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Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea - Create pinhole camera style photographs using Photoshop

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Words & Pictures Peter Bargh ePHOTOzine

There's always been a following of cult photographic techniques, such as alternative processing or extreme filter effects, and one such pastime is shooting through tiny holes. The hole the size of a pin, leads to the name pinhole photography and has been used by schools to show how photography works for years, but also be enthusiasts who like the style of pictures this form of photography creates.

To shoot a pinhole picture you need a hole the size of a pin placed centrally in front of the film. Many experimental photographers make gadgets out of biscuit tins/shoe boxes, others drill a hole in the body cap of an SLR and some buy special pinhole cameras from distributors such as Bob Rigby and Retro Photographic. It's quite difficult to get a good photo, but when you do the results can be really artistic.

For those who don't want to go to the effort or expense, you can play around with photos taken with film or digital cameras using your image editing program and in this technique I'll attempt to recreate the pinhole effect using Photoshop.

The first thing about pinhole photography is it provides enormous depth-of-field because you are using effectly an aperture of around f/250 so I selected a photo taken of ducks with a wide-angle lens. Some of the pinhole photos I've seen are taken from a low viewpoint so that was another reason for this image being my selected choice. Unfortunately one of the ducks moved too quickly and he's not sharp...reason three I can make a decent picture out of this reject! Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

1 The first thing to do is tidy up the photo and crop it to remove the unwanted duck. This is done using the crop tool and clone tool which we've covered in other articles on ePHOTOzine, so I won't go in to detail on how this is done and will just get those bits out of the way so we can start the pinhole treatment. You can see I've cropped so it's now a vertical format, and I've taken out the duck behind the main white one and the one to the right.


2 Now to convert to black & white using Image> Adjustments> Desaturate (Shift+Ctrl+U) This takes all the colour out of the photo but keeps the colour channels which we will need later.

Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

3 To give it the soft look that's a familiar feature of a pinhole photo we'll use Filter>Distort>Diffuse Glow. This filter puts a lovely diffused effect on highights which can also be used for infrared, but here we will just add a small amount of Glow. The cropped picture I'm working on is 1528 x 1944 pixels, so you can adjust the settings to suit, using larger values for bigger pictures and smaller values for smaller files. The settings I used are; Graininess: 8, Glow: 3 and Clear: 12. The graininess has added a level of grain that would be present on an ISO400 speed film and gives it more of a film feel. Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

4 We'll create the vignetting effect that's caused because the pinhole camera does not have a lens and the exposure tails off towards the edges of the picture. To do this we'll make a circular selection using the Eliptical Marquee tool and then invert the selection Select>Inverse (Shift+Ctrl+I) and Select>Feather (Alt+Ctrl+D) with a radius of 200 pixels. This will ensure we get a gradual effect in the next stage.


Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

5 Now we go to curves; Image> Adjustments> Curves and drag the curve down by clicking in the centre to make it bow in the middle. You will see the edges become progressively darker towards the corners of the frame. This makes the photo look as though it has uneven illumination. Don't go too far with this or it will look unaturally vignetted. A good way to check is to squint your eyes as you adjust the curve, which increases contrast and makes it easier to judge when you've taken it a step too far. Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

6 To make the photo look like no lens was involved we now need to blur the photo, and again this will be more concentrated on the edges of the picture so keep the same selection and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur and set a 15 pixels radius. If you want the photo more blurred drag the slider to the right increasing the pixels radius.

Magnify the image in the preview winder and click and drag to move the magnified area to a suitable viewing section of your photo.

Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

7 The Gaussian blur makes the tones look too smooth and will lose some of the grain that was introduced when Diffuse glow was added at step 3.

To bring some of this noise back, and make the photo look less digital, remove the oval selection (Ctrl+D) and go to Filter>Noise>Add noise.

Set a value of between 3 and 4% on the amount slide and make sure Gaussian and Monochromatic are checked.

Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

8 We are almost at the end now. I like to tone my black & white photos and here it was done by visiting Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation and setting 205 Hue 10 Saturation to get the light blue tone and reducing the lightness to make the overall photo look more pinhole like. Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea

And that's it - a pinhole style photo in a few short steps. Try this with your pictures now. Take the glow in step 3 a stage further and they will look like infrared pictures. Pinhole magic - a Photoshop creative idea


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