Site Updated
June, 2004



  • access to darkroom.
  • appropriate safelight.
  • light-sensitive material for camera negatives (photo-paper)
  • photographic paper for making positive prints
  • white light source for contact printing
  • processing chemistry appropriate to materials  

There are many and varied ways to make functional pinhole cameras and the project illustrated here is aimed at beginners who have access to a black & white darkroom.

This modification of a suitable cardboard box eliminates many potential design faults & variables and is designed to provide novices with predictable, repeatable and enjoyable outcomes.  The key to ‘first time’ success is selection of a suitable box or container to make your pinhole camera and crafting a pinhole aperture with care and precision

These Ilford ™ photographic paper boxes are ideal for conversion due to the dimensions/ depth of box lid

LEFT:  wide box lid is the best option - this 5 x 7 inch photo-paper box is recommended.
RIGHT: avoid ‘shoe’ boxes or similar with narrow, ill-fitting lids as they are somewhat more challenging to make light-tight

Although paint, cake, biscuit, coffee cans etc. can be modified for use they require additional tools and skills outside the scope of this basic camera project

What size camera ?
5x7 inch and 8x10 inch
photo-paper boxes are both suitable .  If your budget limited, choose the smaller size

the larger the camera dimensions the more expensive the photo-paper.

large sheets of photo-paper require larger trays and more photo-chemicals which contribute to increased costs.


> black cloth ‘gaffer’ tape
> matt black paint
> double sided tape
> aluminium pie dish
   and brass sheet metal (shim)
> hobby knife
> fine emery (sand) paper
> cork (sanding) block
> wide felt tip black marking pen
> #10 hand sewing needles
> magnifying glass & loupe
> scissors
> metal ruler & pencil
> calculator (not shown)


draw a line from each opposing corner to form a cross

cut out one inch square hole with hobby knife

paint interior of both front and rear sections of box matt black


convert hobby knife to a drilling tool - replace the blade with a
#10 hand sewing needle

use the cork block to support the square of sheet metal.
hold the drilling tool vertical,  centre the point of the needle
rotate, applying light pressure aim to make a SLIGHT indentation.

inspect the result
the objective is to make a dimple in the sheet metal avoid excessive pressure and do not attempt to pierce the sheet metal at this stage.

turn sheet metal over and using fine emery paper sand away the bump - use as much pressure as required.

Repeat this sequence of  steps at least 3 or 4 times:
                       a) rotate using slight pressure
                       b) reverse sheet metal and sand back the dimple point
                       c) inspect the result (magnifying glass)
when the point of the needle eventually pierces the metal continue to rotate and advance the needle approximately one third of its length      
    Carefully crafted pinhole apertures provide the best results !


blacken the sanded side of the pinhole aperture with broad, felt tip pen or alternatively spray with matt black paint (which may clog the pinhole - check with magnifying glass & reinsert needle to clear).

orientate the aperture with blackened surface facing towards the interior of camera

position the aperture on the OUTSIDE of camera lid.

LEFT- centre the pinhole aperture visually in the cut out square.
RIGHT - tape the pinhole aperture in position - front surface of lid - using strips of black gaffer tape.

next task is to devise a means of temporarily adhering photo-paper to rear wall of camera (prior to exposure) and subsequently removing it (for processing) without damaging material.

cut a 2 inch length of double sided tape and reduce tackiness by repeatedly sticking it to palm of hand then cut into 4 equal pieces
peel backing paper off and adhere to rear wall of camera as shown
the surface with reduced tackiness faces towards you and permits photo-paper to be temporarily positioned flat against rear surface of box prior to exposure and removed for processing without damage.    Alternatively use Blu Tac TM or similar

final step - make a shutter for camera from black gaffer tape and opaque black cardboard or similar - as shown

congratulations, your pinhole camera is completed now it’s time to test for light leaks and make some interesting images!

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