WWPD Project #1: Instant Pinhole Camera Tutorial

Last year I built my very first pinhole camera less than a week after Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. This time I want to make sure to celebrate it properly. I will build three pinhole cameras, one for each of the film formats I'm familiar with: 35mm, 120 and instant film.

The first of my three projects for this year's Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day was building a pinhole camera that works with instant film. I wanted to turn one of my SX-70s into a pinhole camera, but being the Impossible Project film so expensive, I decided to try this easier and cheaper version first. I am aware that the Diana F+ has a pinhole function, and I know there is a Diana Multi Pinhole Operator camera too, but lately I'm feeling crafty [well, sort of].

This project only takes about one hour and you don't really need to be a crafty person to make your own instant pinhole camera, you only need an Instant Back+ and a few items you can surely find at home:

You will need:
1. An Instant Back+ [I used the Diana F+ Instant Back]
2. A box fitting your Instant Back+ [approx 12 x 9,5 cm, you can also make one using cardboard]
3. Cardboard [to make sure the box is thick enough to be light-tight and to build the shutter]
4. A small piece of thick aluminum foil [you can cut one out of an empty can, or you can use a jar lid just like I did]
5. A needle [you could use a hammer to make the pinhole, especially if you're using a jar lid, and a clothespin]
6. Black vynil electrical tape
7. Masking tape or just normal tape
8. Scissors and a cutter
9. Permanent marker
10. Black paint and a brush
11. A sound-track
12. Instant film

First of all, take a look at your box. In my case, it was't thick enough, so I decided to add a piece of cardboard inside to make sure the light would not leak in from the front of my soon-to-be pinhole camera. Cut a 12 x 9.5 piece of cardboard and draw a line at 2.5cm from the bottom. Mark the two diagonals on your piece of cardboard in order to find its centre. 

You need to exclude the 2.5cm margin at the bottom as this area in the Instant Back+ does not correspond to the place where the film is, so if you mark the two diagonals without taking the margin into account, you will not find the exact place to put your pinhole. 
You will have to mark this margin and the diagonals on the back of the box as well.

Now you will have to cut out a small window around the point where the two diagonals meet both on the piece of carboard and the box. Place your cardboard sheet inside the box and stick it to it. Use your black vynil electrical tape to cover the edges of the window.
I decided to add another piece of cardboard right on the 2.5cm margin in order to hold the Instant Back+ steady into the box, but I guess you can skip this part.

Check if there is any place the light might leak through. In case, cover it with vynil tape. Now you can paint the box all black inside.

While you're waiting for the paint to dry, you can make the actual pinhole. You will need a piece of thick aluminum foil: just cut a tiny piece of aluminum out of an empty soda can or use a jar lid. The pinhole has to be teeny-weeny [the smaller the pinhole, the sharper the image] and its border must be as sharp as possible. If you're using a piece of can, simply lay it down on the table [make sure the table is somehow safe from accidental punching] and punch it with the tip of the needle. You may want to hold the needle with a clothespin [like a wooden one] if you have very sensitive fingers. If you're using a jar lid like I did, I suggest you use a hammer, so that the hole's edges are clear. Again, you only have to punch it with the tip of the needle, you don't have to hammer like crazy. If you're feeling a little frustrated you can always have a break and go wave your hammer around somewhere else [just kidding].

Once the paint is completely dried, check again both the inside and the outside of the box and tape any corner, hole or crack on it.

Tape the pinhole to the box making sure it is virtually placed exactly where the two diagonals meet [you can do this looking at the box and pinhole against the light].

Your camera will now need a shutter. You can use a piece of black tape that you can remove when you want to expose the film and put back in place when you're done, or you can make something a little more crafty. Due to very limited skills, I made this slide shutter cutting two pieces of cardboard about the same size as my jar lid, then I stuck them together cutting out a part big enough not to cover my pinhole and to slide a piece of cardboard through to use as the actual shutter. Once again, I painted both of these pieces of cardboard black. I didn't take a picture of it, but you'll get the idea in the final photo.

Now you can put the Instant Back+ in place. You will load the film later, but now make sure you put some fresh batteries in it!
You will need lots of tape to hold it down to the box, so I suggest you use normal tape or masking tape first and only then black vynil tape to make sure your camera really is light-tight. Just make sure not to tape the pinhole itself, the film ejection slit of the Instant Back+, the Instant Back+'s back, and the tripod thread mount on the bottom of it... it will definitely come in handy, as we're talking about pinhole photography!

Finally, here's your pinhole instant camera. I know, it looks much like an ugly duckling, but you can add stickers, draw something cute on it, glue stuff to it... but most of all, you can take great, tiny pictures with it!

All you have to do now is load some film and go take a picture. Being Fuji Instant Mini a 800 ISO film I couldn't find an accurate exposure guide, so while I'm trying to figure out the proper exposure time I'm currently exposing my pictures for about half the time recommended for 400 ISO film in the guide that comes with the Diana Multi Pinhole Operator. Also, you can put a color filter on the pinhole, but then you will have to keep the shutter open a bit longer.

Here you can see some test shots taken indoor at noon; the exposure time was 3, 4 and 5 minutes respectively [pictures are 100% unedited].

Let me know if you try this very easy project, I'd love to see your results!

Sidsel T.

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.

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