Camera Obscura

The concept of photography has always inspired both artists and scientists. A lot of people say that photography was “invented” around 1850, but that is not completely true. Between 1820 and 1850, the techniques of fixing a real life image onto a background like paper or glass was invented, but the concept of photography is a lot older.

Camera Obscura forms the base of photography. The understanding of this concept goes as far back as the time of Aristotle. Camera Obscura is Latin for “dark chamber” and it really is exciting to see how it works. A camera obscura is nothing more than a dark room, with a tiny hole in one of the walls. The light that shines through this hole, will project the outside world on the opposite wall. It is a natural phenomenom that was discovered as early as 300 AD.

The image that is projected is upside down, but it keeps the natural perspective and colour. Later on people started using lenses to create a better “depth of field” and mirrors in order to flip the image “right side up”. When it was discovered how to “fix” the image, photography was “invented”.

Make your own camera obscura
There is a very easy way to create your own camera obscura. All you need are some garbage bags, tape and a pair of scissors. Go to a room in your house with a nice view from the window. Tape the garbage bags on the windows and make sure that NO light comes through (if the garbage bags are too thin, use two layers). Cut a hole with a one inch diameter (approximately, this is not exact science).
It will take a while before your eyes are used to the light, but when they do, you will see the view from your window projected on the wall. You can sit down and enjoy the sight or take photos of it.


I did this experiment when I was in my first year of photography school and it was so awesome to do.The photo isn’t a complete succes, because the purple spots at the bottom are a form of “leaking light”. The shutter speed I used was approximately 30 minutes. Use a tripod and the “bulb” setting on your camera. Best way to do this is if you use a remote control, because there is no way you can hold the shutter release button for that long. You can experiment with the shutterspeed for different results.

Abelardo Morell
Abelardo Morell is a photographer who is known for his use of the camera obscura. He was born in Cuba, but fled to the US with his family in 1962. Especially his older work shows great use of the camera obscura and what you can do with it. If you are looking for interesting art pieces using this technique, I suggest you check him out. He also has a documentary called “Shadow of the house”, I put the trailer down below. It is definitely worth the watch.

I hope you guys liked this piece about the Camera Obscura. If you decide to make one yourself and take photos of it, please show them to me!

Be inspired!


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