Pinhole photography is the term used to describe photography executed without a lens. Instead it uses the camera obscura effect where an upside down mirror image is formed on a surface in a darkened space by light passing through a small pinhole from an external scene.
Film and photographic papers
Pinhole photography can be executed onto standard photochemical film which is then processed in the normal way and prints can then be made with an enlarger. However the ability to cheaply make large format pinhole cameras makes it suitable for the creation of images directly onto black and white photographic paper. With standard photographic paper the developed image will be a mirror and a negative image. This image can be reversed by taking a contact print using a second sheet of photographic paper. The end result will be a positive image which is also the right way round. Alternatively you can use special direct positive photographic paper. This will result in a positive image in one exposure but it will however still be a mirror image.
One of the best things about pinhole photography is that you don’t need an expensive camera, in fact you don’t need a camera at all ! A lightproof container , a pinhole and a sheet of photographic paper is all you need!. You can use any old box, paint tin , old wardrobe, garden shed or almost anything as a pinhole camera.
Exposures can be worked out (a bit) but mostly its a good amount of trial and error. The photographs that you get from a pinhole camera are very governed by the size and geometry of the light proof container you have chosen, the pinhole size, the length of the exposure and the distance from the pinhole to the photographic paper. One thing you don’t have to worry about is focussing! No lens means no need to focus , everything is in focus, you have an infinite depth of field!
The crudeness and the visual distortions of the images are all part of the pleasure of pinhole photography, something to be embraced and exploited rather than something to try and design out. It is of course possible to adapt high end digital cameras to take pinhole images but it is perhaps missing the point. Pinhole photography is not just about the technical use of a very small hole rather than a lens to create an image. It is an invitation to embrace a fun low tech way of exploring how to create photographic images !