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Tips & Tricks

What is Going on Here? An Introduction to Camera Obscura

By Joseph Cha on September 24th 2013

A Reddit user posted a photo of a building reflecting into a dark room. There are no lenses involved, no special effects, just a regular window with regular blinds. So what exactly is going on here?


This effect is known as “Camera Obscura”, and it works when light from an external sources passes through a small opening and projects onto a “screen” inside. National Geographic has a great great video explaining how to make one.

This can be a cool party trick, and really helps with the understanding of how lenses and optics work. So next time you have an empty dark room and want to impress your friends, remember Camera Obscura!


I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff

    I don’t want to look like one of those link building spam bots – but I recently did a post on Camera Obscura that I’m pretty proud of :) Let me know what you think.

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  2. Jack Thrams

    One of my favorite sort of oddball sites in LA is the Camera Obscura in Santa Monica. Part of the experience is asking for the key from the indifferent person in the senior center there.

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