Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

Building a Pinhole Camera

Team: Noah Jacobs, Jordan Flores, Steve Shi

Project Overview

In this project, we built our own pinhole camera to capture the phenomena of light entering a small hole and projecting onto a surface on the other side of the hole. The setup we created mirrors how the human eye works, where light enters the pupil and hits the back of the eye, where it is processed. We used a cardboard box, a camera, and a bright setting to capture the image being projected inside of the box.


Box Setup

The setup of the box was simple. We got a medium size cardboard box and made sure it was light proof by putting black paper lined on the inside and tape on the edges of the box so that light wouldn’t sneak through. We cut two holes in the front of the box, one large for the camera and one small for the pinholes. We made sure that the inside of the box across from the pinhole was covered with white paper, so that the camera could pick up the image on a light background.

Camera Setup

We placed the box on some elevated surface and used an adjustable tripod to make sure that the camera was snugly secure inside the larger hole in the front of the box. We then used a thick, black paper with different size pinholes in it to cover the other small hole, creating a pinhole effect. We made sure no light would sneak in either hole in the cardboard by using tape and tissue paper to stuff any cracks.

Photo Analysis

We used three different sizes of pinholes to take pictures with. The pinhole sizes we used were roughly .5mm, 2mm, and 4mm. We took two sets of pictures with the same settings and background to compare all of the pinholes. The smallest hole gave us the best results, with the larger holes letting in too much light, making the resolution of the image worse. Every image is captured with a 30 second exposure.

We then took 4 additional photos with the .5mm pinholes, as it seemed to produce the clearest images out of the three.

Notes: Some of the photos have a blueish tint. We think this is because some of the tape we used was blue and was around the hole for the camera. All images are flipped and rotated 180 degrees due to the inverted images pinhole cameras produce.

Left to right, 4mm (ISO 100, F-stop 4.0), 2mm (ISO 100, F-stop 4.5), and .5mm (ISO 200, F-stop 2.8) images.

Left to right, 4mm (ISO 100, F-stop 5.0), 2mm (ISO 100, F-stop 4.5), and .5mm (ISO 160, F-stop 2.8) images.

The above images were taken with a .5mm pinhole, ISO 500, and F-stop 5.0.

Light Painting


  • CS 194-26 Course Staff at UC Berkeley
  • Professor Alexei (Alyosha) Efros