Pinhole cameras are an ideal project to connect woodworking to the physics of light, the chemistry of film development, as well as the history and art of photography. The inner dimensions and film-spooling components of this design have been standardized for 35mm film, but other formats of film could be incorporated (including panoramic options) allowing for endless design opportunities to both the interior and exterior of the camera. Download Project
Tools & Materials
- --LESSON ONE--
- Internet access
- Blank paper for lists and brainstorming
- Photocopies of the “Design Guide – Pinhole Camera” handout, one per student
- --LESSON TWO--
- Blank paper or graph paper for sketching
- Used aluminum pop cans
- Tin snips / scissors / utility knife for cutting aluminum
- 0.25mm drill bit and drill press / drill
- 35mm negatives or used film for students to take measurements if needed
- 35mm film canisters for scale
- Design Guide handouts from Lesson 1
- Various materials that could be used for winding mechanisms
- See Teacher
Research: 30–60 minutes - In pairs, have students read through the Design Guide and identify the dimensions and general shape of the camera, as well as the constraints. Then, have them research pinhole cameras online to discover some different design options and ideas to inspire them. Remind them that as long as the inner dimensions are standardized according to the design guide, they can make the exterior look like anything they want. Have the students complete a labelled diagram of the camera that inspires them most during their research block.
Homework: Students read through the constraints on their design guide and brainstorm ways they might design their winding mechanisms. Have students bring in materials from home that might be useful in their prototyping process, for example, dowels, plastic pen tubes, chopsticks, etc.
Students will use the constraints listed on the design guide page and inspiration from their research to design and build cardboard prototypes of their pinhole cameras. They will then decide on the materials, tools, safety considerations, and a procedure to make a wooden version of their camera.
HAND INS - Completed Design Guide handout page, Cardboard prototype, labelled sketch of wood pinhole camera plans
- Research designs for panoramic pinhole cameras and redesign the original camera dimensions to accommodate wide-format photographs.
- Create a curved support for the film so that it is all the same distance from the pinhole (helps prevent the edges from being out of focus).
- Explore plans of pinhole camera obscuras, and make one that you can adapt to take photos of the image projected with your cell phone camera.
- Research the procedure for developing black and white film, then try developing your own film from a photo shoot with your pinhole camera.
- Try making a pinhole camera from a unique piece of found wood or driftwood.
- Disguise your pinhole camera by making it look like a wooden version of an everyday object.
- Make wooden frames for your favourite printed photos you took using your new pinhole camera.