Pinhole Passion: Instant Pinhole Camera in a Cigarette Pack


To celebrate this year's World Pinhole Photography Day, I've been making pinhole cameras in all the film formats I'm familiar with: 35mm, 120, 110, and now... Instant Film! So, I'm now about to show you how to get something good out of a bad, bad habit: let's make a DiY pinhole camera for your Instax Mini film!

Smoking is such a bad habit and all of us smokers should quit asap for our own good and for the people around us as well. While working on it, though, we could still turn empty cigarette packs into very basic pinhole cameras. Of course you could follow this tipster and turn it into a 35mm pinhole camera, but as you can see in the picture below, the average cigarette pack has the same size of Fuji Instax mini film, so you may want to try making an Instant Pinhole Camera!

You will need:

  • an empty cigarette box
  • black electrical tape
  • a piece of aluminum (you can cut it out of an empty soda can)
  • a pin
  • a pair of scissors
  • a marker…
  • and instant film, of course!

1. First, take your ciggy pack and take out the plastic wrapping outside and the silver paper inside.

2. Mark the centre of the film area (you can use an old instax photo to get the idea), draw a little square around it and cut it out from your pack.

3. Now, you will need a piece of thin tin that you can easily cut out of an empty soda can. Just pierce it with a pin and tape it on the pack’s window that you’ve just cut out.

4. You can now start covering your whole camera with black tape to make it light-proof, except for the part that needs to be opened in order to put the film inside it. The black tape I used is quite large, so I decided to leave some extra tape already half-glued to the pack so that it was easier for me to completely wrap my camera with tape in the darkness after inserting the film.

By the way, you will have to put the film in with its back facing the pinhole (see picture below), but DO NOT insert film now: you can only do so in a completely dark room!

5. Before putting the film in, you will have to make some sort of a shutter, or light will leak in through the pinhole. I made mine folding a long piece of tape on itself. I put it on the front of my camera and taped it with a red tape band on top to keep in place and another smaller piece of red tape on bottom which keeps the shutter closed. To open it, I only have to lift the red tape and the shutter itself.

Now that your camera is almost entirely light-proof, you can finally put the film in it. This is the most difficult part of this project, so let’s first talk about the issues and then let’s (try to) find a solution.

As you already know, instant film comes in cartridges, and it’s not easy to take single film “sheets” out of it. If you have an Instant Back+ , no problem: you can build a DIY Instant Pinhole Camera like this one and the Instant Back+ will do all the dirty job for you.

The camera we’re building here does not require an Instant Back+, but this means that we have to use this camera with one film sheet at a time, as it would be quite difficult to build a mechanism that ejects a single sheet of film at a time.

So, basically, we will take the ten film sheets out of the cartridge in complete darkness, put one in the camera, take a picture, go back to our “darkroom”, take the film out, press the white edges where the chemical stuff is to develop the picture, turn on the lights and finally see our picture.

This is going to take some time, and in order not to waste the film you will have to keep the nine sheets yet to be exposed in a light tight container and repeat the whole process each time you want to use this instant pinhole camera.

Frankly, this would be quite a drag, especially if you consider that it takes more time to put the film into the camera than making the camera itself. That’s why I decided to make more than just one camera, so that once I opened the cartridge I could already put all the ten film sheets in different pinhole cameras and have them ready to use.

So, here are two other instant pinhole cameras I made out of cigarette packs:

What happened to the other seven sheets of film from that same cartridge, you ask?

I made some other pinhole cameras which are quite different from this project. If you’re curious about it, just head over to my blog – I’ll be publishing them in the next few days.

Back to this current project; another major problem when you do not have an Instax Back+ is that you will have to find a way to press the chemicals contained in the white parts of the film in order to develop your picture.

The thing is: if you don’t press it enough, the photo will not fully develop; at the same time, if you push it too much, you will end up with a black liquid endlessly flowing out of your film. This personally happened to me when I was trying to develop the first picture I took with my DIY single use instant pinhole camera:

You can now only see a tiny black stain in the corner, but you cannot even imagine how my kitchen sink looked after the film started bleeding an awful lot black ink or whatever it was!

