Making the pinhole.
As the paper
negative is quite large, the need for the pinholes accuracy is less than
the opportunity for ease of construction. (Don't worry about the size!)
Find a point half way up on the can, which can be recognised. Push a pin
into this point (it will pop in) and then gently remove it. Don't sand
down the rough edge inside the pinhole as this is handy for feeling the
position of the pinhole when loading the paper. Fold a small length of
insulation tape onto itself to make a light proof shutter and stick this
over the hole. Put a rubber band around the can and place a pencil through
the rubber band. (The gravitational stabilisation device)
(If you are using large format sheet film rather than photographic paper,
make an accurate hole 0.28mm in diameter).
the white light in the darkroom and switch on the red light.
Take the lid off the Pin Can camera.
Open up the photographic paper, take out a sheet and then reseal the packet.
Curl the paper lengthways into the camera so the emulsion is on the inside
of the curl. (The shinier surface is the emulsion). There will be a gap
of around 10mm, which is where the pinhole should be.
Make sure the paper isn't covering the hole then replace the cap.
You need to develop each photograph after each exposure so, initially
take photographs close to the darkroom. The best images are graphic objects
such as buildings which bring out the effect of the curved film plane
enabling you to master the ultra wide image.
the camera up (Vertical) or laying it on its side (Horizontal).
The camera standing up will give a horizontally wide view whereas lying
it on its side (using the gravitational stabilisation device) will provide
you with a vertically wide view. Either way, ensure the camera can rest
throughout the exposure without being held 'steady'. Gravity is (usually)
lot more stable than a shaky nervous hand!
it away from the sun.
If sunny, the pinhole needs to face away or sideways to the sun otherwise
sunlight going straight into the pinhole will bounce around off the white
photo paper and quickly fog your photograph.
Try to get objects really close to the pinhole. The ultra wide angle reduces
the expected size in the final image. This angle of view, combined with
the unlimited depth of field, means that objects ultra close to the pinhole
will be in focus. Initially you could try placing the camera on text or
a crossword puzzle or a mirror.
A good angle for the pinhole to rest would be as shown.
the Gravitational Stabilisation Device.
Adjust the pencil around the can so the camera rests exactly where the
pinhole is required. (See picture)
of the tape - shutter
Peel of the tape completely (I daintily replace the tape with my finger)
and let go of the can. Any slight wobble will be only a small percentage
of the final exposure time.
A good estimate for exposure time outside would be for 5 seconds in sunlight,
12 seconds when cloudy. It is best to make a test exposure owing to the
variations of the brightness of lighting, reflectance of the subject and
variety in counting speed (some people take an eternity to count to 12!)
indoor lighting is darker than daylight, indoor exposure times can be
quite long. This can be anything from 10 minutes to several hours. It
is still well worth trying though as it can be enough time to enjoy a
cup of tea or five, whilst marvelling at the light-forming properties
of a tiny hole. Remember to keep the illumination behind the camera rather
than shining it into the pinhole.
Avoid camera shake by relying on gravity rather than trying to hold the
Don't point the camera towards the sun.
Take care in removing and replacing the shutter, before and after the
Avoid taking photos during a hurricane.
Gently replace the shutter ensuring you have covered the hole (there is
potential for blind panic at this time so take care!). Deftly place your
finger over the hole then, holding the camera towards the ground, carefully
replace the shutter. Then it's back to your darkroom.
with the camera.
If roving further afield, to take several exposures you could take a changing
bag with you (a light tight bag which can be found cheaply on ebay) or
make and pre-load several cameras. The photo paper can stay in the light
tight can indefinitely.
If you fill the can with water and hold the can underwater you can take
an underwater pinhole photo, (although the light proof cap will get a
bit soggy!). Due to the requirement for being close to a darkroom the
choice of available subjects may be limited.
a biology clamp.
These rather spooky looking devices are very useful for angling the Pin
Can camera at any position you choose. Angling the camera down will give
an 'n' shaped horizon angling up will give a 'u' shaped horizon.
camera ideally needs to be used near a darkroom so you can process the
results soon after taking the photo (then re take it when it messes up!)
a darkroom you will need:
A dark room
(!) This will be required for both loading the photographic paper into
the camera as well as developing the exposed image.
Card or 'rubble sacks' are cheap blackout materials.
Developer, Stop bath and Fixer (Mixed with water to the correct proportions).
A red 'safelight' A rear red bike light will do.
3 trays for the chemicals
Access to water for washing the prints after the developing process
5 x 7 photographic paper (DO NOT OPEN unless in red light).
A sign in big scary letters saying KEEP
(To prevent nosy people coming in and fogging the photographic paper)
three trays down in a row on a flat surface. From left to right you will
have: Developer - Stop bath - Fixer. It
is also good to have a 'dry' area away from the chemicals where you can
put the camera and the photographic paper.(I almost wrote the words 'best
practice' then, aaaaah!)
