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How to make a pinhole camera that will fool most people into thinking it's an innocent, if eccentric, book.
Details: This is a pinhole camera which to the best of my ability was made to look like a book.

*It was hard to choose a book to destroy (seems sacrilegious as an English major). I finally came to terms with a readers digest. Quite by accident I choose one with tittles that hinted at its true purpose; "False Impressions", "At First Sight", "Sun at Midnight", and "Cover Your Assets".

* The chamber inside fits a paper negative of 4"X5".

The Story: If you care to know...

We were assigned to make a pinhole camera in our photography class. We were encouraged to make it out of an unusual item. I thought it would be neat to make it from a hallowed book. My teacher worried that it would be to shallow, but there are pinholes made from film canister cases, and they are about the same depth, so I was not concerned.

My second goal was to make it appear (with exception of the holes drilled in the front) as much like an unaltered book as possible. Everyone told me it was impossible to make the pages light tight without painting the whole thing, outer edges included, black. I ignored them. They also told me the only way to keep it sealed was to wrap it with heave rubber bands or at the least two buckled straps on each end. I ignored them. In the end I solved all my problems to the amazement of the two art teachers, and came out with a camera that suffers no light leaks!

Note: I have included a link to the basic instructions for making a pinhole put out by Kodak for those interested, but in truth this was a collaborative project done with my professor using several resources she provided.

Posted by Haught Tea from San Jose, California, United States • Published See Haught Tea's 15 projects »

  • Step 1

    Choose a book you don't mind destroying. I picked a Reader's Digest.

    Hollow out a book using an exacto knife. Best method is to draw out a rectangle a little larger than you want the paper negative to be. Don't go to close to the outer edge of the page or you increase the risk of light leaks.

    Cut along the line you drew. You can use a metal straight edge to guide you if you like. You will only get though about 10 pages at a time if you are lucky and have a sharp blade. This is the longest part of the project and it pays to take your time on it.

    The time estimate if for active time. The project takes several days with drying time factored in.

  • How to make a pinhole camera. Pinhole Spy Camera - Step 2
    Step 2

    Once the book is hollow use the clear acrylic as an adhesive. Paint each page and stick it to the one below. Keep doing this till all pages are glued together. Allow to dry overnight.

    Day two, Paint the inside of the book with matt black acrylic. Allow to dry overnight.

    Day three, use super glue to tack leather around edges of front cover (don't cover middle where pinhole will be located). Also glue black felt to all page surfaces inside the book. Keep it trimmed so you can't see them from outside when closed.

    If you have any light leaks you can add felt and electrical tape accordingly (see the floppy bits in the middle).

  • How to make a pinhole camera. Pinhole Spy Camera - Step 3
    Step 3

    Using a quarter inch drill press I drilled 3* holes in the front of the book (one centered over the box you have made). If you do not have access to this equipment you can use your exacto to cut a square, it just won't be as clean.

    I then cut the pie ten and super clued it to the inside of the cover over the holes. I used electrical tape and more balk paint to seal for light leaks.

    Then I poked the holes for the apature using the needle.

    *I made 3 to allow some play with various double exposures, and to try for some stereoscopic images, sadly the last part did not work out because the projected image area was much larger than my teacher or I expected in a space so narrow.

  • How to make a pinhole camera. Pinhole Spy Camera - Step 4
    Step 4

    At this point the cameral was complete and functional. Not pictured here is the electrical tape I used to cover the apertures when not in use. It is an inelegant soliton, and one I am working on fixing eventually, but I was in school and finals were coming up..and I don't need to explain my self to the internet. ; P .

    On to decorations.

    To keep the book shut I super glued a strip of leather to the back cover, and then put a velcro loops tab on the front cover an hooks tab on the inside of the leather strip. Its important that the leather stretch a little when you shut the book. It need to make a tight seal to prevent light leak.

    At this point I also decided to add some pizzaz and used gold glitter paint from Crayola to gild the pages edge. (I have since got a gold paint pen an will be dressing it up accordingly).

  • How to make a pinhole camera. Pinhole Spy Camera - Step 5
    Step 5

    I was not satisfied with the leather straps appearance on the front cover, so I went a head and added a gold necklace finding designed to create multiple strands. On each loop I string a few red and gold beads, then super glued the whole thing onto the leather strap and trimmed it to a point.

    Now my old Readers Digest looks like an illuminated tome, and it takes pictures!

  • How to make a pinhole camera. Pinhole Spy Camera - Step 6
    Step 6

    Take pictures! This one is of the Bixby Bridge on Highway 1 south of Carmel. It was taken, developed, scanned and then color inverted in photoshop.

    You can use these paper negatives in the dark room if you wish.

    Future Tutorials: How to Turn the trunk of a car into a dark room on the side of the road, so you can load paper into your pinhole on the go!

    If you care to read more of the adventure of this photo go to the link section! Also see more pictures taken with this camera in my Deviant Art gallery.

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