Digital Pinhole Photography

In Digital, Inspiration
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Hi! I’ve been on Viewfinders as a guest a few times, but this is my first post as a regular contributor. I’m so excited to be here! To prepare me for my first post, I reread the Viewfinders Manifesto. One guideline that I truly appreciate is “We believe that photographic mojo may flow and ebb within each of us but that there is always at least a spark that can be reignited.” 

For the past several years, my mojo has ebbed more than it has flowed. I am always looking for matches to reignite my spark. That’s why a few months ago I bought a pinhole “lens” body cap from ebay for my dslr. It’s not actually a lens. It’s a camera body cap with a very tiny hole in it to let in light. You can make one yourself. Maybe I’ll do that one day, but this didn’t cost much more than a body cap, is precision-cut, and it has a very thin layer of glass to keep out dust (the glass has no effect on the image). You can get many of the same effects with a neutral density filter, but I like how low-fi and light weight the cap is.

Because pinholes are tiny apertures (mine is f/167) they require a slow shutter speed even in bright light. This makes them perfect for capturing motion.

It’s also great for playing with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement).

One of the most difficult things about self portraits with a camera is focusing. Because a pinhole’s aperture is so tiny, it has a nearly infinite depth of field, which means wherever you end up in the image, you are in focus (not sharp, but in focus). You only have to worry about the motion blur of a long exposure. I personally like the ghostly effect. If you are as uncomfortable in the camera’s eye as I am, hiding in motion blur helps.

If you think you might want to try a pinhole lens, be aware that because the aperture is so tiny, even in the middle of the day you can’t see anything through the viewfinder. Live view works during the day, but even that is difficult to see when there is less light. Also know that you will become very intimate with the dust on your sensor. With a tiny aperture, every speck is visible. I recently had my sensor professionally cleaned, but before that, I had to bring every pinhole photo into photoshop to run through the dust and scratches filter.

My pinhole lens cap has helped to get back into a creative flow. I keep thinking of things I’d like to try with it. It has even inspired me to pull my beautiful Zero Image wooden film pinhole camera out of storage (if you’re interested, you can see some older images I took with it on Flickr).

What’s igniting your spark lately?



  1. Love this idea! And I do appreciate a ghostly image. I’ll have to try it! Welcome to the gang! xo

  2. Thanks Lucy! Ghostly images are the best 👻

  3. Ooooh! Love this idea and your results! I want it now, haha!

    Also, welcome; it is wonderful to have you with us.

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