Nicole Small | One on One

A Light Proof Box / Pinhole Photography (Part 11)

A Light Proof Box / Pinhole Photography (Part 11)



Since I decided to restart “A Light Proof Box Pinhole Photography Series”, I thought I would share some tips I had previously posted  when I started out for those who might be thinking of giving pinhole photography a shot.


When I began looking into pinhole cameras, my first thought was how would you know what your field of view would be and how would you be able to compose an image and ensure that you are getting exactly what you want in the frame?

With a digital camera it is quite easy to determine. For one, you can see the image immediately once you have pressed the shutter button and two, all digital lenses are manufactured having a specific or  multiple focal lengths.

I thought it would be interesting to show a comparison of different pinhole cameras and what their resulting compositions would be.

For this exercise, I made sure that all the variables remained the same. All cameras were placed 1 foot away from the subject, cameras were placed slightly above and angled down and the lighting set-up remained the same as well.

  • The first image was taken with a super wide pinhole camera, (equivalent to a 18mm lens on a 35mm camera), exposed for 1 minute and 5 seconds.
  • The second images was taken with a wide pinhole camera, equivalent to a 27mm lens on a 35mm camera), exposed for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • The third image was taken with a normal (1:1), pinhole camera, (equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera), exposed for 6 minutes.


As far as determining exposure, this can be a very daunting thing to figure out. There are so many articles, blog posts, apps, websites and even exposure wheels that you can cut out and put together that can give you a guide on how to determine this. Having bought a hand-made pinhole camera, there were no instructions or base guidelines to follow which made it more tricky.

Here is what I use to determine my exposures:









I obtained this exposure calculator when I purchased Ilford’s 4×5 pinhole camera:

ilford obscura_pinhole_camera

Although I had this exposure calculator, I had only used it for this camera and not for any of the others that I own. Having previously found other ways to calculate exposures prior to buying this camera, I had kept the different ways of determining exposures separate for each. But as I became quite frustrated with the many failed attempts using other techniques, I decided to test each of them using Ilford’s exposure calculator.

To my surprise, it worked out well for all of them! Keep in mind though, the exposure time revealed is to be used as a guide. You still have to take into consideration the type of scene you are about to photograph in which you may have to possibly add or subtract exposure time and when using film, there is also Reciprocity Failure that you must also consider.

So if you are considering pinhole photography, focus on one way of determining your exposures and work with it, it does get easier to understand! Don’t give up even if you seem to not be getting what you want. I have learned a lot from my failures and is why I am now able to share with you my experiences which have led me to understand and be successful at pinhole photography.

One more for the road?

Here is another comparison of the different pinhole cameras. Each camera was place approximately 1/2 a foot away from the subject.

Still to follow: A Light Proof Box/Pinhole Photography (Part 12)

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