Making simulated pinhole camera pictures

Pinhole cameras have been around for decades and have produced some of the most stunning photos. I have never personally used a pinhole camera, however there is a way to make your images appear as though you did. Here’s how:

1. Open your image in Photoshop.

2. Select your oval marque and set the feathering to a minimum of 50 dpi (the dpi of the image should be 300 dpi for a clear print on your printer). Select a large oval in the center of the picture it’s ok to have it slightly off center because many of the original pinholes were made by individuals and not factories. So the pinhole may not perfectly align with the film, resulting in an off center focus on the print. Imperfection of your picture will make it look more realistic. After you make your selection inverse it to highlight the outer edge

3. Click Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur and set it to around 6 to 10. This will give you the sharpness fall off around the edges. You could combine it with a small amount of radial blur for a Small ghosting look around the edges. If the shot contains water in it you’ll want to select it and apply a motion blur because of the time it takes to make an exposure on a real pinhole wont make  sharp image on moving objects.

4. Usually pinholes have an area of bright  focus and then vignetting out by the outer edges. Click Filters>Render>Lighting Effects select omni and set the intensity to around 35. Next make the light touch but not go pass the upper and lower edges of the image. Again, perfection isn’t necessary here.

5. You can choose to make it black and white or even tone it to give it that old feel. Sometimes inverting the image can really make an interesting picture. Click Image>adjust>invert for this.

I had a fun time creating this landscape notice how the fence seems to stretch as it’s blurred to the left edge. Hope to hear from you on how your images turn out.


About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

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