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How to Make a Camera Obscura | Easy Crafts for Kids

How to Make a Camera Obscura

Total Time Needed: 1-2 Hours

The camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber") demonstrates an odd optic phenomenon. When light from a bright scene enters a darkened space through a tiny hole, the resulting image appears upside down. See for yourself with this homemade viewer that turns everything you look at topsy-turvy.

This project was adapted from the Pringles pinhole camera on exploratorium.edu. To learn more about how the camera works, visit the website and search for "Pringles pinhole."

Materials

  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Snack can with transparent lid (we used a Pringles can)
  • Craft knife
  • Vellum
  • Duct tape
  • Pushpin
  • Decorative paper
  • Double-sided tape

Instructions

How to Make a Camera Obscura - Step 1

1. Measure and draw a line around the can 2 inches from the bottom. Cut through the line with the craft knife (a parent's job) to create two can sections. Trace the bottom of the can onto a sheet of vellum, then cut the circle out.

How to Make a Camera Obscura - Step 2

2. Stack the pieces in this order: the bottom of the can (open end up), the lid, the vellum circle, and the top of the can.

How to Make a Camera Obscura - Step 3

3. Thoroughly wrap the seam with duct tape so that no light can come in.

How to Make a Camera Obscura - Step 4

4. Flip the viewer over and use the pushpin to make a small hole in the center of the can's bottom.

How to Make a Camera Obscura - Step 5

5. For a more finished look, cover the viewer with paper secured with double-sided tape. To use your viewer, hold it up to one eye and gaze at a bright scene (something lit by sunlight works best). To block out light, use one hand to cup the viewer to your eye.