We’ll help take the guesswork out of learning how to make a pinhole camera with a shoebox and other basic home supplies. We’re going to cover other topics like how to make a camera obscura, and making a pinhole camera with a Pringles can.
Whether you’re taking this project on as a fun task for your kids, or you’re want to reminisce over the old days and have a throwback – you’ll find actionable steps here.
You’ll find easy to follow steps loaded with tips and tricks to help you through this DIY project. Feel free to jump around the guide and find the sections or topics you’re stuck with.
Enjoy the guide!
Table of Contents
How to Make a Pinhole Camera with a Shoebox
A pinhole camera is a closed system that lets light in through a hole in a box or can, invert the upside-down image, and displays it on a flat surface.
These pinhole cameras lead to the development of cameras and modern photography as we know it. While it’s not that popular these days, you’ll be able to recreate the old setups without any experience or technical know-how.
It’s a great project to get your kids or classes involved and inspire them to take a little more interest in the sciences.
We’ll cover a couple of different setups and what you need to do.
Let’s jump into the guide!
Related article: Best Peephole Camera in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide & Comparison
How to Make a Pinhole Camera with a Shoebox for Class 6 Students
Let’s start with a fantastic pinhole camera for kids and a teaching aid that can inspire you Class 6 students to take an interest in the sciences.
The required materials are very cheap and easy to find, so your preparation load won’t be as heavy. It’ll be a fun and interactive project to work on with your class or kids.
To begin, get all these materials together before starting (you can also get the kids to bring them to class if you want them all to give this project a shot):
- Sharp HB pencil
- An empty shoebox and its lid
- Ruler (at least 30cm long)
- Masking tape or clear tape
- Wax paper or tracing paper
- Dark-colored blanket
You need to have a box cutter or an X-Acto knife handy for cutting up the boxes and doing any general cutting work (especially if you don’t want the students using a knife).
We’ll give you a couple easy to follow steps to get you started.
Step 1 – Preparing the Light Hole
Start by placing the lid on the shoebox. Orient the shoebox so that the shortest side is facing you and the longest sides are perpendicular to you.
Take the pencil and make an “X” mark in the center of the short side that’s facing you. Use the pencil to punch a hole in the center of that mark and through the wall of the shoebox.
Step 2 – Preparing the Display Hole
Use the box cutter or X-Acto knife to make a 2×2 inch hole in the opposite side from the hole in Step 1. You shouldn’t let the students make the hole themselves, but if you do, make sure you’re there to supervise them.
Step 3 – Making the Wax Paper Display Screen
Use the scissors to cut a 3×3 inch square of wax paper. If you don’t have wax paper, feel free to use tracing paper or any other translucent paper (where some light gets through, but not all).
If you can’t get either of these papers, dab some oil on white paper and use that as your screen.
Step 4 – Fixing the Wax Paper to the Shoebox
Place the wax paper/tracing paper over the 2×2 inch hole we cut in Step 2. Tape it down with the masking tape or clear tape.
Step 5 – Testing and Learning How to Use a Pinhole Camera
Take the shoebox camera to a dark room. Try to cut out as much external light as you can. Put a lamp in the room and turn it on.
Holding the pinhole camera at arm’s length, try to keep it as steady as possible. Point the side with the pencil hole at the lamp; place the blanket over your head and half of the shoebox.
Look at the wax paper screen and you should see the inverted image of the lamp.
How to Make a Camera Obscura
This is an add-on to the 5 steps above. If you want to look at outdoor scenes, you’ll need to make the darkroom into a camera obscura.
Here’s what to do:
- Cover the windows with dark materials so that no light is coming through
- Leave a small opening in the center that’s enough for the shoebox
- Place the shoebox camera about 1-3 feet away from the opening
- Look through the wax paper screen to see the outdoor scene’s inverted image
How to Make a Pinhole Camera with a Pringles Can
Here we’re going to show you the materials you’ll need, and the exact steps you’ll follow. These materials are easy to get your hands on and we’ve also added a replacement for the Pringles can in case you can’t find one.
It’ll make a great teaching point and a fun project to work on with kids. It’s also one of the more creative pinhole camera design ideas. Here are the materials you’ll need:
- Thick sheets of paper (colored if possible)
- One large Pringles tin (cut out the base of the can so both ends are open)
- Black paper
- White paper and oil
- If you have tracing paper, use that instead of the white paper and oil
- Some rubber bands
- A couple of pins with the ball head
Once you’ve got these materials together, move on to the construction steps:
- Use the Pringles can as the outer shell of the tube
- If you don’t have a Pringles can, take the thick colored paper and roll it into a tube and glue it
- Make a second thinner tube with the thick paper – it should be about half the diameter of the first tube
- Use the black paper and the rubber band to close off one end of the Pringles can
- Take the pin and make a hole in the center of the opening that’s covered in black paper
- Cover the end of the smaller tube the same way you did for the bigger tube – but using white paper instead of black (you can use tracing paper instead of white paper and oil here)
- Put a couple of drops of oil on the white paper that’s covering the end of the smaller tube until some light can partially pass through it
- Insert the thin tube into the open end of the thick tube
- Move the small tube forwards and backward until you get a sharp image
The image you see on the tracing paper will be inverted. You’ve now got a complete pinhole camera. You can use the inverted image to teach your kids or students about how light moves and works.
You should have an excellent DIY plan in place to keep your students or your kids engaged and having fun.
This is a fantastic way to ignite their passion for science and teaches them to get creative.
Take what you’ve learned here on how to make a pinhole camera with a shoebox and give it a shot. You’ll learn what works best for you and your situation! Good luck!