DIY - Super simple pinhole camera (also use for solargraphy)

Here is a super simple DIY guide for a pinhole camera, if you want a chemical free, no worries about exposure times, you can also use it for solargraphy photos.
Loads of easy to follow pictures and a video.

Step 1

Get a drinks can, any drinks can will do.
Remove the top with a tin opener, a good one.

Step 2

Pierce a pinhole.
I will put something on the inside of the can, like a spoon to avoid going all the way through.
I like to just use the pin tip, a small pinhole will produce a sharper image, but smaller hole means less light will enter the can, so a slightly longer exposure will be needed.

Step 3

Get a 2nd can and cut the lower half off, this will be used to seal the top.

Step 4

Get some light sensitive photographic paper.
Avoid Glossy paper, the light will reflect around inside the can.

The paper is light sensitive, DO NOT OPEN unless you are in total darkness or using a red light in light tight room. If you are using this for solagraphs, when the paper is out the packet it is fine to handle in a low lit room for a short period of time, just avoid sunlight 

Step 5

Cut to size.
For a normal drinks can 6x4 inches will be fine, you could also go 7x4
If you are using the larger beer can, 5x7 will fit spot on, and you can already buy it cut to this size.

I use a much larger size paper and cut it down as it can work out cheeper and it gives me more flexibility with what I can use if for

Step 6

Roll up and load into camera can.
Make sure the side with emulsion on is facing towards the pinhole, the is the light sensitive side.
The pinhole can sometimes be hard to see, so you may need a light to make sure the pinhole is centred.

Step 7

Stick the other half of the 2nd can on top of your camera can

Step 8

Weather proof and extra light seal with duck tape.
Also add a small piece over the pinhole for your shutter with half folded for easy peal off and stick back on

Step 9

You are done and ready to start capturing photos with a drinks can camera, one shot at a time.



What to do for normal pinhole photos

Find a subject and a sturdy location for your camera.

Work out your exposure
This guide will offer a bit of help when using paper.
These times will vary under different conditions and different size pinholes, but you can't go too far wrong. 
A few tests with your own camera may be needed first.

Remove tape over your pinhole to expose the image and when your exposure is done, recover.

What you will need: Paper developer, Fixer, developing trays (make sure they are big enough for the paper size you are using)
You could also add a stop bath, but personally for paper I've never bothered.

Developing paper photos at home is so easy and enjoyable.

In a dark room under a red light, have chemicals pre mixed (follow instruction on bottle) and pour into developing trays. Open your camera and place paper emulsion side face down into developer.
Gently agitate the tray, after a minute or so turn over with tongs and continue to watch your negative image appear on the paper.

When it has finished developing place in a stop bath (if you want) then or straight into fixer for as long as is recommended, then give a nice wash under a tap.

Done, hang it up and let it dry then scan it on a flat bed scanner, or photograph it, convert for a negative to positive.

Some of my camera can photos
Cans can give a very wide fisheye look

For a Solagraph photo.
- No chemicals needed -

Find a secure location you can leave the camera facing the path of the sun.
You can leave the camera for a few hours to years.

The light sensitive paper changes colour when exposed to light, with a pinhole it will project the image onto the paper making a visible image, also due to the long exposure you can capture the trail of the sun as it crosses the sky, you can not over exposure the image.

As the sun changes between the winter or summer solstice, the path of sun will get higher (summer) to lower (winter)

This was a 24 hour exposure of the sun going over our house straight out of the can

When you open the camera (in a low lit room) flat bed scan or photograph and convert from positive to negative in your photo editing software and edit the image to suit.

The final image

24 hour exposure

Results from a 3 month exposure

6 months

6 months 

6 months

1 year

For more of my pinhole and solargraphy work check out my site over at


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