In this tipster, find out how to turn your empty sweet tin into a basic pinhole camera capturing images straight onto light sensitive paper.
What you need:
• Empty sweet tin (Get eating!)
• Light sensitive paper
• Blue tac
• Black paint
• Needle or pin
• Develop, stop & fixer of your choice.
• A darkroom / make shift dark room with red light.
• Scanner & Computer software to invert your images
As part of teaching our new students the photography basics, we start at the beginning, and once camera obscura is covered, we move on to how a basic camera works. We use all kinds of shapes, tins and boxes to create our pinhole camera but have found that empty sweet tins work best! My students followed these simple steps and were amazed by their results.
Step One – Preparing your tin!
The large hexagonal shapes are usually the best but you could probably use any size! Its all about experimenting. You need to create a hole in the center of the bottom of your tin roughly 4cm x 4cm. Make sure it’s on the center! To make ours, students bashed away with a hammer and once indented, cut through the metal with a strong pair of scissors. Next up – painting the inside black! Doesn’t matter too much, some people use black card, spray paint, etc. We used black acrylic paint.
Step Two – Adding the pinhole.
This is the important stage. You will need to cover the 4cm square with aluminum foil or black tape. Make sure its secure inside and out. (Black tape works best!)
Try to figure out exactly where the centre is. This is where you will make your pinhole! We used a number. 8 size needle to create our hole. Different websites give different advice, so be sure to read around first. The smaller the hole, the sharper the picture, but more exposure time needed! Number 8 was perfect to give the students a basic understanding of capturing an image.
You will need to create a shutter on the outside of the lid. A flap of card which is sealed with black tape is good. You need to be able to peel it back and re stick it when you’ve got your image. Its important it stay light tight!
Step Three – Getting your image
You will need light sensitive paper to use to capture your image. We used Kentmere as it came in a box of 100 and was relatively cheap. In a darkroom (we covered all windows with rubble sacks and used a portable red light) you need to put your paper into your pinhole camera. Put your blue tac in the centre of your lid. Then, attach your light sensitive paper being careful to make sure the shiny smoother light sensitive side is facing out. Try and get it in the middle! Put your lid on, make sure you shutter is closed and you’re ready to go!
Step Four – Exposure and developing
Experimenting with exposure time is important. Light-sensitive paper isn’t as sensitive as film so it needs long a long exposure time. We started at 45 seconds and each time, worked our way up by 10-15 seconds, depending on the result. The images show anything from 50-1.20 as we had varying weather conditions. When its overcast you will need to expose your image longer.
Find the image you want to capture. Remember, as you will be capturing the image for a long length of time you need to rest the tin on something. Either the ground, bench, fence, a friend, etc. The flat edge of the tin make it perfect for this!
When you ready, open the shutter and start counting. Use a timer if available! Make sure the shutter is fully sealed and head back inside!
In your darkened room you can now start to develop you image! Three trays, developer, stop, fixer. Check times with whatever brand you are using!
Take the lid off, peel away any blue tac and drop into developer! Magic! Watch your pinhole image develop right before your eyes! Wait! That’s not how its meant to look?! Your image will be a negative, you will need to scan it in and invert it! Congratulations, your very own pinhole image!
It is all about experimenting and getting to know what works for you! Enjoy!