Get Ready for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day: A Primer on the Process

April 23, 2013 Dirk Fletcher General, Photography 0 Comments

Pinhole Photography Dirk Fletcher

With Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) just a couple days away (April 28 to be exact),  you only have a couple days to go to get your pinhole creation together and ready for action. 

Last week on the Harrington blog, the Photography Department’s Cage Manager Joe Byrnes shared his Camera Obscura, which is based on a pinhole camera.  This is a fantastic approach blending old and new technologies.  I’m partial to the new “lens cap” pinhole cameras, as it makes possible images that were simply now able to be made before.

Traditional pinhole cameras required you to use a pinhole of some sort, either commercially made or one you can make by poking a pin through a piece of aluminum foil, soda can (“pop can” if you are born and raised in Chicago) or other kind of thin aluminum or metal. 

With digital technology progressing, many options for pinhole photography exist today that just weren’t possible before.  Specifically, modern digital cameras are capable of shooting at speeds or ISOs up to 6400, 12800 and beyond.  This lets you capture moving objects like never before with the look and feel of a real pinhole photograph.

Faster ASAs or ISOs (it’s the same measurement) are key to making this work, and here is why: Ten years ago when most of us were using film for just about everything, you would make a decision between 100 ASA or 400 ASA film, or maybe 1000 or 1600 ASA if you were shooting in a dark environment or purposely wanted a grainy image. Wedding photographers back in the day would often shoot some pictures with high speed, or high ISO, film for a dreamy and grainy look.
Having the ability to shoot a modern digital camera at 6400 makes the camera 16 times more sensitive then if you were shooting with 400 ASA film and a whopping 64 times more sensitive than if you were shooting with 100 ASA film. Imagine you were in a darkened room and you wanted to shoot a picture by candlelight. If you were shooting with a modern digital camera with an ISO of 6400 and made the image with the light of a single candle, it would take 64 candles to shoot the same image with 100-speed film!

So only needing 1/64 the amount of light that was needed with film-based pinhole photography, you can suddenly see action that was not available before. Speeding cars (or taxi cabs, as in the image above) and horses running with wild abandon are well within the realm of subjects that could never be considered before. 

Pinhole Photography Dirk Fletcher

Being a purist, I’m constantly trying to find the very best tools within my reach. I have also been involved with Lenox Laser for some time now and have seen their entire operation and can say without hesitation their pinholes are the most precise pinholes available today. Their Hi-Contrast DSLR cap is my choice for sharpest and best-looking pinhole cap available.  

Regardless of what kind of pinhole you use, be sure to participate in WPPD and post your results to the website for the entire world to see. If you don’t have a camera and want to build one, check out the “How to Make a Pinhole Camera” section on the WPPD site.

Have fun! 

Dirk Fletcher is the department chair of the Professional Photography program at Harrington College of Design. See more of his work at and read his blog at

Images copyright Dirk Fletcher


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