Macro Pinhole

One of things that draws people to pinhole photography is the ‘infinite depth of field’ that the medium is able to capture.  A lot of people assume that this means that everything in the composition, from the pinhole to infinity will be sharp.  Unfortunately this is not quite the case.  I researched this in quite a bit of depth for my Masters degree, but the general consensus is that if you have the optimum sized pinhole for your cameras focal length, then everything from 20 x your cameras focal length should have reasonable sharpness.

For instance.  You have made or converted a pinhole camera, and its focal length is 50mm.  Most online calculators will tell you that the optimum pinhole size for 50mm is around 0.3mm, give or take a few 0.01mms.

I have found this to be correct and with my 50mm cameras I use the 0.3mm laser pinholes made by James at Reality So Subtle and have no issues with them.

Your camera now has the optimum sized pinhole for its 50mm focal length and so the maths says that everything more than 1000mm away from the pinhole (50mm focal length multiplied by 20) should be of optimum sharpness.

This maths does start to fall apart though in my experience once you start looking at parts of your image that are a very long way away, but thats for another post.

Anyway the point of this post was to talk about a little experiment I tried a few days back.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the guys at the Sunny 16 Podcast run a bit of fun called the Cheap Shots Challenge.  Each round has a specific ‘genre’ of photography and the idea is that you use the same cheap film camera for each round, and then the submitted images are judged by the guys and usually a guest.  This time around the genre was bloody macro, and of course my cheap shots camera is a pinhole camera…

Hence my ramble about how subjects too close to the pinhole are not in focus and therefore pinhole cameras are shit for macro…

So what to do about that.  Well unless I can find someway of altering the way light and physics work…(one day Neil)…the only thing to do is to incorporate a lens of some kind.  I don’t know if that’s frowned upon within the pinhole community or not.  And actually, I couldn’t care less if it is. 

I came across one of those crappy little lenses the other day that are designed to go over your mobile phone camera lens and are supposed to let you shoot fish-eye, wide and, yup, macro on your phone.

I tried looking through it at something really close and it seemed to work ok but I didn’t really know how it would perform on a camera, especially over a pinhole, so I tried it on the front of a pinhole body cap on my digital camera.  Yes I have one of those kicking about…it’s a Canon 600d if you’re interested. 

The principle seemed to work, very well in fact.  I did seem to be able to focus pretty well on subjects that were just a few centimetres from the pinhole.  So I made a very sophisticated coupling system that allowed my to securely attached the lens to my Zenit TTL pinhole conversation (Blue-Tac) and set off to find something interesting to photograph.

Well. Flowers. Macro always starts with flowers doesn’t it? They’re interesting and normally fairly common. Mine had to be static, indoor flowers as my exposure times were running five or ten minutes in some cases. 
And thats really about all there was to it to be honest.  I used the Pinhole Assist app as I would normally – again I cannot say enough good stuff about this app, and told it that I was using the Zenit, which is pre-saved in the app, and that I was using Ilford FP4, again, pre-saved with reciprocity failure rates, and away I went.

Some images worked well, some not so well.  I think the ones where I was too close didn’t come out so good.  Below are my favourites.

Oh yeah one last thing.  I mentioned above that they were taken using Ilford FP4.  Thats not incorrect and yes its a black and white film.  The colour that you can see is the result of scanning the black and white negs as they actual colour they are.  Just so you know, and just in case you care. I hope you care, I mean you’ve made it to the end of the post…?!


I Guess The Book Succeeded…

I said i’d post again when/if I got some results from the book camera.  Well, I have some results from the book camera…!

I ‘loaded’ it in the dark bag as I mentioned before and went straight out into the garden to see if it worked.  The exposure was worked out by using the fantastic Pinhole Assist app on my phone.  (Other pinhole exposure calculators are available…! 😃 ) Fortunately I have a Paterson dev tray for sheet film which allowed me to dev the paper in the daylight.


