Why pinhole?

An excerpt from From pinhole to print – Inspiration, instructions and insights in less than an hour. The beautiful qualities of a pinhole print.

One of the best things about pinhole photography is its simplicity. Almost any container that can be made ‘light-tight’ can be turned into a pinhole camera.

Building your own camera is not only a great way to learn the true basics of photography, but it is also incredibly fun to create something from scratch, that can take a photo. The world may be going digital, and it is fun and spontaneous to take a picture with your phone, but there is a mystery in taking a photograph with a pinhole camera, and a thrill in developing your own print in the darkroom.

Depth of field of a pinhole image

Pinhole photographs have many interesting qualities, including a virtually infinite depth of field. This means that everything in the image, no matter how close or distant, lies in the same focal plane.

If you place an apple in the foreground and a tree stands far away in the background, then both the apple and the tree will be in focus. With an ordinary camera, either the apple or the tree would be in focus, not both. This ‘infinite look’ is quite unique to pinhole cameras, and can help you create very startling images.
Long exposure times
It may be possible to adjust your ordinary camera to have long or short exposure times, but long exposure times are part and parcel of pinholing.

Exposure times can range from several seconds to several minutes. Taking advantage of this time allows you to produce a multitude of blur effects as the subjects of your photographs move, or as you move the camera.

Timeless quality of the pinhole

Pinholes have a ‘timeless’ quality, that makes you want to release your creative potential. It is sometimes hard to tell whether the image was taken yesterday or a hundred years ago. Imperfections such as reflections and light leaks become values in a pinhole image. Pinhole cameras simply see the world differently from the way our eyes see it.

Limitations lead to freedom

At first glance the pinhole camera may seem too simple to offer versatility to an experienced photographer. But, as is often the case, limitations release creativity.

Recommended reading - Learn more in the pinhole book
From pinhole to print – Inspiration, instructions and insights in less than an hour by Malin Fabbri Gary Fabbri and Peter Wiklund
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From pinhole to print – Inspiration, instructions and insights in less than an hour

by Gary Fabbri, Malin Fabbri and Peter Wiklund

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Learn how to build and use a pinhole camera. Step by step to a quick and easy way to learn pinholing.

2 thoughts on “Why pinhole?”

  1. Technically, a pinhole camera has no focal planes at all, because it does not focus light. Instead, each point on the film simply records an average of all the light it receives from the narrow cone created by it and the pinhole, regardless of how far away from the camera that light is coming. It is analogus to a infinitely many focal planes all at once, but it is quite a different reality

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