How to Make a Pinhole Camera

In the age of digital cameras and instant gratification, make the simplest camera ever invented using just a light proof box, a hole, and paper.


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You Will Need

  • 1 clean, 7" tall oatmeal box
  • Heavy foil
  • Craft or utility knife
  • Matte or flat black spray paint
  • Black contact paper
  • A No. 16 bead-threading needle
  • Epoxy glue
  • White glue
  • Handful of cotton swabs
  • Electrical tape
  • Ruler
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Photo emulsion paper
  • A completely dark room
  • A place to develop your film
  • 1 Aluminum soda can


  1. Step 1

    Clean the box

    Clean out the inside of the oatmeal box, making sure no oatmeal dust or oats are left inside.

  2. Step 2

    Remove top and bottom

    Remove the plastic top and bottom from the oatmeal box.

  3. Step 3

    Glue the bottom

    Add a bead of white glue around the lip of the bottom and reattach it. This will ensure no light comes in through the seam.

  4. Step 4

    Paint it black

    Spray paint the inside of the oatmeal box with black paint and let dry. Repeat if necessary. Also spray paint the bottom. Let it dry.

  5. Step 5

    Paint the top

    While the top is off, add contact paper to the box top, then spray paint it black. Make sure it will still fit on the box.

  6. Step 6

    Cut a door

    Use the craft knife to cut a 3-sided rectangle—a long door—about 1.5 inches wide and half an inch tall into the side of the box.

  7. Make sure the rectangle is roughly centered and parallel to the bottom of the container.

  8. Step 7

    Cut a square

    Cut a 2.5-inch square out of heavy aluminum foil.

  9. For something sturdier, you can cut the square from the side of the soda can. But be careful, the edges will be extremely sharp.

  10. Step 8

    Poke a hole

    Using the No. 16 needle, carefully poke a hole into the center of your aluminum square—then sand the hole on both sides with the sandpaper to remove any burrs.

  11. Step 9

    Poke it again

    Re-drill the same hole, and re-sand it a second time.

  12. Be careful not to touch the hole with your fingers, as natural oils from your skin can clog the hole.

  13. Step 10

    Glue the plate

    Dab a little epoxy on the edges of pinhole plate with a cotton swab, making sure not to come anywhere close to the pinhole, and place the plate on the inside the oatmeal box, with the pinhole centered in the rectangle you cut earlier.

  14. Step 11

    Tape the plate

    Add a strip of electrical tape on all sides of the plate to further secure it into place. This will also help it from sliding as the epoxy dries.

  15. Step 12

    Make a latch

    Add a small piece of tape to the outside of the small door that can keep it closed, then put on the box top.

  16. Step 13

    Load the camera

    When you’re ready to load your pinhole camera for a shoot, take it into a completely dark room. While in the dark, remove the photo emulsion paper from it’s wrapping, and place it inside the pinhole camera, curved around the edge, emulsion-side facing the pinhole.

  17. Step 14

    Close the camera

    Close up the box tightly, making sure no light can get in.

  18. Step 15

    Take your shot

    To shoot a scene, point the doorway toward your subject and open the door for about a 20-second exposure.

  19. Step 16

    Remove paper

    After you’ve taken your shot, return to a dark room and remove the paper, making sure to put it back in the lightproof bag it came in.

  20. Step 17

    Develop your film

    Either develop the photo yourself in a darkroom, or take your paper your local high-end camera shop to develop it for you.

  21. Step 18

    Eat your oatmeal

    Don’t forget to eat your oatmeal.

  22. The Chinese mentioned pinhole cameras as far back as 500 B.C.