Pinhole

Next Sunday will be pinhole day, and the goal of this week is to celebrate it.

A pinhole camera is any kind of container (e.g. a box) that only let light pass through a tiny hole and reach a photo-sensitive surface. In essence, it is similar to any other camera with the exception that it doesn’t use a lens made of glass but a small hole through which light passes.

Every year, people celebrate pinhole cameras on the last Sunday of April, making a picture with a pinhole on that day. While it is possible to use a modern digital camera as a pinhole, either with a dedicated pinhole “lens” or a homemade one, it’s also common to have a makeshift pinhole camera, for example using a tin can or a cardboard box.

I personally started to experiment with pinhole photography at the beginning of this year, using a special “lens” made for digital cameras. (Dedicated pinhole lenses usually have a piece of non-reflective glass covering the pinhole so that dust and water don’t get into the camera body.)

Why a pinhole?

Pinholes are one way of letting go of perfection and welcoming technical flaws.

One characteristic of a pinhole camera is that you get near-infinite depth of field and everything is in focus. All that said, that doesn’t mean that the resulting image is sharp. Quite on the contrary, on a camera with a small sensor (and yes this includes a “full-frame” camera’s sensor ;-)), the resulting image is often unsharp… Very unsharp. And then there is the dust on the sensor that becomes visible, no matter how many times you try to clean the sensor.

The other characteristic of using a pinhole is that very little light reaches the sensitive surface of the camera. This usually means that one has to make sure the camera is steady to avoid camera shakes… or embrace camera shakes and create an even blurrier picture. (With recent digital cameras, it’s also possible to make handheld photos without shakes by using high ISO settings and/or image stabilization.)

While this all sounds challenging (and trust me, it is!), I also find that using a pinhole on a digital camera is liberating. Taking photos is mostly a matter of pointing my camera and feeling what I want my photos to look like rather than thinking about it. The pinhole removes the need to worry about focus and sharpness. The digital camera removes the need to worry about exposure as one would need to with an analog camera.

The challenge

The goal of this week is to celebrate pinhole photography. Take a picture with a pinhole camera or inspired by pinhole photography. Maybe you want to try to make a homemade pinhole camera using a tin can. Or maybe you want to try making one for your digital camera using a lens cap. But you could also process a photo in Photoshop to create a fully digital pinhole effect. Or create a photo that is about pinhole photography rather than made with a pinhole camera.

For this week, the hashtags are #sipgoestgif_pinholeday and #sipgoestwentytwo

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