Watch our video to learn how to create a camera obscura.

Items you'll need are:

  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • Magnifying glass
  • Tracing paper

Science behind the experiment

Camera obscura is Latin for “Dark Room” and they have existed for over three thousand years in various forms. These cameras work in a very simple way, a light source enters through a hole and is focused on the opposite wall.

Light travels in a straight line so the image is upside-down. The size of the hole will also have an effect on the picture, a small hole produces a sharp clear image, but won’t be as bright, a larger hole produces a brighter image but less focussed.

A lens will have a fixed focal length, by moving the viewing surface (your tracing paper) you can make the image bright and clear!

Key Terms

  • Camera Obscure – Latin for ‘dark room’
  • Light Source – A source of light makes light, the Sun is our most important light source but other examples are candles, mobile phones, torches and glow-worms.
  • Lens – An optical device that focuses or disperses a light beam, there are two types of lens – concave and convex.

Activities and Questions

Do you have different magnifying glasses? Swap them around and see how the focus point will change.

Can you change the shape, try making a cylindrical camera obscura.

There are two types of camera obscura, a box that you see in our video, the other is a room where you are inside the camera looking at the image. Can you make a room in your house into a much bigger camera obscura?