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!


  • 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 center 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).

Cut out a small square from your aluminum foil, 2cm by 2cm will be enough, and carefully pierce the center. 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 aluminum 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.

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

Cut out a new piece of card to the length of 6/7 cm. 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 center 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.

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!

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 counterclockwise 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.

Credits: lostlittlekid

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 look out for that soon! In the meantime please check the rest of my results here! :)

This tipster was written by Lomographer lostlittlekid. For more analogue tips and tricks from fellow Lomographers, follow them by creating your own LomoHome!

written by lostlittlekid on 2013-01-02 #gear #tutorials #camera #tutorial #tipster #pinhole-home-made-sprockets-film-box-camera


  1. emkei
    emkei ·

    great job!

  2. sobetion
    sobetion ·

    Wowwwwwwww!! super cool technique <3

  3. walasiteodito
    walasiteodito ·

    wooow! i will surely try this!!!

  4. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    That's beautiful man!

  5. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

    @nia_ffm, @clownshoes, @jltiug, @holgardo, @cosettex, @luffyblu, @lucaro, @bravopires, @leolensen, @bloomchen, @rwins, @realrampage, @pith, @bluetrafficlights, @fartstorm, @kaylyn14, @bbijlhout, @ayer, @castiana, @gvelasco, @angelab_log, @pvehk, @sommer, @kiwiflou, @rawee_jow, @giovannidecarlo, @yyyhorn, @yankeemiss, @julia-b, @renenob, @rainboow, @feelux, @aaronvales, @tomkiddo, @walasiteodito, @vicker313, @wafflesaurus, @wuxiong, @diomaxwelle, @brommi, @thejomi, @neanderthalis, @pearlgirl77, @sobetion, @ohlordy, @aguillem, @adi_totp, @emkei, @plasmids @emkei

    Thanks so much for the support! It's a little unexpected to be honest but thank you to each and everyone of you! I'll get making and writing the next one... it's amazingly laborious to document each step!

  6. goonies
    goonies ·

    really cool!!

  7. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

    Thanks man! @goonies

  8. atria007
    atria007 ·

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

  9. bebopbebop
    bebopbebop ·

    awesome!! this is super tipster!!

  10. mafiosa
    mafiosa ·

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

  11. brianr62
    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!

  12. lostlittlekid
    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

  13. mercrid
    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?

  14. lostlittlekid
    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

  15. electrozity8
    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.

  16. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

    Please do and do share your results :) @electrozity8

  17. gndrfck
    gndrfck ·

    I use this to calculate the exposure times

  18. naxoman77
    naxoman77 ·

    Awesome job!

  19. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

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

  20. pvehk
    pvehk ·

    Made one for myself. Great idea! Thanks a lot!

  21. stratski
    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:

  22. lostlittlekid
    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

  23. opon21
    opon21 ·


  24. adash
    adash ·

    Excellent and very detailed! Great!

  25. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

    Thanks!! @opon21 @adash

  26. fendyfazeli
    fendyfazeli ·

    wowww nice result from DIY pinhole

  27. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

    Thanks :) @fendyfazeli

  28. tonantzin
    tonantzin ·

    Woow I need to try this!

  29. grigri
    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.

  30. lostlittlekid
    lostlittlekid ·

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

  31. roarshack
    roarshack ·

    I just made this! Super excited to try it out!

  32. roarshack
    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.

  33. neversmiling
    neversmiling ·

    Those images are incredible!

  34. mdc1975
    mdc1975 ·

    You got great results, however I'm a little bit surprised by your relatively short exposure times. You used a fairly slow film, but your exposure times were 1-8 seconds. Perhaps your pinhole was relatively large? I took light meter readings and estimated my pinhole to be around f/100, and using the info on the suggested exposure times were in the 2 to 3 MINUTES range (for iso 400 film).

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