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Classroom Camera Obscura

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

Background Information: The Classroom Camera Obscura lesson is one of my favorites to kick off the history of photography. The videos that I show about the evolution of photography and how to turn a room into a camera obscura are link in the resources below. The work of Abelardo Morell is also introduced. After the camera obscura classroom transformation, the students continue onto creating their own camera obscuras with various materials. Lesson Plan coming soon The last lesson of this unit is exposing and developing pinhole images in the storage closet turned dark room. Lesson plan also coming soon!

Learning Objectives:

  • The student will learn how to turn a room into a camera obscura.

  • The student will learn about the history of the camera obscura.

Anchor Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Essential Questions:

  • How does learning about art impact how we perceive the world?

  • What can we learn from our responses to art?

  • What is an image?

  • Where & how do we encounter images in our world?

  • How do images influence our views of the world?

  • How does making art attune people to their surroundings?

  • How do people contribute to awareness and understanding of their lives and the lives of their communities through art-making?

  • How does art help us understand the lives of people of different times, places, and cultures?

  • How does art preserve aspects of life?

Enduring Understanding(s):

  • Creativity and innovative thinking are essential life skills that can be developed

  • Artists and designers experiment with forms, structures, materials, concepts, media, and art-making approaches

  • Artist and designers develop excellence through practice and constructive critique, reflecting on, revising, and refining work over time.

  • Looking at and discussing art can help us understand and appreciate diverse cultures, backgrounds and styles

  • Art can be used as a social tool to question and challenge.

Materials Needed:

  • Black Tarps

  • Duct Tape

  • A White Sheet (I put ours on a backdrop stand.)

  • White Poster Board

  • X-Acto Knife

  • Small Cylinder (toilet paper roll)

Project Duration (2 Days):

  • Introduction: 1 Day

  • Room Transformation: 1 Day


  • Introducing the affect of aperture size can be shown with various sizes of holes of the camera obscura. We used a shipping cylinder for ours and changed to a toilet paper tube for a sharper image.

  • The image from the window is hard to see on the full bed sheet. The students are able to see the projected image much clearer by holding a poster board or white sheet of paper in the projected line of light.

Post Activities:

  • Camera Obscura construction using various materials.

  • Pinhole Camera

  • Pinhole Camera Development

Project Images:

Happy Inverting!


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