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 #instant-pinhole #pinhole-passion #instant-film #diy #pinhole-photography #pinhole-camera #pinhole #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?

More Interesting Articles

  • December 13th Advent Offer: Take Advantage of our Festive 3 For 2 Film Deals! (Online Code: 3FOR2HOLIDAYFILM)

    written by jacobs on 2014-12-13 in #news
    December 13th Advent Offer: Take Advantage of our Festive 3 For 2 Film Deals!  (Online Code: 3FOR2HOLIDAYFILM)

    Have you been waiting for a good time to load up on films for all your treasured analogue cameras? The time has come with our stunning Advent deal of the day! With our sweet film packs, we make it easy to cache away enough to last the fun and festive parties coming up. Start stashing now by heading over to our Online Shop!

  • Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-04-22 in #gear #news
    Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    Capture the world and all its contours in vibrant, wide-angled photographs any time, any where! The LC-A 120 is an adventure of its own with lots of exciting functions to experiment with, like seamless long exposures or full ISO control. It's also super-fast and ultra-compact - perfect for your everyday. If you're worried about the Medium Format film, don't be! You are free to use any 120 Film you want and there are plenty to choose from. In fact, that's what makes this camera so versatile! Scroll through this gallery for a little taste of the glorious shots this nifty invention is capable of.

  • LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-14 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    Previously a music journalist, Stephen Dowling now writes for the BBC. If that isn't interesting enough, London-based writer is also passionate about film photography. He has blog called zorkiphoto where he writes about all his favourite cameras and film types. The folks over at Lomography UK lent him an LC-A 120 and, as you'll see in a bit, he managed to get some wonderful shots.

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Pushing Boundaries: So I Heard You Like Multiple Exposures

    written by Amber Valentine on 2015-04-11 in #world #tipster
    Pushing Boundaries: So I Heard You Like Multiple Exposures

    My name is Amber Valentine and I have a confession to make: I’m not really a photographer. I have a website full of photographs, a bookshelf full of cameras, film waiting to be developed, and a wall full of framed pictures I’ve taken. Even so, I don’t really consider myself a photographer per se. I think that Lomography is more about the experimentation and the fun of film than it is about the photography, and that experimentation is part of the reason I have embraced Lomography so.

  • Robin Rimbaud Shoots with the LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-10-05 in #people #lomoamigos
    Robin Rimbaud Shoots with the LC-A 120

    Robin Rimbaud is a UK based artist, record producer, and composer who works under the name "Scanner" in reference to his use of mobile phone signals and police scanners in his early performances. He has worked on soundtracks for films, sound installations, radio, dance and theater. Robin also has a passion for medium format photography, owns a Holga camera and has a unique photographic style. Get to know him in this interview, where he talks about his personal work as well as his experience with the Lomo LC-A 120.

  • Watch: Shelley - A LomoChrome Purple 16mm Movie By Julian Hand

    written by shhquiet on 2015-11-18 in #gear #news #videos
    Watch: Shelley - A LomoChrome Purple 16mm Movie By Julian Hand

    In case you missed the news, the LomoChrome Purple film that you know and love is now available in 16mm format, in limited quantities only. If you have a 16mm camera or know someone else who does, make sure to share the news! This beautiful film delivers a nostalgic, dream-like effect in purple tones. To illustrate, check out the movie by Julian Hand after the jump ...

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Registering Moments With the Lomo'Instant

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-05-02 in #gear #lifestyle
    Registering Moments With the Lomo'Instant

    Some people say instant photos bring about a feeling of nostalgia. Although I often use the Lomo'Instant Camera with different crazy accessories such as the Splitzer and color gels, I have to agree there is something about it — dreamy vignettes maybe? — that always makes me want to go back in time and experience it all over again. In the name of analogue photography and good old memories, we passed by some classic spots in Vienna and took one shot after the other. Take a closer look at our gallery.

  • Five Films for Low Light Conditions

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-25 in #gear #reviews
    Five Films for Low Light Conditions

    As many of you would already know, shooting under low light conditions require more than a steady grip (or a tripod) if you're aiming for outstanding results. You must also have the proper gear, and that, of course, includes film. In this post, we list down five fast films that work their best under such conditions.

  • Photo of the Day by bravopires

    written by lomography on 2015-11-25 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by bravopires

    Like a still from a film noir movie, today's featured photograph exudes an air of mystery and elegance.

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • Instant Photography Challenge: Pretty Portraits Winners

    written by lomography on 2015-11-25 in #world #news
    Instant Photography Challenge: Pretty Portraits Winners

    Marvel at these exhibit-worthy portraits taken by our fellow community members with their trusty instant cameras.

  • The Shapes of Konstruktor

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-25 in #gear #lifestyle
    The Shapes of Konstruktor

    Blades of light, building corners and city beams have us thinking of Konstruktor parts.

  • Mushlenny is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by lomography on 2015-11-25 in #world #news
    Mushlenny is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to mushlenny for winning Home of the Day!