An extra red light can be useful to increase the illumination.
If there is no sink in your darkroom a tray or bowl with some water in
is useful to place fixed photographs before being taken to a sink for
Mix the chemicals
with water to the proportions shown on the bottles and pour them into
their respective trays. The chemicals should ideally be at room temperature
20 C (ish) but don't worry too much about this. Put the tongs over the
edge of the dev tray (They always fall in, but its all part of the fun).
the photographic paper from the camera and developing the image.
Switch off the white light and switch on the red. (It may be worth waiting
for a few seconds for your eyes become accustomed to the dark).
Take the lid off the camera and twist the photographic paper out of the
Put the can down and slide the photo paper under the surface of the developer.
Keep the chemical moving over the surface by gently rocking the dish every
few seconds. The image should start to appear.
Innit Fab!!!!! Who needs pixels!
the print needs to stay in the developer for a whole minute (well to tell
you the truth 2 minutes but impatience usually wins the day!).
After the image has appeared, use the print tongs to pick up the print.
Drain off excess developer and transfer the print into the stop bath.
Rock the dish for 30 seconds, keeping fresh chemical covering the print.
Drain again and place into the fixer where the print should be completely
fixed in 3 minutes in rocking solution.
After 3 minutes
you can turn on the white light (making sure before that you have packed
away the photo paper!
If the photograph
comes out too dark, it needs less exposure time; if too light it needs
fixed print into a sink with running water for 4 minutes. This will wash
the chemicals off the print. The print can then be stood up to dry.
and adjusting your exposure.
If the photograph is too dark you need to give the photograph less exposure.
If it is too light you need to give more. If you can see some detail,
you are close to the correct exposure and you could initially try 50%
more or less exposure. (Paper has very small exposure latitude compared
to film, so you have to be more accurate with the exposure) The best weather
conditions are when it is bright but overcast.
the red light, load thecamera with photographic paper for the next shot
and replace the lid, (as well as re sealing the photo paper packet!
As well as avoiding contact with chemicals, having dry hands will also
avoid getting fingerprints on your photographs. Always try and use the
print tongs for moving prints from one chemical to the next. Rubber gloves
could also be useful here (although someone has just told me that people
can be allergic to rubber gloves! Tsk, tsk, where will it end?)
and reusing the chemicals.
the chemicals should last for at least 25 sheets of paper before they
start getting peeky. (You can tell when this happens as the stop bath
impressively turns from yellow to blue!). The developer can go off a bit
quicker as it reacts with oxygen. If it goes a murky dark brown or the
consistency of porridge it is probably worth replacing.
chemicals and photographic paper.
chemicals and paper are available from the internet and possibly some
good photographic shops, but check before you go. In our digital age it's
getting trickier to find on the high street but all the materials are
easily available on the web.
AND SAFETY WARNING.
I thought I had better put one of these in to stop you from suing the
pants off: my wife, my son, my daughter and me!
are fairly inert although its best to avoid swimming in the stuff.
Developer is an alkaline and can react with peoples skin (although no
more so than some washing up liquids). Stop bath is acetic acid; similar
to the vinegar you put on your chips, (and to save you the bother, I can
assure you it doesn't taste as good, something I discovered through a
fairly dumb experiment early on in my photographic career!)
Fixer is a weak acid, which can stain your clothes if you decide to splash
it all over yourself, (unnecessary in all but the most extreme 'performance
art' approaches of pinhole photography). Old fixer (especially film fixer)
contains soluble silver and you should avoid drinking the stuff!
Avoid contact with eyes. If this happens wash out immediately with ample
After pouring the used chemical into (larger) bottles for re-use, label
them and put them in a cupboard away from all those people who might be
tempted to drink horrid smelling liquid that looks like wee.
to Make paper negatives into positives
1 Get your mobile phone out and set the camera on 'negative' setting.
Take a photograph of your negative print and Email the positive photo
to your computer. When copying paper negatives in this way, ensure you
avoid light reflections off the photographic paper.
2 Scan the paper negative onto a flat bed scanner. It may be worth placing
a book on the paper negative to ensure it lies flat on the scanner. Use
photo-imaging software 'to taste'.
1 Find a darkroom with an enlarger, sandwich the paper negative under
a sheet of glass and on top of an unexposed sheet of photographic paper.
Do test exposures and process to obtain a positive image.
2 Photograph the negative with a Drink can camera to get a positive image
in a negative world. (Trickier than it seems this one!)
1 Pin your paper negative onto a wall and stare at it for 20 minutes without
blinking. Then close your eyes and for a second you will see the image
to home page