Pin Me

How to Make a Camera Obscura

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 2/15/2011

Want to make a camera obscura? Well, it's actually quite easy and cheap to do. Learn more in this DIY tutorial.

  • slide 1 of 4

    What is a Camera Obscura?

    A camera obscura is basically a dark chamber with a hole in it that lets in light, and this hole also allows an image to be reflected on the opposite side of the chamber. The size of the hole also determines how clear the image is. A camera obscura is basically a very simple type of camera, and you can easily learn how to make camera obscura by using every day materials.

  • slide 2 of 4


    First, you need to gather up your materials.


    Metal Box or Tin

    Aluminum Foilby exfordy, 



    Since you probably already have most of these objects, it should cost you nothing to create this project. You can use nearly any type of metal box or tin for this project, including a soda can, a can out of your pantry or even an old coffee can. The size of the can doesn’t matter, just the size of the hole. If you don’t have the rest of the materials, then this project will only cost you about $10 bucks, making this an affordable and fun project for the whole family.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Making Your Camera

    Now, it’s time to make your project. First of all, cut off one side of the can. For example, if it’s a standard tin can, then just remove the rest of the metal that you cut open with your can opener. You can use a utility knife or thick shears to cut off metal from a soda can.

    Wear gloves while doing this step. You don’t want to cut yourself with either the metal or the cutters.

    Next, thoroughly clean the inside of the can. Consider using some type of sterilizing material like vinegar or rubbing alcohol. This will keep any bacteria from growing inside your camera obscura.

    Now, make a small hole on the opposite side of the cut that you just made. For now, make the hole very small. If your images are not very clear at first, then you can always make the hole slightly bigger.

    Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is just slightly larger than the small hole that you just cut. The aluminum foil needs to be very tight against the hole, and try not to have any wrinkles. If you have wrinkles, then your image will be distorted. Secure the aluminum foil in place with a small piece of tape. If you want, you can cover the entire can with the aluminum foil.

    Next, take a piece of tissue paper and secure it over the open end of the can, and tape it in place.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Taking Your Pictures

    Finally, take your camera outdoors on a bright sunny day, and focus on a nearby image. Look through the tissue paper end of the camera, and you’ll see the image reflected inside your camera obscura. If you can’t see the image, shade your eyes, or cover your head with a towel.

    Source: The Living Image,