractional infill for the interior of the part. Similarly, the printer will print the top three layers of any surface as solid. The first solid layer may be rough or droopy, but subsequent layers will smooth out.

I hope you are intrigued by 3D printing and I sincerely hope you print one of my cameras!


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!



A Survey of Cameras

By this point we may have inspired you to dream of making your own wonderful pinhole photos and explore how this technique might help all of your photographic endeavors. One of the first decisions to make is exactly how you might go about doing that. Never fear! While in olden times some of us had to scratch and scrape together a hodgepodge of a camera, nowadays there are very high quality cameras available for very reasonable prices. Continue reading A Survey of Cameras