Pinhole photography, what is it and how do you take a pinhole photo with a DSLR camera?

According to Wikipedia, pinhole photography is taking a photo with a camera without a lens and only a small pinhole, effectively the camera becomes only a light proof box with a very small hole in it.

Pinhole photography

Pinhole photography – Flowers in the garden

There are special pinhole cameras available, but it is possible to use a modern DSLR camera to take pinhole photographs. You only need to make your own pinhole lens. This can be done by using a lens cap. There are numerous articles on the web available showing you how to make a pinhole lens.

Due to not having a proper lens on the camera, the camera settings become very important to ensure you create good pinhole photographs. These factors are also very much part and parcel of normal photography. The two main factors would be light and shutter speed. Aperture does not come into play and cannot be changed, as there is only the very small pinhole and this is fixed. Composition and your camera gear are two other factors to consider.

The pinhole, which dictates your aperture, is fixed and therefor you cannot change aperture. Thus in order to ensure clear images, the only other factors you can manipulate would be the light or ISO and shutter speed. It is thus important to use the best light available and if taking pinhole photographs early morning or late afternoon, during the golden hour times, you would be using a slow shutter speed, even as high as 30 seconds. It may also need to use a shutter release cable if you need to go beyond a 30 second shutter speed. If the light is very low, you may push your ISO up in order to have a faster shutter speed. Remember that the slower the shutter speed, the bigger chance there is for camera shake. In this case, the use of a steady platform for your camera, such as a tripod or table would be highly recommended.

Because of the small hole, it would be almost impossible to use the camera’s view finder to see what the image looks like and this makes composing your photograph a bit more difficult. You can use the live view if available on your camera.

This is where thinking about your composition before you press the shutter release button becomes very important.

As far as gear is concerned, the most important items apart from your camera and pinhole lese, would be a shutter release cable and a tripod. Both these items aid in ensuring a steady camera and eliminating camera shake and blurry photographs. Because of the fixed aperture and no real lens to ensure proper focussing, and very steady camera is very important. A steady tripod and a camera release cable would ensure that you have the steadiest platform from which to shoot your pinhole photographs.

As a final thought, here are a few tips that would come in handy when doing pinhole photography.

  • Use the best light available
  • Carefully select your shutter speed to ensure clear images
  • If needed, push up your ISO to compensate for low light situations
  • Use a tripod and shutter release cable to ensure a steady platform to shoot from

To view some of the latest pinhole photographs taken, visit our Facebook page albums section and select the Pinhole Photography album.


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