Authentic Assessment Toolbox
created by Jon Mueller

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Pinhole Photography


  • Use Pinhole cameras to create paper negatives and positives
  • Demonstrate proficiency in photo terminology and equipment
  • Students will show responsible care of equipment
  • Students will identify and analyze processes and problems encountered in photography
  • Students will follow the safety guidelines


  • Learn the three basic parts of the camera
  • Build and use a pinhole camera with the three basic parts
  • Learn about the relationship of lighting and exposure time
  • Learn how a pinhole camera works
  • Keep journal sheets of pinhole negatives
  • Learn how to use the chemistry in the darkroom to process negatives
  • Learn how to make a test strip
  • Learn what characteristics make a good positive and negative
  • Learn how to use the enlargers to create positives in the darkroom
  • Learn how to mount photo correctly
  • Follow safety guidelines



All assignments and self-evaluation rubrics must be included in the comprehensive binder.

  • Take notes during class demonstration- part of a camera
  • Build a pinhole camera
  • Hand in three successful pinhole negatives
  • Hand in a pair; positive and negative, correctly mounted
  • Take notes on what makes a good positive and negative
  • Complete worksheets on darkroom chemistry and safety
  • Complete a journal entry

Pinhole Prints - Negative & Positive

Pinhole photography is lenseless photography. A tiny hole replaces the lens. Light passes through the hole and a latent image is formed in the camera on photographic paper.

Pinhole Parts


Exposures are long, ranging from half a second to several hours. Therefore, the pinhole images are softer-less-sharp than pictures made with a lens.

Making a Negative:

  1. Load pinhole camera under darkroom conditions.
  2. Open up pinhole camera.
  3. Attach a sheet of photographic paper on the inside wall opposite the pinhole in the pinhole camera. Emulsion side of the paper should face pinhole. (Shiny side up)
  4. Close pinhole camera. Cover pinhole. Camera is ready for a picture.
  5. Determine subject. Set pinhole camera in stationary position facing subject. (Double check that actual pinhole is facing subject). School pinhole cameras have a wide angle pinhole, therefore camera should be placed closer to the subject.
  6. Remove pinhole closure. Make exposure. Length of time is dependent upon lighting conditions and varies greatly from one camera to the next. (It is helpful to keep track of lighting conditions, time, and distance.
  7. Classroom exposure - 7-10 minutes - away from window / 3-5 minutes - near window
    Outdoor exposure - 15-20 seconds - bright sun / 20-30 seconds - partly cloudy / 30-45 seconds - hazy/overcast
  8. In darkroom, remove exposed print paper from the pinhole camera. Don't forget to take the tape off.
  9. Process exposed paper according to directions posted on chart in darkroom.

How Do I Make a Positive Image??

  1. Place contact paper easel on base of enlarger.
  2. Switch on enlarger. Switch is on the timer.
  3. Adjust elevator control crank so that the light extends a couple of inches beyond the easel.
  4. Sharply focus the edges of light.
  5. Set enlarger to F-8 (2 clicks back from the darkest)
  6. Switch off the enlarger.
  7. Place a sheet of print paper emulsion side up (shiny side up) between glass and print easel.
  8. Place paper negative, emulsion side down on top of the unexposed print paper. (Shiny side to shiny side. Image should always be on top).
  9. Place glass on top of "sandwiched" paper to negative.
  10. Switch on enlarger.
  11. Expose for 10-15 seconds.
  12. Switch off enlarger.
  13. Remove paper negative and print paper from easel.
  14. Process exposed print paper according to directions on chart in darkroom wall.
  15. Keep enlarger area free of chemicals to avoid spots on positives.
  16. The resulting print is referred to as a pinhole positive print.

Pinhole Cameras

As you are reading this months issue of Photography Magazine, you see an advertisement for a camera for only $2.99 plus shipping and handling. Shocked by the price you decide to call and see if the ad is really for a camera. After waiting on hold for several minutes, the salesperson answers the phone and assures you that for $2.99 you will get a real camera. Still stumped by the price, you decide to ask the salesperson what the camera is like. The description the salesperson gives you is the following: a light tight body with a light tight lid, a lens, and a manual shutter. The next question you ask is what materials it is made of. The answer is cardboard with a copper lens. Shocked that anyone would pay $2.99 for cardboard and copper you quickly thank the salesperson and hang up the phone.

Being the inventive person you are, you decide to make your own camera using the same supplies. After searching your basement you find the following materials: cardboard, copper pieces, a needle, glue, black paper, tape, and an exacto blade; and set off to create your own camera.

Remembering that the only requirements that the salesperson mentioned were the following: light, tight body, light tight lid, shutter, and lens. As you begin the project you realize that not only are you saving money, but you believe that your camera will be constructed and decorated uniquely.

Pinhole Camera Grading Rubric

Total points - 40

No Way
Light tight camera body
Light tight lid
Effective shutter
Craftsmanship/ Construction
Followed safety guidelines

Pinhole Camera Worksheet

Write a brief explanation for each term on these sheets, refer to class demonstration, class notes, or your text book for answers. Be prepared to answer the questions on a quiz.

1. Camera Obscura-

2. Pinhole Camera-

3. Exposure time (generally speaking)
A) Bright sun-
B) Cloudy/overcast-
C) Indoor using window light-
D) Indoor away from the window-

4. Camera shake-

5. Exposure with bright sun and shade together-

6. Exposure and size of the camera-

7. Moving objects taken with a pinhole-

8. Exposure directly into the sun-

9. "Light leaks" / how do you know if you have them and how to fix them-

10. What does the developer do?

11. What does the stopbath do?

12. What happens in the fixer?

13. Why do we wash prints?

14. What are safe lights?

15. What are fixer spots?

16. Why agitate chemicals when printing?

17. What should you be concerned with in chemicals and skin contact?

18. What do you need to be aware of in chemicals dripping into each other? and how to avoid...?

19. What causes prints to stick together? Prevention?

20. Describe the difference between an overexposed and an underexposed pinhole negative?

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Copyright 2016, Jon Mueller. Professor of Psychology, North Central College, Naperville, IL. Comments, questions or suggestions about this website should be sent to the author, Jon Mueller, at