I wanted to collect a few of the coolest resources on home made photography projects that you can do with your kids. Pinhole cameras, cyanotypes, and similar DIY photography projects provide very important first lessons on photographic principals. These foundational understandings of the roots of photography are easily forgotten in a world where kids grow up around a camera in every iPhone.
Intro to Pinhole Cameras
A pinhole camera is simply a light-tight container with a tiny hole that you can open up to let light shine through and onto photo paper or film. This simple project will teach your kid’s three important photographic principals (more if you want to go into detail).
Why Use a Pinhole Camera to Get Kids into Photography?
Before learning anything about photography, it’s best to understand that photography is literally graphing with light. A painter learns to use his materials and medium and likewise, a future photographer should learn the foundation of the craft. The foundation involves 3 things that photography is based on. Aperture, shutter speed, and the sensitivity of the paper or film.
First, all cameras are simply a light tight box that focus light rays onto a light sensitive device. In the pre-digital days that device was a piece of film. Today, that device is a light sensor. The outcome is the same. Focused rays get documented on something that can record them. For the first attempt at pinhole photography, it might be a good idea to use just one type of photographic paper or film. Later, you can experiment with less or greater sensitivities of film or paper.
Second, the smaller the hole (aperture) that light passes the greater the “depth of field” of the image that light makes. That will be an important lesson later when your kids are learning about f-stop on manual cameras.
Third, the longer the paper in the pinhole camera is exposed to light, the more the image will “burn” into the paper or film and eventually become “over exposed”. This will teach them the basis behind shutter speed which they’ll need to learn as well when they pick up a student manual camera later.
A pinhole camera usually keeps 2 of the three variables (f-stop, and film sensitivity) constant and you can limit the lesson to length of exposure (shutter speed) for simplicity. Then add other pinhole cameras with different pinhole sizes to show the difference when the exposure time and film are the same. Likewise, you can show the difference in higher sensitivity film or paper with the same shutter speed and pinhole.
For now, lets look at some fun pinhole projects that we found.
Can Based Pinhole Cameras
This first one comes from Ashley Hackshaw and her blog at lilblueboo.com Read the whole instructional here.
I liked the point she made here: If you think it’s something you or your kid will really enjoy doing…..I recommend making multiple cameras….out of different size cans. I used to lug over 10 cans around in a box because then I could take 10 photos at one location without having to worry about reloading film paper until I get home. Then you can experiment with exposure times. Number the cans so you can make notes and compare. – http://www.lilblueboo.com/2013/08/pinhole-photography-making-a-wide-angle-pinhole-camera.html
Another can project from Chris Keeney uses a SPAM can. This one actually takes role film – 120 film which is medium format (larger than 35mm). You can still buy 120 film at most photography supplies or order it online. Here’s an Amazon listing: http://www.amazon.com/Ultrafine-Xtreme-Black-White-Format/dp/B004KUBY2O
Here’s the full instructional at chriskeeney.com: http://chriskeeney.com/spamera
The Quaker Oaks can concept is possibly the simplest. Though I am not sure how easy it is to find metal oatmeal cans anymore(?)
Here’s the full instructional: http://mistakesandmalarkey.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-make-pinhole-camera.html
Cardboard Pinhole Cameras
Cardboard cameras can be even more fun than can based cameras because you can more easily alter them to experiment with size.
Here’s a nice instructional from Betsy Finn’s blog at: http://bphotoart.com/learn-aperture-using-simplified-diy-model-camera/
Want a beautiful pre-prepped pinhole project instead of scotch taping and magic markering? Get the lovely pre-made kit from The Pop-Up Pinhole Co.
These little guys take 120 film (see link above for film). there is a little bit of assembly but it’s all part of the fun. There is an instructional video and it makes for a great rainy day project (don’t take the camera out in the rain though). The kit comes from the UK but they ship worldwide. They even have an app to help you time the exposure for best results!
Here’s a few fun examples of creative pinhole photographs by Nora Tschirner found at http://novemberkind-fotografie.tumblr.com/
Now get out there and see what masterpiece you and your kids can create.