DIY photography: GIFs, pinhole cameras and 7 cool photo hacks

Posted on July 7, 2014


DIY photography techniques always trump expensive equipment, whether it’s vaseline on the lens for soft focus shots or an elastic band as a substitute for a tripod. Now with maker culture in full swing the camera itself is the hack.

Designing and building camera equipment used to be the preserve of big manufacturers like Sony, Canon or Fuji. But thanks to maker culture and the drive to build your own projects there are a variety of hacked cameras that take original and interesting images using everyday materials and electronics.

DIY Pinhole Cameras
Pinhole cameras are the simplest cameras to make, using no lens only a small aperture. Light passes through the aperture and an inverted image of the scene is projected into the rear of the camera where it can be seen in real time, be exposed onto photographic film or captured using a digital sensor like a charge coupled device (CCD) image sensor, found in many digital cameras.

Dirkon Paper Dirkon Mini
This Dirkon pinhole camera is made using a paper template put together by three designers for a Czech photography magazine in 1979. It was rebuilt by ThinkBlotMedia and the short demo film below shows them putting it together. Pinhole camera images are not the sharpest but they have an old-fashioned charm and fuzzy quality that appeals. The camera itself looks great as you can see from this image. ThinkBlot includes a detailed PDF on how to put the camera together and there are some suggestions on the type of film to use too (the original used a Czech standard that corresponds to Ilford PAN 100, but 35mm of the same ISO will do).



Wooden CameraOriginal Pin
The Original Pin camera is made entirely of wood and comes in a customisable kit so you can tweak its look. Using a bit of wood glue you can knock this pinhole camera together in no time at all. Load it up with 35mm film and you are ready to go. Aesthetically speaking this is a great looking project and the images taken using the Original Pin also look great (see below). Launched using a Kickstarter campaign, the camera is ready to go into production and the latest update from project director Michael Kenney says that barring teething troubles with production the OP will be delivering soon.


20 Proof
Multi-pinhole camera projects are a step up. The home made project shown below from James Guerin incorporates lenses as an upgraded version of another multi-pinhole project and shoots 20 images into 20 separate compartments to make some truly original and striking images. Lenses are cheap plastic double convex which are arranged in a grid and exposed onto photographic paper. A little more complex than the DIY kits above, but the results are stunning (also below).



Otto GIF Camera
Next Thing Company has built a Raspberry Pi compute module camera that it describes as a ‘hackable animated GIF camera’. GIFs are the short animated images that you see everywhere on the net and that puts the camera in the video category, as long as you are not expecting to shoot an epic on it. Named Otto by NTC it shoots straight out of the box and can pair with your smartphone for sharing. As it uses the Raspberry Pi compute module it is an open source project so you can change all the software loaded into the camera. One of Otto’s developers Dave Rauchwerk explains how the camera was developed in a video below, he’s so enthused about the project that you just know his heart and soul went into it. You can program the camera yourself if you’ve got the licks. Kickstarted, the camera has met its funding goal and is in production.


7 great photo hacks
This superb short video from the Cooperative of Photography (COOPH) shows that once you’ve got your camera, whether it’s a whizzy DSLR or a GoPro, you can hack it using time-saving and inexpensive kit to create great photographs. Time lapse, arty lens filters, the old vaseline trick, flash diffusion and a few others are all included. A great little guide to getting better pics – look forward to seeing more from COOPH.


Johnny Express
Johnny Express is a bit of fun, an excellent 3D graphic animation from a Korean animation studio called Alfred Imageworks that really competes with anything knocked out by Industrial Light and Magic and all the Hollywood big boys. It’s the errant tale of a lazy space delivery courier whose latest project puts the cat among the pigeons. Just watch it, it is a fantastic piece of work.