A Simple Experiment In Digital Pinhole Photography

Picnic Table

I was inspired recently to return to my photographic roots. Lacking immediate access to an old oatmeal container, photo paper, and a traditional darkroom, I decided to create my very own pinhole camera mockup. While this guy has an awesome tutorial, I wanted something that was both cheap and fast. I decided to tape a piece of aluminum foil over the front of my Canon 5D Mark II, poke a tiny hole in the near-middle, and go outside and start snapping photos. On a side note, if pinhole is something you’re interested in, I have a bunch of pinhole photos here on Flickr.

Tree And Sky

With todays fast and advanced lenses, some of us with lenses as fast as f/2, pinhole is a major step-back in the face of todays technology. A small pin hole is ideal, however the depth of field can be modified by making the hole larger or smaller. A larger hole will decrease the depth of field, and your images will be more blurry; accordingly a smaller hole will increase the depth of field, and your images will be somewhat more clear. Pinhole images will never be as clear as they would be if they had been taken with a modern lens. Pinhole photography produces images that are soft focus, and dream-like.

Tree And Sunset

Instead of using the same piece of foil over and over again, I like to use a new piece of foil for every shot. By using a new piece of pinhole foil with each shot, one can replicate the feeling and tradition of pinhole photography of days gone by, where things were done in a very haphazard manner where many of the variables changed with each exposure.


Experiment with camera settings. Pinhole photography is far from perfect, and you will likely need to take twice the number of shots you normally would to achieve what you are hoping for. I took roughly 30 shots, and the four shots shown here were the only ones that actually came out the way I had planned. Thank goodness for digital photography.

For those of you looking for even more inspiration, you should check out this Flickr Group. Also these two blogs; Square Peg Pinhole and Pinhole Panoramic are fantastic photo blogs on the subject. Lastly, if you don’t have access to a Digital SLR camera, rest assured that all hope is not lost; folks have been successful making pinhole cameras from empty 35 mm film containers, match boxes, and even an old airplane hangar, setting a world record.

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