Six Month Long Pinhole Exposures


You read the interview now learn how to do it! Pinhole expert Justin Quinnell showes us how to be creative with the use of time and with the light from the sun to make a six month long pinhole exposure. Try the experiment and let us know how it goes!

Photo from:

Yes, boys and girls, you read that right. The exposure time with these shots are not your usual 1/125ths of a second or not even half a minute. Nay, it’s SIX WHOLE MONTHS!!! I wouldn’t have believed it at first but apparently it’s possible! You can take your photography skills (and patience!) to the next level with this little experiment. How do you go about it though? Justin Quinnell of guides us the way step by step:

Much of pinhole photography relates to the use of time and being creative with the light from the sun, similar wonders to that found in astronomy. A 6-month exposure will enable you to image the arc of the sun as it rises or sinks throughout 6 months of the year. As well as this you will get some foreground detail and a camera to look at with awe as a small hole etches its 6-month exposure from your window ledge, garden shed, lamp post, tree etc.

Being able to capture a period of time far beyond our own vision is incredible enough, but even more amazing is how simple it is to do. The final camera gives an extreme wide angle of view of 160 degrees.

What you will need:

  • An aluminium beer can (or 35mm Film ‘pot’)
  • Black Card
  • A Pin
  • Black Gaffer Tape
  • Cable ties
  • Some 5×7 Semi Matt Black and White Photographic paper (easily availiable online for around £5-00 for 25 sheets)
  • 6 months.


  • Reflective jacket
  • Builders Hard hat
  • Stepladder
Photo from:


Drink Can
Remove the top off an ALUMINIUM can with a good can opener. (Avoid steel as it leaves a dangerous sharp edge). Tall beer cans are best, as not only do they take untrimmed 5×7 paper, but they also contain beer!
Cut out, using thin black card, a circle 6 cm in diameter and a strip 25cm x 7cm with notches cut along one edge. Use some gaffer tape to assemble a light proof cap on the end of a can.
Push in and remove a pin half way up the side of the can and move it around to make the hole about 2 mm in diameter (don’t worry too much!)
Cover the hole with an insulation tape ‘shutter’, then place on the light-tight cap.

Film Pot
These contain 35mm film and have the advantage of being far smaller and less conspicuous than the Can cameras.
To keep maximum quality however, you will need to make a smaller hole of around half a mm. The disadvantage is they don’t hold beer!
Use the pots with black lids.
Using a craft knife cut a small 1cm square from the side of the plastic pot.
Make a pinhole in a 2cm square piece of aluminum from a drink can and push the end of a pin into the aluminum to make a ½ mm sized pinhole (but don’t worry too much!).
Use black insulation tape to tape the pinhole onto the outside of the pot then cover the hole with an insulation tape ‘shutter’.

Photo from:

Loading photographic paper

In red light (a rear bike light in the bedroom with the light off will be fine), insert a 5×7 sheet of semi matt photographic paper curled round the inside of the can emulsion inwards, (use a 70mm x 45mm piece for the film pot).
Make sure the paper doesn’t cover the hole (there should be a 1 cm gap) then replace the cap.
Cover the lid with loads of gaffer tape (to keep out the rain, snow, sleet, lightening, mice etc)

Taking your photo

Find a position pointing towards the Sun. South in the Northern Hemisphere and North in the Southern Hemisphere (I presume!). Google Earth will show you South.
A window ledge is ok but choose a nice view if possible and make sure it is well out of reach of enthusiastic street cleaners! It’s going to be exposing for some time, day and night.

Chose a date to start the exposure

Fix the camera sturdily in position. It needs to cope with all that 6 months of natures elements can throw at it. I find a healthy mix of gaffer tape and cable ties works quite well. Gluing a pencil onto the side will help to keep the camera steady if fixed to a circular object such as a lamp post. Glueing one horizontally on the back will tilt the camera upwards slightly enabling the capture the height of the Summer sun.

Peel the shutter (sticker) off, go inside and write on your calendar when you will stop the exposure.
Have a look at it from time to time thinking things like, “I wonder what is going on in there”.

After 6 months place the tape shutter onto the hole and bring the camera back home after its long ordeal. (OK, its not exactly the Shackleton expedition I know but by now it probably needs a rest!)

Photo from: forgottenpitssburgh

The Clever bit.

  1. Switch off the light in your computer room.
  2. Set the scanner on a highish resolution (500dpi is good for 5×7, 900 ish for the film pot)
  3. Take the photo paper out of the can camera and… without developing it (Told you it was clever!), place it onto the scanner with a book on top to hold it flat and press scan.
  4. Save the negative image on your computer.
  5. After scanning, place the undeveloped print into a box entitled ‘scanned paper negs’.
  6. Open up Photoshop or PaintNet
  7. mage > Inverse > Flip horizontal and play around with the contrast and brightness.
  8. Show off to your mate in the pub after he has shown you his photos of Teneriffe.

For more on Justin Quinnell read the interview!

written by cruzron on 2010-06-18 #gear #tutorials #long-exposure #pinhole-masters-and-magic #pinhole #tipster #pinhole-top-tipster


  1. copefan
    copefan ·

    i've been on one of Justin's pinhole workshops they are fantastic and he's such a nice bloke!

  2. boredbone
    boredbone ·

    great article and gallery. i will try this one out for sure:)

  3. kylewis
    kylewis ·

    Yeah! he is a great bloke and his workshops are a lot of fun, I've been doing these solargraphs for a while now so check them out here:

  4. moochie_lomo
    moochie_lomo ·

    Excellent article! I haven't found a better explanation of this process anywhere else in the internet. Should be Tipster of the Year!!

  5. fabyen
    fabyen ·

    Well that does look a lot like the solargarphy project that started some years ago...…
    I did some myself 2 years ago and the results are stunning!
    I'm not sure you cans see htme on facebook but just in case here il the link :)!/photo.php?pid=1944510&id=5…

  6. bagman66
    bagman66 ·

    wow. thanks!

  7. kutshie
    kutshie ·

    YEAH, tipster of the year!

  8. koalasve
    koalasve ·

    Great!!, thanks a lot!

  9. cinzinc
    cinzinc ·

    6months is mad! Great stuff!!

  10. ksp
    ksp ·

    great tip ... love your humor!
    thanks for taking the time to share.

  11. ahleng90
    ahleng90 ·

    wonderful solargraphy gallery!! love it all!!thanks for sharin this! :) :)

  12. jenk22
    jenk22 ·

    Very cool. Anyone have any links to the photo paper used? Didn't want to waste 6 months experimenting.

  13. j_robert
    j_robert ·

    absolutely incredible. an enlightening photographic perspective. bravo!

  14. kdstevens
    kdstevens ·

    This is so great!

  15. ak47lomogurl
    ak47lomogurl ·

    what happens if you have it developed?

  16. lomat
    lomat ·

    wow sooo amazing...can you use any scanner, or does it have to be one that can scan negatives?

  17. basterda
    basterda ·


  18. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    oh yeah!

  19. naomac
    naomac ·

    Amazing great stuff.

  20. eva_eva
    eva_eva ·


  21. emilios
    emilios ·


  22. dimitrul
    dimitrul ·


  23. mikahsupageek
    mikahsupageek ·

    amazing !

  24. cassmac
    cassmac ·

    this is amazing!

  25. cassmac
    cassmac ·

    this is amazing!

  26. myloveletter
    myloveletter ·

    very cool! I love that last picture!

  27. mikeydavies
    mikeydavies ·

    holy! i'm gonna try this! :)

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