Photographer and DIY camera-extraordinaire Brendan Barry has shared a how-to video showing how you can turn a room in your home into a camera, and how to record the images it creates. Throughout the 30-minute video, he shows whole process from finding a suitable room and picking a lens right through to making the exposure and then creating a positive print. Although he shows the process using black and white photographic paper he also explains how pictures can be made using digital cameras.

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‘It’s a bit of fun really’ Brendan explained to DPReview, ‘and a fun way to do something creative if you are confined to the house during this Coronavirus outbreak. I love the process as it playfully breaks down how pictures are made and allows us to see photography in a different way.’

In the video Brendan shows the effects of a series of lenses mounted onto a blacked out window, including a lens from a pair of glasses and a magnifying glass, but says if DPR readers want to get the best possible quality they should be picky about what lens they use. ‘In the video I quickly show a process lens. If you have one, this is what will give you the best results. They are designed to make very big prints and will allow you extra clarity and resolution. They don’t have to be expensive, and decent ones can be found on auction sites. If you measure your wall and find it is 2 metres across you’ll need a 2500mm lens, but you don’t have to make prints that big!’

‘If you are going to use a magnifying glass find a good quality one, not one with a cheap plastic lens - and the bigger the better. If it turns out to be too big you can always reduce the aperture by cutting a circular hole in a disc of card and sticking it over the lens. This will control the amount of light passing through it on a bright day. In the video I show a very roughly cut-out hole, but a smooth and even hole will produce better results. You can also buy great meniscus lenses from Amazing Camera Obscura that are ideal for making a room-sized camera.’

The projected image from the window shown from behind on a sheet of diffusing material

The tutorial shows Brendan mounting a sheet of photographic paper to make a paper negative that, once processed, is then contact printed with another sheet to create a final positive print. ‘I really like this process, and making the contact print while the original negative is still wet creates a beautiful soft look that can’t be got back once the negative has dried. However, if you’d rather shoot using a digital camera you can photograph the projected image from behind, as I show in the video, or you can project the image onto a high quality smooth white surface and photograph that from the front. Position your camera right next to the lens mounted on the window. You won’t be able to shoot it absolutely square-on, but you can fix the distortion in software afterward.’

'Blacking out the window and mounting the lens only takes about an hour, but there are days of entertainment to be had once you get going.'

Making a room into a camera is one of Brendan’s more straight-forward projects; in the past he's made a camera from a melon, another from a loaf of bread and one from a slab of cheese. He also has a shipping container that serves as camera and darkroom all-in-one.

You can see some of the other cameras Brendan has made, and how he made them, on his web site.