My kids know what a pinhole camera is!

black and white ethereal pinhole photograph of figure coming out of the water

What is a pinhole camera?

Imagine you are inside a large, dark room. There is a tiny hole on the far wall, and someone standing outside the room is shining a flashlight through that hole. As your friend moves the flashlight at different angles, the light beam lands at different points on the back wall in your room.

Now shrink down your room to the size of an amazon box. The inside of the box is painted black, and the tiny hole is the size of a pin tip. Lit objects outside the hole reflect light through the hole and project an image on the opposite interior wall of the box. Because light travels in a straight line through the hole, the projected image is upside down! The bigger the hole, the less sharp your image will be.

Place light-sensitive paper (film!) on that wall, and you have your photograph.

diagram of a pinhole camera with ink and watercolor


The pinhole camera (or camera obscura) is is the most basic of camera. And the theory on which all contemporary cameras are based. Back to the basics!

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci was captivated with this concept and used giant rooms to project images onto the wall to help with the accuracy of his sketching? 

So in an attempt to teach my kids about light and photography, we made a pinhole camera together. And they are having SO MUCH FUN with it!!  I love teaching my kids about film, because it goes against this growing culture of immediate gratification. No more looking at the back of the screen when you’re photographing on film cameras! We have been developing the film ourselves in our makeshift bathroom darkroom, and it is truly a lesson in PATIENCE (for ALL of us haha).

black and white ethereal pinhole photograph of bridge by a lake

And here’s the fun part for kids… each of the exposures from a pinhole camera is super LONG. Like 30 seconds long. The kids can jump around and look like ghosts in the pictures! Like in the photo below, where my kids decided they wanted to see what it would look like if they did pushups and wrestled during the exposure.

Understanding how a pinhole camera works is understanding the very basics of photography. It ties right into the exposure triangle- more on that later!

blurry ghost like kids doing pushups

(That image was not taken with a pinhole camera but a DSLR using a long exposure. We were just talking about how cameras work and my son wanted to see what a long exposure looked like.)

YOU TOO can make a pinhole camera out of a cardboard box… I recommend this youtube tutorial, if you want to take on this project. Or you could just order a pinhole camera online (and film) and starting photographing!

If you try making a pinhole camera, let me know. I’d love to hear how it goes!

pinhole photography with kids

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Pamela Anticole

Serving PA OH & Beyond

Pamela Anticole is a Pittsburgh based newborn and family photographer. Her award winning style is thoughtful and emotional, and your client experience is both relaxed and fun!


Pamela will photograph your baptism, birthday party, anniversary, bar/bat mitzvah, or wedding in a documentary style learned as a newspaper photojournalist. It is her focus on real, natural relationships and ability to anticipate emotional candid moments that bring sensitivity to her work as a documentary photographer. Pamela is located in the Wexford area of Pittsburgh, PA and available for family photography within 45 miles of downtown Pittsburgh. She also offers photography education for parents both online and on location in person in the Pittsburgh area.