What is Pinhole Photography?


What is a pinhole?

A pinhole is a small hole that focuses light, similar to a lens.  In photography and optics it is most commonly known as an aperture.

What is pinhole photography?

Pinhole photography is the art of photography using a pinhole / aperture, without the need for lenses. This works by allowing light to pass through a single point and the image appears on film / screen / sensor (inverted.)

How Pinholes Work

Field of view / zoom

The field of view becomes wider as the distance from the pinhole (aperture) to the sensor (film) decreases. Conversely, zoom is achieved by moving the pinhole (aperture) farther from the sensor (film).

Focal Length Diagram

Pinhole Basics

Pinhole photography takes capturing images back to the basics by completely removing the use of a lens. First established in the 1850s, pinhole photography replaces a lens on a camera with a lens cap that has a tiny hole in the center of it. Pinhole photography using a DSLR allows for a fun way to produce whimsical, unique photographs.

The exact fixed aperture can be found by dividing the focal length (distance from pinhole to sensor) by the diameter of the pinhole. The larger the pinhole, the smaller the F-stop, and the blurrier the image will be. Conversely, the smaller the pinhole, the larger the F-stop, and the crisper the image. Shooting with a fixed aperture leaves the photographer with two ways to allow light into their photographs:

  1. High ISO
    ISO is the level of sensitivity of the camera to available light
  2. Slow Shutter speed
    Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter stays open.

Pinhole images carry two special properties:

  1. No lens
    Since there is no lens, there is an infinite depth of field. Everything can be in focus.
  2. Tiny aperture
    The exposure time will be long compared to lensed cameras because the aperture is so small that very little light will be allowed into the sensor.


  1. Make your own: see our Pinholes and Photographic Slits
  2. Attach to your DSLR or 35mm camera: see our Pinhole Caps

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