Michelle Nguyen & Jingyi Li
Project 2: Pinhole Camera

Construction & Design

For this project, we used a small cardboard box to construct a camera obscura. First, we painted black construction paper with black paint to make the paper even darker. We then used this paper to line the inside of our box to prevent scattering of light rays. At the end of the box, we taped a sheet of white printer paper to act as our screen. On the opposite end, we attached a piece of cardboard with a circular hole cut to fit our camera lens, and a smaller, rectangular hole for our pinhole sheets. We then covered the outside of our box with aluminum foil and black gaff tape in order to prevent light leaks. However, for aesthetics, we later decided to cover that layer with colorful, patterned sheets and tape. (You can open images in a new tab to view them fullsize).

Our camera during a photoshoot, before decoration. Camera after decoration, without digital camera. Camera after decoration, with digital camera mounted.

We decided to use pinholes with diameters of .7mm (calculated from 1.9 * sqrt(f * lambda)), 3mm, and 5mm. To create these pinholes, we took squares of copper sheet. For the .7mm, we used a needle with a .7mm diameter to puncture the copper. For the 3mm and 5mm pinholes, we used drill bits of corresponding diameters to make our holes. After puncturing the copper, we sanded the areas around the punctures to smooth out any jagged edges. We then taped these copper sheets to our camera using masking tape. We also attempted a pinhole of .1mm (just a pinprick), but were unable to get an image to appear in our pinhole camera using this aperture.


For our scene images, we decided to photograph some 3D printed models, and the view of Soda from the 6th floor of Sutardja Dai. We found the best shutter speeds in areas of low light to be 75s, 30s, and 8s for each aperture, respectively. We see that larger pinhole sizes require a smaller exposure time because they let in more light.
.7mm 3mm 5mm
From examining our photos across the different aperture sizes, we see that the larger the pinhole, the blurrier the photo is. This is because the larger pinholes allow more rays of light of varying angles into our camera. However, if we have a smaller pinhole, only a few rays of light can enter our camera. This creates a sharper image because a single point in our scene maps only to a single point on our screen. All of the following images are taken with a shutter speed of 30s.

We decided our best pinhole aperture was our smallest, .7mm. We took a few more photos of scenes around the northside of campus using this aperture.
The steps leading up to the Hearst Memorial Mining Building.
The sculpture at the Hearst Mining Circle.
The plants outside of the Woz, with a view of Jacobs.
A selfie of us outside of the Woz. We're ghosts!
The terrace next to Sutardja Dai and Cory.

Bells and Whistles

Camera Obscura in the Bathroom

We decided to do camera obscura in a room. For this, we chose a bathroom which had a single, small window that was easily coverable. We cut a tiny hole into some blackout curtains, which we duct-taped over the window, and turned off all the lights. We were immediately able to see the shadows of the scene outside the window projected across the bathroom door. With a long exposure, we were even able to capture the colors of the scene.
Our setup in the bathroom. Scene projected on wall opposite of window.
Scene outside bathroom window.

Light Painting

We attempted light painting using our pinhole camera and cellphone flashlights in a dark room in Soda.
Some random shapes. Hi!

Attempted Pinspeck Camera

We also attempted the pinspeck camera method. We first took a photo of the wall opposite of a window, and another photo of the same scene with one of us standing in front of the window. Unfortunately, we were not able to find anything in our difference image.
Photos with and without person in front of window. Difference image.

Dolly Zoom

After learning about the dolly zoom method in lecture, we tried recreating the effect. We did this by having Jingyi sit in a rolling chair, zooming out on the subject, while Michelle pushed the chair across the room closer to the subject. Due to Michelle's inability to properly push a chair, the effect is not as smooth as it could be. Our video stars Valkyrie Savage and the famous Maker's Mark shark in the Berkeley Institute of Design.