Pinhole Photography and World Pinhole Day

Firstly, what is a pinhole camera?

In essence a pinhole camera consists of a light-tight box that uses a very small round hole in place of a lens in one end, and light sensitive paper, film or even a digital sensor at the other. When light passes through the hole an image is formed in the camera in the same way as with a conventional camera and lens. The principle is not new, in fact the concept dates back well over 2000 years to the Greeks and Chinese who fully understood the principle and the image forming properties of a small hole in the wall of a darkened room. By the 14th century using ‘Camera Obscura’ devices, scholars were observing solar eclipses while artists used them to sketch out the outline of a scene before painting the image in oils. However it was not until the 1840’s, and the discovery of a way of permanently fixing an image that the modern concept of pinhole photography as we know it today arrived.

I have been involved with Pinhole Photography in one form or another for well over 40 years, using everything from small boxes or tins, through old camera bodies to purpose build large format constructions in order to record an image, and in there own way each one yielded a satisfactory result. In fact this form of photography is unique in the fact that constructing your camera can be just as rewarding as taking and viewing the final result. Nowadays a simple web search will provide anyone interested in the subject, a vast amount of information on Pinhole Photography, and how to get started in this most fascinating branch of image making.

My home built 21″x25″ folding pinhole camera that uses 20″x24″ photographic paper to record the image.

In 2001 the “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day” was created as an on line forum to promote Pinhole Photography, and one day each year, usually the last Sunday in April, “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day” takes place. This year it will be on Sunday April 29th 2018. I have been taking part in the event since 2004, and should you wish to get involved the concept is very simple. You construct yourself a pinhole camera of any type or simply use a pinhole adapter on your existing camera body, then on the day itself you take your pinhole images, then upload just one image to the Gallery.

This truly is a Worldwide event with over 60 countries having taken part last year, so for anyone interested in having a go just visit the “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day” web site for more information, and DO make sure to look at the Gallery section as every image submitted since 2001 is on display. There is no better place to both seek inspiration as well as get a broad overview of just what is possible in this exciting branch of photography.

Here are a few images taken using a 1954 Canon IVSb2 rangefinder camera body, fitted with a home made pinhole lens. The advantages of using a rangefinder body are twofold. On the one hand the body is very slim so the pinhole is very close to the film plain producing a wide angle effect equivalent to a 25mm lens. Secondly, as the pinhole is very small it is quite hard to see through the finder of an SLR type camera, however the finder in a Rangefinder camera is independent  of the optical system so is not effected by the tiny amount of light passing through the pinhole. Not that viewing the scene through the camera is always that important as the joy of pinhole is to point the camera in roughly the right direction, shoot away, and discover the wonderful images you have captured when you return home!

All the following images were taken using the afore mentioned camera, a 25mm focal length pinhole onto 35mm colour negative film then scanned using a Nikon Coolscan film scanner.


(Above) Poppies in Castle Gardens – Leicester

(Above) Views around Westminster – London

(Above) Snowdonia – North Wales

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