Today, 28 April, is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, an international event to promote and celebrate the art of pinhole photography.
For those who may not know it, a pinhole camera is an extremely basic and simple device with which to take photographs. In essence all it consists of is a lightproof box/container with a very small hole/pinhole to let in light, and a piece of film (or a film roll, in the case of more advanced model) to record the image created by the light entering through the hole.
Various websites exist (see here, here, here and here, for basic examples, or here for very detailed instructions) showing how to make pinhole cameras of varying degrees of complexity. Many can be made at almost zero cost – all it takes is some time and effort. I’ve also seen some really nifty pre-manufactured pinhole photography kits for sale, often through educational toy outlets. Alternatively, a digital version can be created by drilling a hole in your digital SLR’s body cap, covering the hole with tin foil, and making a tiny pinhole in the foil.
One of the most exciting aspects of pinhole photography is that it is not an exact science. It is difficult to determine your exact exposure, and creating a composition is also a bit of a hit and miss affair. Each pinhole camera is unique – no two pinholes will be exactly the same size/shape, the distance between the pinhole and the film will vary, the film may not always be perfectly flat, and there may even be a small amount of light leakage affecting the film. This non-exactness of pinhole photography is what makes it so much fun, and such a uniquely personal experience – you are always guaranteed a few surprises when you have your pinhole film developed.
To create a fairly sharp image, the pinhole in the camera needs to be quite small, which in turn means that not much light is allowed into the pinhole camera. This means the amount of time you leave the pinhole open to take a picture (the shutter speed, basically) also tends to be quite long, making pinhole photography more suited to stationary subjects (for sharp images) or slow moving subjects (for some motion blur). Fast moving subjects are likely to move too fast to be captured, and will either result in excessive blur, or may even end up not captured at all.
In celebration of the day, you can participate by making your own pinhole camera, taking some photos and submitting one image to the Pinhole Day website (see the 2012 Gallery for inspiration.) Perhaps its a bit late for this year, but remember Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is celebrated every year on 28 April, so now is your chance to start early for next year
Of course you don’t have to contribute to the official website. By immersing yourself into the art of pinhole photography, looking at what others have done, and developing your own unique approach and style, you can soon start building up your own library of original photo art.
Just a word of warning – pinhole photography can be seriously addictive! (But, don’t fret, it’s a healthy obsession!)