What Are the Basic Parts of a Pinhole Camera?

By Ma Wen Jie

Pinhole cameras are the most basic of cameras. The shutter is basic and there is no lens. The cameras are so simple that it is easy to make one that works. Each pinhole camera has the same few basic parts.

Pinhole Opening

Every pinhole camera has a hole in the front in place of the lens. The size, or aperture, of this hole defines how much light will fall on the film or, in some cases, on a piece of photographic paper.

Shutter Mechanism

Most pinhole cameras have a basic shutter. It is usually something like a piece of tape, a cap that fits over a tube around the pinhole or, in wooden cameras, a metal plate that slides to open and close the hole.

Light-Proof Box

The body of the pinhole camera is a light-proof box or enclosure. Common boxes are made of cardboard, wood or metal. Pinhole cameras have been made from cans or virtually any object that can be made light proof.

Film Plane

The film plane is where the film or photographic paper is mounted. It should be parallel to the pinhole. Moving the plane closer to the hole creates a smaller image area on the film. Moving it back creates a larger one.

Stabilization System

Most pinhole exposures are long. They may range from 15 seconds to several hours. Any motion in the camera will cause the exposed image to blur. As a result, pinhole cameras must be stabilized. Stabilization systems can be anything from a tripod to simply setting the camera on a solid surface during the exposure.