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Pinholes & Sprockets - Making a Film Box Pinhole Camera!

Kodak? Fuji? Whatever film you use, save those empty film boxes my fellow lomographers and I'll show you how to can make your very own pinhole camera with them!

What you’ll need;

  • An empty 35mm film box
  • A roll of 35mm film
  • An empty 35mm film canister with a small piece of film still attached (You can get these at any photo lab, just ask them, they throw them away so they’ll be more than happy to give them to you).
  • Aluminium foil (I cut mine from a soft drinks can)
  • Needle
  • Pen/pencil
  • Black marker
  • Ruler
  • Scissors/craft knife
  • Black tape
  • Regular tape
  • Black card
  • Paper clip

Firstly open up your empty film box and cut off the flaps as shown

Mark an X to find centre and draw a small square in the panel shown. Cut out this square with a craft knife.

Draw and cut two slots, about 3cm by 1mm. (These are approximates, you can/may alter these later).

Making the pinhole
Cut out a small square from your aluminium foil, 2cm by 2cm will be enough, and carefully pierce the centre. Just push the tip through, but not the entire needle. The idea here is to get the smallest hole possible (I didn’t do too much research when I made this for myself, but I did remember someone saying ‘the smaller the pinhole the sharper the picture quality’).

(Note – The pinhole shown in the photos are much bigger than the one I shot with. I did this for illustration purposes).

Take your aluminium foil with your newly made pinhole and align it to the square from your film box. Tape this in place with black tape.

Using a few bits of tape, begin reconstructing the original box shape.

This is what your pinhole should look like at this point.

Making the shutter
I would firstly like to say that I take no credit for the design of this shutter mechanism. It was a product of a pinhole camera my old photography tutor showed me years before and my sister’s creative input (she’s a product designer and a very good one at that).

Take a piece of black card and cut a rough piece to the size of 1.5cm x 4cm. Cut a small box from the centre

Cut two new slots as shown. The height slightly taller than the centre square and roughly 1mm in width.

Cut out a new piece of card to the length of 6/7cm. The height of this needs to be smaller than the height of the two slots you just made from the first piece. Cut a small square in the centre also. (Note – after much use of my current pinhole camera, it’s best you make this square as small as possible as it weakens the card stock due to it’s positioning).

With both pieces of card in hand. Carefully thread the new piece through the slots as shown.

The shutter is now complete! Test it by pulling it to the sides. I’ve pulled mine to the left (shut state), pulled it to the right to open it and then continued pulling to shut it again. Reverse this process to open and close the shutter (Adjust/cut the pieces of card accordingly if things seem a little stiff).

You can mark the shutter’s closed states by folding it at the ends. This stops you accidentally pulling out the piece of card and overexposing shots.

Tape this to the film box, aligning the hole of the shutter with the pinhole of the box/camera body.

Loading the film
Take your fresh roll of film and thread it through the left slot first and then through to the right.

Tape the tip of your fresh roll (left) to the film tip of the empty canister (right). Wind this to test that it smoothly rolls into the canister.

After you’ve checked the take up spool (right canister), you want to secure both canisters using more black tape. Push in the lip of the left canister into the box as much possible (without crushing the box obviously) and tape it in place (You can use the flaps you cut out earlier to add extra support). Do the same with the take up spool.

You now need to completely seal the entire box with black tape. Begin by taping up the edges.

You should pay extra care when taping around the film spools. The aim is to tape up the areas where the film is entering the box to avoid light leaks, but at the same time allow the spools to spin freely.

Box covered!

Finish touches
You’re nearly there! All that’s left now is to add a paper clip as a winder and tape a piece of paper/tissue to add tension to the whole winding mechanism. Adjust the tape by winding slowly and if it doesn’t spin back, you’ve got this right.

To advance by one frame, turn the paper clip counter clockwise by roughly one to two full rotations.

Pinhole camera complete! You are now ready to shoot!