This photo was a total failure: I tried to develop it rolling a pencil on it a few times, so many times, actually, and pushing it so much that it started spilling that black thing.

Yet, the picture was still looking too pale, so I had the not-so-brilliant idea of heating the film using a lighter. The photo turned a bit purple at the beginning, then all of a sudden it turned all blue.

Thankfully, I was way luckier with the second trial:

This time the picture looks pinkish because right after taking my photo I put my pinhole camera in the freezer and left it there for a couple of minutes, and only then I took it to my darkroom to take the picture out and develop it. This time I pressed it more gently, rubbing the white parts with my fingers only, and the results are better, I guess… If you do not consider the fact that I was aiming at my dogs but didn’t apparently get them in my picture.

I haven’t tested the third ciggy-cam yet as I want to keep it for World Pinhole Photography Day next April 28th, but I’ll share that picture and other shots from all the pinhole cameras I’ve built for the occasion on my blog as soon as I get to process them.

So lastly, a quick recap:

1. Make your camera, cover the pinhole with the shutter, make sure no light is leaking in and only leave the upper part of the ciggy pack to put the film in.

2. You will have to go to a completely dark room to open the film cartridge and load the film to your camera.

3. Use the exposure guide below to determine how long to keep the shutter open (remember that Fuji Instax Mini film is an ISO 800 film).

4. Once you’ve taken your picture, close the shutter and keep the camera closed until you get into the darkroom again.

5. Once there, open the camera, take the film out, and press the white edges to make the developing process start. Do not press too much or you’ll end up with black chemical stuff everywhere!

6. Only turn on the light after you pressed the film, starting the developing process. If you expose the film before it is beginning to develop, it will be light-sensitive still, and you will burn it.

7. Once you’ve opened it, the film cartridge cannot be exposed to light. Keep it in a light-tight container. You can build one using another pack of cigarettes completely covered with black tape. Otherwise, make a pinhole camera for each of the ten film sheets in pack so that you will have them ready to use.

I really hope you enjoyed this clumsy tutorial and had fun making your own instant pinhole camera in a ciggy pack. If you have any advice or want to share any pinhole-related story, I’d be more than happy to hear them!

written by bunnyears on 2013-04-26 in #gear #tipster #instant-pinhole #pinhole-passion #instant-film #pinhole-photography #pinhole-camera #diy #pinhole #instant #instax-mini #tutorial #pinhole-tutorial


  1. pulex
    pulex ·

    i may try this at home tonight, it may also work putting the whole filmpack in the cigarettepack, expose, then take the film out in the dark and put it in my diana instant back, push the button and let it roll through so it should develop even....or so, read am articel on doing this with integral film in packfilm-backs, this must also work here!

  2. bunnyears
    bunnyears ·

    Hi @pulex, that's a clever idea! Let me know if it works and... have fun!

  3. bunnyears
    bunnyears ·


  4. pulex
    pulex ·

    @bunnyears: it did work!

  5. bunnyears
    bunnyears ·

    @pulex : sorry for the late reply, I'm so glad to hear that! I'd like to see your results, I looked at your albums but couldn't find any shots, I only looked at 15 or so pages though 'cause my wifi connection is so slow but I'd really appreciate it if you could show me your pictures! :-)

  6. pulex
    pulex ·

    @bunnyears: been very lazy with scanning my instants and uploading my photos..lack of time! maybe i´ll manage to scan and upload in the Holidays!

  7. bunnyears
    bunnyears ·

    @pulex Don't tell me about that, I have twelve rolls waiting to be developed... from April! ;-)
    In case you get to upload them drop me a line!
    Happy holidays!

  8. iyanibiyazh
    iyanibiyazh ·

    I made a a pinhole using fujiinsta film and when my film develops it's just a blank white. I don't understand can someone help?

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