Photoshop Sunday; Pinhole Day


Today is World Pinhole Day, a lot of photographers will be dusting off their pinhole cameras or are now developing their films. I am also sure there are some who want to create a pinhole image but don’t have the camera or accessories to do this.  I decided that I am going to go against the grain of the day and create pinhole effect in Photoshop.

Kim Gilmour

Before creating this faux image, I think it is important to understand some elements of pinhole photograph;

      •                                 Pinhole photographs can be either colour or black and white, although most people associate pinhole image as being black and white.
      •                                 Motion blur, pinhole images have long exposures and as a consequence anything moving becomes blurred.
      •                                 Good depth of field, because of the motion blur it may not seem like it, nevertheless because of the small aperture of the pinhole camera the image does have good depth of field although some foreground elements  maybe blurred.
      •                                 Vignette, it will depend on the camera the amount, strength and regularity of the vignette as it will be different and a specific characteristic of each individual camera.

Enter Photoshop

The image I am using is one from my archive. This is a shot of Roche Rock in Cornwall, taken in the afternoon one sunny day with my Canon G10.

In Photoshop I first duplicated the background layer and using a selection tool, I selected the foreground element of the rock.


With the rock element selected I clicked onto the duplicated layer and applied a layer mask and name it Foreground Element. I then inverted the selection, duplicated the background layer again and applied a layer mask from the inverted selection.

I separated these two elements because I need to apply a motion blur to the image. In this scene the rock wouldn’t be moving so I don’t want to apply the blur to this part of image and only want to it to be applied to the sky.

With the “background element” layer selected I right clicked on the layer mask- apply mask, this deleted the masked area from the layer. I then applied a radial blur filter at 20 pixels. I pulled the centre of the blur down to the bottom centre of the rock.


To increase the blur I duplicated the layer and applied the blur again.

Next I started working on the vignette. I created a new layer and filled it with black and set the blending to overlay. I added a layer mask, then using a large brush with a low opacity randomly masked out the focus of the image (the rock). I then duplicate the vignette layer and set the blending to multiply. I adjusted the opacity of both layers until the vignette looked right.


I combined all the layers into a smart object. I converted the image to black and white via the channel mixer and made level adjustments to pull in the whites. I added extra contrast using a curves adjustment and then dodged some dark areas of the rock to relieve some of the silhouette look of the rock. I also applied an extra layer of sharpening .


I realised that the rock looked too sharp compared to everything else. I opened up the smart object, clicked on the “foreground element” layer and duplicated it. I applied the mask on this layer and applied a medium gaussian blur. I added a layer mask and masked out the top of the rock as this is the focus of the image.


There was still something missing. I looked at some pinhole photos and realised most have a highlight spot. I added mine by create a new layer and filling it with 50% grey. In then added the filter Render Lighting effects and set the blending to softlight.

Final Image


I was thinking of adding some sort of border or texture, though with some experimentation it really didn’t work. I quite like the simplicity of the image with the blurring it really brings the focus to the top of Roche Rock.

Is it a good faux pinhole? I think it is adequate but since pinholes have such a distinctive look I don’t think I could have done better.

Do you like pinhole photography? Are you doing anything special for World Pinhole Day?

Let me know what you think of the image in the comment box below or if you just what to say hi you can do this here too.

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