DIY: Turn Your Room into a Walk-In Camera

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

What could be better than a shiny new camera? How about a walk-in camera?

That’s right! We’re making cameras big enough to have a party in.

Check out this tutorial for a step by step guide to turning any room into a giant camera.

It’s kind of like making a pinhole camera but on a real-life scale.

So grab some poster board, a roll of tape, and invite your friends over for a camera party.

Turn Your Room into a Camera Obscura

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Why it’s cool:

ingred-smWay before pixels, polaroids, and even the earliest of films, artists used a camera obscura to project the outside world into a room.

Camera obscura literally means “dark room”.

Artists used this method to create drawings and paintings, and it’s what led to the invention of photography. Pretty cool, right?

See how cameras work first hand.

And while you’re at it, you can make some pretty sweet (digital) images.



  • 2-5 pieces of Black Poster Board, depending on your window size
  • Black Electrical Tape
  • Flashlight
  • Xacto
  • Tripod
  • Camera
  • White Sheet, optional
  • Aluminum Foil, optional

STEP 1: Find a View:

paint-smPick a room to make your camera obscura.

Ideally, this room will have one window, and a blank wall opposite that window.

But don’t worry, you can make any room will work.

If your room has more than one window, you will need additional poster board to cover those windows.

If the opposite wall is not blank, you’ll want to hang a white sheet. Keep reading, we’ll show you how.

Step 2: Make a Lens:

paint-smGrab your flashlight, and unscrew the lens.

Just like your camera has a lens, your camera obscura needs one too.

This will help focus the light coming through the window in order to make an image.

The larger the lens, the more light will come through. However, the image may not be very sharp.

Smaller lenses will create sharper images, but will not let as much light through.

Step 3: Cut a hole:

paint-smTake one piece of posterboard, and place your flashlight lens in the center.

With your Xacto knife, cut a hole around the lens.

Easy, right?

Step 4: Tape in Place:

paint-smUse black electrical tape to keep your lens in place.

Tape all sides, creating a good hold on the lens.

Make sure the hole around your lens is completely sealed.

You don’t want any stray light streaks coming through.

Step 5: Optional Adjustable Lens:

paint-smAs an option to get sharper images, experiment with cutting different size holes to use as a lens.

Just like the aperture in your camera, the bigger the hole, the more light comes through, but the softer the image.

The smaller hole lets less light in, but the light that does come through will be more focused, resulting in a sharper image.

Aluminum foil is lightproof, and easy to customize.

Cut 5″x5″ squares of aluminum foil. Use an Xacto to cut three different size holes, one large, one medium and one small.

Instead of using the flashlight lens, cut a 4.5 x 4.5″ square out of your poster board.

Tape your aluminum foil lens in place, making sure the edges are completely sealed.

Step 6: Cover Windows:

paint-smYou want to cover all the windows with black poster board.

Leave a space in the center for your poster board with the lens attached.

Use electrical tape to secure all sides.

You can use black masking tape or duct tape if you prefer, just make sure it won’t strip the paint when you remove it.

Step 7: Place Your Lens:

paint-sm Place your lens in the center of your window.

Tape down all the sides securely.

You want to make sure the only light entering the room is coming from the lens you created.

Step 8: Hang a White Sheet

paint-sm If the wall opposite your window is not blank, you can hang a white sheet to display your image.

Our opposite wall had a window.

We blacked out the window first, then hung a sheet over it.

Pull the sheet as taut as you can. Use pushpins to hold it in place.

Step 9: Look for Leaks

paint-smSneaky light. It tends to creep through under doors and in places we don’t expect it to.

Look around your room and see if there’s any extra light coming through.

Place a towel or blanket along doorways.

Step 10: Turn off the Lights:

paint-sm No artificial light here.

We want to let the sun do it’s magic.

Switch off the light, and wait a few minutes for your eyes to adjust.

Step 11: Watch your image appear:

paint-sm Depending on the time of day, your image will start to appear on your white sheet.

It will be projected upside down.

Why? There’s a whole science behind it.

Our eyes adjust pretty fast to the dark room, but you’ll need a long exposure on your camera to replicate what you see.

Grab your tripod, and start with your camera set to 30 seconds, at an aperture opening of f/8.

If your image is too bright, try less time.

If it’s too dark, increase your time. Try one whole minute.

Step 12: Document your Camera Obscura:

Be sure to take plenty of photos to document your creation.

Get creative have your friends sit in front of the projected image. You could make really interesting portraits.

If your projected view has moving elements, like cars driving down the street, a short video clip could be really fun.

Take it further