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Making ‘Pinhole Portrait’

Yikes! What the heck’s this?

It’s a self-portrait, made with a pinhole lens on my digital camera.

Your ‘pukka’ pinhole cameras are made of polished wood, with a tiny pinhole punched through a brass plate. They are works of art in themselves.

Other people make pinhole cameras out of anything that can be made light-proof … a cereal box … and old beer can … even a  spam tin

And, with a little bit of DIY skill you can convert your DSLR to a pinhole camera. I give full details how to do it here.

The beauty of pinhole photography is that it is incredibly basic, and gives images with a fuzzy, other-worldly look. What’s more, because of the tiny aperture used, pinhole cameras also have an amazing depth of field – from a few centimetres to infinity.

This photograph was made with my DSLR using a home-made pinhole lens. I simply set the camera to ‘Manual’ mode (modern digital cameras get upset if you try to do this in any other mode, and may refuse to work), sat in a chair and held the camera close, pointing at my face.

I had to take several shots, experimenting with the shutter speed to get the correct exposure. So little light is getting into the camera through the pinhole that the light meter won’t work. In the end I discovered 3 seconds gave me the best result … and it wasn’t too difficult to sit stock still for that time.

 The other thing to remember is that, as well as the light meter not working, you won’t be able to see anything through the viewfinder, either. So, even if you’re doing landscapes (which work well with this technique), you’ll have to work by trial and error.

But that’s the beauty of pinhole photography.

Technical details:

  • Pinhole lens, see here for details of how I made it.
  • Aperture unknown, but tiny.
  • Shutter speed 3 seconds



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