So this is my back garden.  Also my hand holding open the electrical tape ‘shutter’…  Happy with that.

Went out again after loading it again and visited Walpole Chapel.  This place is just up the road from my house and is one of my go to places when I want to try an idea.  Its where Ash and I got married so the location holds a special place in my heart.

This time I gaffer taped up the book to try and cut down on light leeks.  Previously it was held shut with a couple of Manfrotto clamps.  This time the clamps served as a rudimentary tripod on the floor…!  I didn’t take a picture of that.


So it works.  Very happy with that.  I seem to be on a mission at the moment to turn random stuff into cameras.  Not sure if i’ll use this again, or if it’ll just get relegated to my studio.  On to the next camera project.


The Book You Need To Succeed

When visiting the library last week I came across a trolly with some ‘free to good home’ books on it.  They were mostly titles on design and relevant software.  One was an old copy of the Photoshop CS3 Bible.  Its a fat old book, and I had the idea that it would be quite ironic to turn it into a pinhole camera…

…so I took it home, and thats what I did. 🙂

A few hours and some assistance spent hollowing out the centre created a ‘box’, and a pinhole secured into the front cover and hey, its a camera.  PVA glue holds all of the pages together and returns some sort of rigidity to its structure.  The inside was painted and gaffe taped to make sure its as light tight as it can be.

A couple of thumb tacks hold a piece of 5×7 photographic paper in the right place, and allows me to guide the paper in (hopefully) in the dark.  I know that the paper is safe under red light but I haven’t got a fully fledged darkroom right now, so a dark bag will have to do.

I’ll post again when I have some results to show…

“I Got Trapped By Pinhole Photography…”

What I believe Stroobant is saying here that we don’t as human beings see a snapshot, or a still image of a scene. The scene is not fixed, and that is not what you saw. What you actually saw was time unfolding around the scene. The scene was not static like in a painting or a ‘regular’ photograph.

Build a Pinhole Camera – A Collaboration With Patrick Elder

First pictures of the camera I designed. I realised swiftly that having no sort of woodworking knowledge it would be best if I commissioned someone else to build it! That someone was Patrick Elder, my father-in-law. He’s a Sculptor, and his work can be found at  I gave him the ‘plans’ that I drew up and basically gave him creative freedom to do what he wanted with the design, as long as the dimensions that I gave were adhered to. Still early stages yet, there is no back at the moment, and no design for a shutter for the front of the camera. The slots are in for the 6×6 mask and the edges are there for the 6×9. These dividers will not be removable, they dont need to be unlike the 6×6. The edges of the dividers have been made as smooth as possible, as the film will roll over the and I do not want them to scratch the film. In a regular camera they are quite often metal roller, but I wanted as much of this as possible to be made from scratch, rather than cannibalising other cameras, and I also wanted as much of it as possible to be wooden.


That being said I did have a metal tripod mount machined into the bottom. It needs the ability to be tripod mounted otherwise it would be pretty much useless really, and taking one out of a scrap camera was much easier than attempting to make one.


Time & The Mechanical

Within my life I am interested in the mechanical. I grew up being interested in cars and spent hours working on and modifying aspects of many different project vehicles. During my BA studies this interest in the mechanical nature of technologies translated over to the cameras that I preferred using and the mechanical nature of the cars and the culture that surrounds them became the subject of my image making.

This work was selected for submission to the Uncertain States Emergence show in 2016, has been shown in exhibitions in Norwich and London and has been shown on several online platforms including the London Camera Project and Everybody Film.

This subject has now been paused, but the love for the mechanical within the image making process has continued. I am at present making images with a variety of custom built pinhole cameras, of intentional varying quality, to photograph places of nostalgic interest to me. I am interested in the passing of time around static places and I find that by using pinhole photography, it allows me to firstly capture much more than just a moment of time due to the long exposures required, and secondly it allows me to use technology that is much more personal and relevant to myself.