Camera Instructive: The Pinhole

While surfing through Facebook posts recently I came across a story about a photographer who worked with a group a school kids to produce images for Christmas cards. The camera of choice was a ‘Pinhole’.  

As I read the article I remembered when I had  taught a unit about pinhole photography.  It was in 1975 and I was teaching grade 7 at Rutland Elementary in Kelowna, B.C.   

Rutland Elementary was built around 1914. It’s rooms had twelve foot ceilings and  almost floor to ceiling windows. It was spacious and ideal for what I had planned.  

Our cameras were designed around  2 inch by 3 inch black and white sheet film. Each student constructed a camera based on a standardized plan. They were similar to a shoe box but smaller. Film was held in a slot mounted in the black painted interior. A small piece of copper foil  pierced by a needle was centre mounted over a small  hole at the end opposite. This was the aperture. A cardboard flap taped over the ‘aperture’ served as the shutter.  

With a standardized focal length and aperture we were able to calculate exposure times appropriate to the daylight conditions we faced. We all came to be quite proficient in making reasonably images as we experimented with differing exposure times.  

Film was loaded and then unloaded after exposure using a black bag, an essential tool for film photographers. It was developed and fixed in our rudimentary darkroom. It was located in a corner of our adjacent coat room. Composed of two large refrigerator boxes taped together there was enough room for a few students to work easily. It was equipped with 2 small tables, developing trays and an entry level enlarger. 

On photography days we found locations on our school grounds to make our compositions. Exposure times were monitored by stop watches. A heavy text book placed on top of the lid helped to prevent camera movement.  

I will always remember the excitement this project generated. The emergence of images on the negative and then on photographic paper in the developer absolutely captivated my students. Interestingly, two of them found careers in photography, one as a newspaper professional and the other as a researchers in medical imaging at the University of British Columbia.  

I’ve included a collection of my favourite black and while images with this article.To a few I have applied further artistic enhancements.  Originally, this was my area of photographic interest. Like my students I loved the  darkroom process. Digital now but early on, film photography including the pinhole chapter was very important to my learning of photography. 


This entry was posted in Education, My Work, The Creative Process.


  1. Alan Flynn December 5, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

    An interesting read Stu and your early photograph slightly beyond me. You certainly kept the students entertained and provided enthusiasm for photography. I have never used black and white shots but will endeavour to post some on FB in the near future.

    A couple of days ago there were some tremendous waves in Scarborough and also in Bridlington yesterday that I captured on my cellphone. Unfortunately, I do not have a zoom lens but will post some today. Black and white appears to enhance the definition of the waves in some cases.

    Great photographs within your post . I enjoyed them all but like the one of the horse thebest.



    • Stu Dale December 6, 2018 at 7:04 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Alan. I enjoyed black and white film photography. In the early 90’s I dropped photography altogether. Too much going on with family and work related endeavours. But around 2001 started up again but digital this time. i’ve been working hard at it since. In retrospect I wished I hadn’t stopped. There was so much more to learn in film photography that would have been good to know when began with digital. I too really like the horse.

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