Every pinhole is different, so it’s best to do a test roll and note down the exposure times. With my pinhole I shot with 200 ISO film and mostly in bright daylight. The exposures varied from 1-8 seconds and sometimes even more.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article and I genuinely hope you give it a try yourselves. It was a lot of fun and surprisingly addictive. So addictive that I have another variation of this camera in the works so lookout for that soon! In the meantime please check the rest of my results here :)

written by lostlittlekid


  1. emkei


    great job!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. sobetion


    Wowwwwwwww!! super cool technique <3

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  3. walasiteodito


    wooow! i will surely try this!!!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  4. clownshoes


    That's beautiful man!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  5. lostlittlekid


    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  6. goonies


    really cool!!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  7. lostlittlekid


    Thanks man! @goonies

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  8. atria007


    incredible!!! love it!!!! <3

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  9. bebopbebop


    awesome!! this is super tipster!!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  10. mafiosa


    Great explanation (and results)! I am going to try this. Thank you <3

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  11. brianr62


    Some hints: Leave all the flaps as they add structural integrity and help reduce potential light leaks. Use a black marker to color the inside of the box reducing internal reflections which will improve the images. Nice shutter design!
    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  12. lostlittlekid


    Thank you, thank you! :D @atria007 @bebopbebop @mafiosa

    "Use a black marker to color the inside of the box reducing internal reflections which will improve the images" - I actually had a paragraph detailing this (I even listed the black marker in the equipment section) but only noticed after I submitted the article so thanks for noting it here :) @brianr62

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  13. mercrid


    Very cool. Will photo labs develop the film and make prints? I would imagine the "framing" on the negatives could be a difficult format for some places?

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  14. lostlittlekid


    The labs will develop the film no problem but will have trouble scanning them for prints unfortunately, much like any film with exposed sprockets really. The best thing is to scan the negatives yourself but you could just ask them to scan it anyway and get random partial shots. I've done this before... the lab guy was so confused/angry haha! @mercrid

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  15. electrozity8


    Gotta try this some time. I've got tons of empty ektar boxes and I can ask for the canister after I drop some film off at my local lab.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  16. lostlittlekid


    Please do and do share your results :) @electrozity8

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  17. gndrfck


    I use this to calculate the exposure times http://www.pinhole.c(…)ledesigner/

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  18. naxoman77


    Awesome job!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  19. lostlittlekid


    Thanks man! @naxoman77 and thanks heads up @gndrfck ! Great find!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  20. pvehk


    Made one for myself. Great idea! Thanks a lot!
    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  21. stratski


    Nice one. And if you have some photographic paper (or snip off a bit of unexposed film, that would work as well I guess), you can make the plastic film can into a pinhole camera as well:


    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  22. lostlittlekid


    Thanks for the tip, the film can idea is crazy haha! My friend did some shots with a pinhole Pringles tube too and I loved her shots! Great stuff! @stratski

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  23. opon21



    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  24. adash


    Excellent and very detailed! Great!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  25. lostlittlekid


    Thanks!! @opon21 @adash

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  26. fendyfazeli


    wowww nice result from DIY pinhole

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  27. lostlittlekid


    Thanks :) @fendyfazeli

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  28. tonantzin


    Woow I need to try this!

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  29. grigri


    génial ! j'en suis a ma 4eme, et après quelques améliorations les résultats sont vraiment surprenant, et j'ai pris la boite dans la longueur pour faire du 16/9éme.
    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  30. lostlittlekid


    Cool, would love to see the results so please share :) @grigri

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  31. roarshack


    I just made this! Super excited to try it out!
    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  32. roarshack


    got my film back.! most of them didnt turn out as anything more then randome bits of shadow, but I have posted the one that did kinda turn out on my wall! Its a very blurry tiny human (my son) and tree.
    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  33. neversmiling


    Those images are incredible!

    over 1 year ago · report as spam

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