Tuesday, 3 April 2012

How to make a Camera Obscura


On Saturday I helped out at another workshop at the
New Art Exchange, this time learning how to build a camera obscura. For anyone unfamilar, a camera obscura is a device that projects images onto a screen, which was the precursor to the camera which was invented in the 1830s. Artists such as Vermeer reportedly used them as a drawing tool in the 17th century.

Looking through a wooden camera obscura

They were often found in seaside resorts in the 19th century and these days you can see examples in Edinburgh, Bristol, Greenwich and other towns (as well as Rufford Country Park here in Nottingham!)

To make a simple camera obscura yourself, all you need is a lense (which can be taken out of a normal magnifying glass), a cardboard box, a ruler, tracing paper and some tape. Cut a hole a bit smaller than your lense in the centre of the bottom of the box, and affix the lense with tape. Then measure some tracing paper the same size as the inside of the box and affix it to the other side. When you hold it up against the light you see an upside-down image projected onto the paper. It really is quite magical! (for better instructions there's a really simple tutorial here.)

Everyone really enjoyed the workshop, run by photographer Jon Legge, and it was amazing seeing the end results all together in the window, projecting images from the street outside.


Through the lense

Jon set up this one in the window

The final camera obscuras!
The end result, we put all our creations in the window together, they look a bit like TV screens but showing live projections of the outside world.


  1. This is so cool, I love the result against the wall!

  2. Fantastic! I have got to have a go at this!

  3. Hi Laura,
    Great photos! Do I really wave my hands about that much when I'm teaching?! Hope to work with you again soon,


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