Making a cyanotype pinhole in-camera?

The myth: A pinhole camera cannot be used to make cyanotypes! Malin Fabbri confirms the myth and makes pinhole cyanotype.

Writer and photography / Malin Fabbri

Pinhole cameraIt has been said that the exposure times for a pinhole camera are just too long to make a cyanotype print. True or false?

For testing this theory we used a bucket pinhole camera with f/295 hole and exposure time of around 1-5 minutes when using ordinary black & white silver gelatin paper – depending of course on the strength of the light. Where the black & white paper would normally sit, a coated cyanotype paper was inserted, and the camera aimed at the garden.

Exposing the paper for 8 hours – a very long exposure time by any standards – did not result in the slightest imprint on the paper. Not a shadow.

A fresh paper was inserted. This time the exposure time was weeks instead of hours. Five weeks to be exact – in the Scandinavian summertime, when the sun shines for most of the day and most of the night. This resulted in some unimpressive streaks on the paper.

Cyanotype in a pinhole camera
Cyanotype after 5 weeks of exposure in-camera.
Cyanotype in a pinhole camera
Cyanotype after 6 months exposure in a pinhole camera.

Not being disheartened, another paper was inserted, and exposed for six months. For half a year the pinhole was sitting there, letting in light through its little hole, exposing the paper. The result? After the rinse, a slight blue patch showed in one corner, but certainly nothing worth the effort. See above right.

True or false? The conclusion: True! To combine pinhole and cyanotype, the in-camera method cannot be used. Instead, make a negative using the pinhole camera, and use the negative to print a cyanotype.

Reader contributions

After the article was published a few readers came forward with their experiences. Thank you. Here is Sarah Warwick’s experiment.

Sarah Warwick's Pinhole camera used to make a cyanotype
Sarah Warwick’s Pinhole camera used to make a cyanotype
The cyanotype made with the pinhole camera
The cyanotype made with the pinhole camera
Learn more in the Cyanotype book
Blueprint to cyanotypes the book by Malin Fabbri

Buy directly from us

Blueprint to cyanotypes – Exploring a historical alternative photographic process

by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri

9 of 10   Rated 9,7 – based on 234 votes

All you need to get started with cyanotypes, full of information, tips and samples from artists.
An excellent beginners’ guide to cyanotypes!

Learn more about Cyanotypes
Blueprint to cyanotypes the book by Malin Fabbri

10 thoughts on “Making a cyanotype pinhole in-camera?”

  1. ah hell, i just spent all night making a perfect box pinhole cam cause someone gave me a pack of cyanotype paper. i i did a quick google search but couldnt find anything. if i would have only typed the word “suitable” earlier and found this post:-(

  2. I have made one! Having read this article, I tried with a larger hole. The image is blurred, but tree outlines are clear. Also shows sun tracking ( as in solargraphy project) for the week i left my biscuit tin exposed

  3. Thanks for posting this. You saved me a ton of work. I was going to try the same thing you did, but now that I already know it won’t work, i think that I will play tennis instead.

  4. Hi Kimberly,
    It was the classic formula. I’m not sure the other one would work either, but please try it and let us know! 🙂

Leave a Comment