Pinhole photography is a technique that mirrors the way the first cameras were used. It creates abstract photographs, usually done in black and white. While taking a picture with a pinhole camera is art in its own, the structure you choose can be art as well. Many people choose random objects, anything that has a hollow center, and others draw, paint and create their pinhole camera using just a box or in many photography classes, a large oatmeal container.
Building the Camera
First, the inside and outside of your camera must be painted black, completely. Then the pinhole has to be created. To do this you must cut a one inch hole in the side of your camera and tape a piece of think metal over the hole, making sure that the inside of the camera is still completely black. Before you attach the thin metal you take a sewing nettle (usually a No. 10) and poke a hole in the center of the thin metal. To make the shutter for the camera you can place a black piece of tape over the hole.
Loading and Exposure:
You load your camera with photo paper in a dark room, firmly, and opposite the pinhole of your camera. To take a picture with your camera you use your own eyes as the viewfinder. The length of your exposure depends on the lighting. On a sunny day outside you might want to expose your picture for only two to three seconds and then re-cover the pinhole. You have to use your eyes to determine how dark the photo might turn out, and how dark you wish it to be. Lastly you use your exposed paper as a negative and process like you normally would in a dark room.
Here at the Smithsonian Associates we have an instructor, Bruce McKaig, who teaches pinhole photography in one of his classes and practices this way himself as well. Here is one of my favorites: