Pinhole Passion: Instant Pinhole Camera in Instant Film Pack


A step-by-step tutorial to make your own pinhole camera for Polaroid film!

Lately, I've found myself more and more intrigued by the magic world of pinhole photography. Since World Pinhole Photography Day was just a few days ago, I got ready to celebrate the occasion with a whole arsenal of pinhole cameras I've made myself. Here are my latest creation and a step-by-step tutorial in case you want to make one too: an instant pinhole camera for Polaroids!


  • A box of Polaroid film (and the film too, of course!). Since original Polaroid film is quite hard to find these days, I used Impossible film, namely PX 70 Color Protection.
  • A tiny piece of aluminum (I cut mine out of an empty soda can)
  • Black electrical tape, scissors, a pin, and a marker

How to Make the Instant Pinhole Camera with the Film Pack

First, open your film box and take the film cartridge out. If you're using an Impossible film as I did, you will notice that the box it's all covered with silvery plastic inside, even in the corners, making it light-proof except for the part you opened to take the film out. This makes our job easier, as we will only have to cover one side (and its two corners) with black tape, but this will be the very last step.

So, take your empty box and mark its center. Now, cut a little square around that spot.

Take an empty soda can and cut a small piece of tin out of it, roughly as big as the square hole you've just cut out of your box, and pierce a hole through it using a pin. Do not make the hole too big, just enough for a tiny ray of light to pass through it, and try to make sure the edge is as clean as possible. When making my pinhole, I usually put my aluminum piece of a rubber, as it makes it easier to pierce it without shaking the pin. Also, it prevents you from turning your table into a colander.

Next, tape your piece of aluminum right on the hole in your box. Use black tape to make sure light will not leak in from its sides.

Now, it's time to make a shutter for your instant pinhole camera. You have many, many options here, but I think that the easiest one is to cut some black tape, fold it on itself leaving just a tiny sticky part on top of it [that you will glue to the box, a bit above the pinhole] and keep it in place using another piece of (possibly, not too sticky) tape on the bottom.

What now?

You will now have to go to a darkroom (any very dark room will do), take the film off your cartridge and put it into your brand new pinhole camera, tape the open side of the box to make it 100% light-proof, turn on the light and go take pictures. Unlike Fuji Instax Mini film, Polaroid film's light-sensitive side is the front (the side where the picture is), so you will have to put it into your pinhole camera with the front side facing the pinhole.

To take a photo, just lift the shutter so that light can get inside through the pinhole. I usually determine the exposure time with my pinhole cameras following this exposure guide:

I'm not very familiar with this film yet, so I cannot recommend a more detailed exposure time chart. This film is rated as ISO 125, but it seems a bit faster to me, so I would shoot it as ISO 200, but that's just an opinion. I guess the best thing to find out the perfect exposure time is through trial and error.

Remember to keep your pinhole camera as steady as possible while taking a picture, and to make sure the shutter is perfectly closed once you're done exposing the film.

Once the film has been exposed, you have to wait until you get to the darkroom before taking it out of the pinhole camera. Then, in complete darkness, you will have to press the white edges to activate the film development process. I would not roll a pen on the film as when I tried it with Fuji Instax Mini, the results were horrible. Instead, I gently rubbed the white edges for a moment and then put my Polaroid in a book and left it there for a whole hour, as it takes about forty minutes for the picture to fully develop according to the sheet that comes with the film.

Now, let me show you my very first picture with this pinhole camera, taken indoors, 13 minutes exposure. It's very blurry and a bit reddish but I'm super happy with it!:

Potential Problems and Quick Fixes

In the meantime, I'd like to share a few more tips that might be helpful if you're experiencing the same problems that I've had when playing with pinholes and instant film.

First problem: How do I get the film out of the cartridge?

This part is a bit tricky, especially because you'll be doing it in the dark. I can't help you that much on this, you just have to lock yourself in the darkroom and try with your fingers, scissors, screwdriver, whatever. Please remember that Polaroid/Impossible film cartridges have a battery inside, so be careful.

Second problem: What do I do with the other film sheets?

It's up to you. You can keep the other 7 films in a light-tight container (perhaps another film box completely covered with black tape) and feed them to you pinhole camera after you're done with the first picture. This isn't much convenient, as the hardest/most boring part of this project is the one about putting the film inside the camera, in my opinion. This is why I decided to make two more pinhole cameras following this very same process, which enables me to take more than one single Polaroid at a time. I would have made more, but I only had three boxes of Impossible film, so I had to store the four other film sheets in a tight lightbox, but I'll definitely build more as soon as I find some similarly sized boxes.

I think this is it. I have taken more pictures with this pinhole camera on World Pinhole Photography Day (April 28th) and will share the results on my blog. I really hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I would love to hear your advice and stories on DIY pinhole cameras, so feel free to share!

written by bunnyears on 2013-04-30 #gear #tutorials #diy #pinhole #tutorial #tipster #instant-film #polaroid #lomography #pinhole-camera #pinhole-tipster #pinhole-passion


  1. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    interesting tipster and a great explanation. ;)

  2. bunnyears
    bunnyears ·

    @istionojr Thank you very much! :-)

  3. shannonc
    shannonc ·

    What a great tutorial. I'm trying to do this with a small homeschool group (and I am SO not a photographer). I'm using Fuji instax mini film ISO 800. Any idea why my photos keep coming out white? I may have damaged the first carton while groping around in the dark to get a film sheet out of the cartridge. In your tutorial you mention the polaroid film faces the pinhole with the side the image will be displayed on & seem to mean that the Fuji film is just the opposite. I've calculated my f-stop @ 200 (100mm from pinhole to film/0.5mm pinhole size). I do not have access to a light meter but presumenon a brifhtbsunny day my exposure time would be about 1.5 seconds. Please give any insight you may have. Thanks so much.

  4. shelbg
    shelbg ·

    The light sensitive side is going to be the side where the picture is regardless if it’s Fuji or Polaroid. (this will always be the case when dealing with instant exposure film.) I am planning on doing this tonight so I’ll let you know how it goes. One suggestion to help. I noticed you didn’t mention anything about agitating the developer (you have to…. Do something… to the white Larry at the bottom of the film. That’s how the picture is made)

  5. jimgoodinmusic
    jimgoodinmusic ·

    Awesome article and thanks so much for putting another idea of the manually process of the chemistry. I recently built a new pinhole for Instax experimenting. Doing Square, single exposure and use a dark bag to load, then unload and start the process. Your suggestion of applying light pressure on the white edges and then putting in a book I'm just now trying after doing various roller techniques. I have 5 posted in my Lomo profile with mostly chemical smear results but in 3 of them some partial image. Anyhow will see if your technique will work for me. I've been doing largely 4x5 b/w pinhole for several months and enjoying the see what happens with Instax now.

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