Photography without Glass
"I, too, made a pinhole camera from an oatmeal box." Line
When I started putting together the ideas for this page, I decided it would be wise to check the Web for pinhole photography sites to see what was already there. There are several sites worth looking at and I suggest that you continue the search on the Web after you see my page. The links I list here are the two that I think provide the best basic information about pinhole photography and I suggest that you try them first. These sites are so comprehensive and well done that I'm listing them here at the beginning rather than at the end.

Oatmeal Box Pinhole Photography This site goes through every step required to build and use an oatmeal box pinhole camera and then the procedures for processing and printing the photographs. It is illustrated with photos of children completing the steps and has a gallery of pinhole photographs.
The Penultimate Pinhole Photography Site This is the ultimate resource for pinhole photography. It also includes a gallery of pinhole photographs.

Line Camera/Prints
This photograph shows the pinhole camera, the 'paper' negative that was exposed in the camera, and the positive print that was contact printed from the negative. Resin coated paper can be used for contact printing but normal fiber paper cannot. The pinhole 'lens' is the small square of aluminum foil taped near the center of the box. I made the pinhole by carefully piercing the foil with a sewing needle. I wanted the diameter of the hole to be about 0.1 mm.

Pinhole Photo The image on the left shows the full 8x10 sheet of paper exposed in the camera. It was scanned from the negative print. I then used photo software to reverse the image and change it from negative to positive. 35mm Photo The positive print that I made is not as sharp as the negative. Even the resin coated paper is not as good as film for contact printing. The color print was made many years later to show how the pinhole camera was placed. Its position on a bench resulted in the low angle view. I probably placed a rock or other weight on the oatmeal box to keep it still during the long exposure. I covered the pinhole with a piece of black electrical tape which served as a shutter then placed the paper in the box in the darkroom.
To take the picture, I put the box on the bench and aimed it at the corner of the house. I then carefully removed the tape from the pinhole and ran to take my pre-determined position. I timed 6 minutes on my wristwatch, then ran back and re-covered the pinhole. I removed the exposed paper in the darkroom and processed it normally.
The photo made with the Nikkormat was made from a position a little further away and at eye-level. It should be obvious from the growth of the trees and my aging that the second photo was made many years after the first. I scanned and sized the 35mm photo from a 4x6 print to approximately equal the size of the same area of the pinhole print.
The rough, irregular border on the right side of the pinhole print is the shadow of fibers left around the edges when I cut the hole in the oatmeal box.

Both of the images were cropped and enlarged to give a better comparison. I listed the lighting conditions for the pinhole photo as 'cloudy bright.' The 35mm photo was made on a late afternoon in fall with the sun low in the southwest. The harsh shadows make comparison difficult and the pinhole camera is almost lost in the shade of the trees. The 'wide-angle' perspective of the pinhole photo is the result of the closer placement of the pinhole camera and not because of the relative difference in the focal lengths of the two lenses. (I suppose the pinhole shouldn't be referred to as a lens.) Focal length and film size affect the included angle of the view but not the perspective of the view. Pinhole Cropped
35mm Cropped

Full Length Full Length I next cropped the photo to make a full-length image of myself from each of the photos to provide a better comparison of the image quality of the 35mm versus the pinhole. Upper Torso Upper Torso Finally I cropped the images down to show only my upper torso for a comparison of the images at the highest practical enlargement. While evaluating the relative quality, remember that I stood there for 6 minutes while making the pinhole photo and it is possible that I moved slightly during that time thus causing some blur from the motion.
Most (but not all) photographic paper is not sensitive to red light, so my hair and beard are very black in the pinhole photo. The paper is sensitve to blue, so the sky is very white. Modern B&W film is sensitive to all colors (panchromatic) so that red is a lighter shade of grey than black and blue is a darker shade than white. Some early B&W films had the same sensitivity range as paper has and those films could be processed by the light of a safelight. In 1951 Kodak still listed Verichrome orthocromatic roll film in its Master Photoguide. Orthocromatic film is relatively insensitive to red light.

I had to estimate the f/stop of the pinhole and the ASA rating of the paper. I estimated that the paper speed was equivalent to a film speed of ASA 1/3; I don't remember why. I estimated that the pinhole diameter was 0.02 inches. The box diameter (the focal length) was 5.5 inches. The ratio of the two gives an opening size of f/275. Then, based on the rule of thumb that the proper exposure for full noonday sun is f/16 at a speed of 1/ASA seconds, I determined that the exposure time should be 6 minutes. The negative was a sheet of Ilfospeed Glossy Grade 2 resin coated paper and the positive print was contact printed on Ilfospeed Pearl Grade 2. My enlarger provided the light source. I used f/4 for 15 seconds. Development was in Dektol 1:2.

Negative Positive

The paper negative was exposed in a Rexoette box camera. The camera uses film of the same type that the Kodak No. 3-A Folding Brownie Camera (Sept. 7, 1909) uses. That type of film is about 3 3/4 inches wide. Frame size was 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches. (These images are slightly smaller than life size.) The Rexoette is 4 3/4 x 6 3/4 by 7 inches deep. The shutter was in front of the lens and was double acting - push the release down, the shutter rotates past the lens opening and exposes the film; push the release up and the shutter rotates back past the lens opening to make the next exposure. A tab at the top of the camera can be pulled up for time exposures. I don't remember whether I used a time exposure for this photo. Between the shutter and the lens is a metal bar with two holes in it. A tab on the side of the camera is pushed in to place the larger of the two holes in front of the lens; when pulled out, the smaller hole is in place. The openings were around f/11. The camera has waist-level view finders - one on the top for viewing a vertical format and one on the side for horizontal. The view finders had lenses and mirrors (or prisms) to form the view image. The image was right side up but backwards. A friend at work brought the camera back from a visit home to Nebraska and gave it to me.

THIS PAGE - Pinhole Photography - An old pinhole photograph is compared to a modern 35mm photo of the re-created scene with an explanation of the process for making a large-format pinhole photograph using photo enlarging paper.

ANOTHER PAGE - Photographic Perspective - Our experience with photography gives us the impression that the focal length of the lens will create a particular perspective in the resulting photograph. However, the photos shown here illustrate that it is camera-to-subject distance, not lens focal length that makes the difference.

Stereo Photography - A stereo photo pair is displayed with instruction for viewing in 3-D by the "cross-eyed" technique. There is also a brief account of my experience with stereo photo systems and links to several excellent and comprehensive sites on stereo photography.

Film Resolution - A portrait of a young woman and enlargements of her eyes demonstrate the degree of resolution I was able to obtain with B&W 35mm film.

Bridal Portrait - A portrait of a young bride and enlargements of her eyes demonstrate the degree of resolution achieved with 35mm colorprint film.