Workshops in schools

St James School

What better way to learn about photography than with a camera you can climb inside? Photography becomes immersive. The fundamentals of light and photography are revealed in an engaging, interactive way. Students marvel at seeing their class mates and teachers projected upside down within the camera and as they play they discover more and more about the workings of photography. All of these learnings can be applied to inform and improve conventional photography.


The workshops often begin with exercises designed to fully explore the workings of the obscura in a playful, experimental way.




From here, there are a wealth of inspiring activities that we can do that demonstrate the fundamentals of photography in creative and memorable ways. The class could use knowledge of the obscura to make their own smaller obscura, or even a functioning pinhole camera. The obscura perfectly doubles as a darkroom enabling students to take part in each process of pinhole photography from making the camera to using a darkroom.

Learning about photography in this way gives students a unique opportunity to gain a solid understanding of photography and light. The simplicity of the camera obscura cuts through the dozens of settings and buttons on modern digital cameras and is a really memorable experience. By doubling as a darkroom the camera obscura brings this magical and nearly forgotten process that is now beyond most schools. For me, seeing my own images appear in the developer tray will never lose the magic, and it is great to be sharing this with students.


This is an image inside the camera obscura, showing the darkroom behind.

Each day of workshops can be tailored around students needs, ages, interests or specific projects. Below are some more activities that can be built in alongside the camera obscura workshops.



Upside down goggles – these goggles use prisms to flip the world upside down. Simple activities become real challenges – writing your name, completing simple jigsaw puzzles… All go to show how the workings of our brain are essential in understanding the world we see through our own incredible cameras – our eyes.




Tracing the light – here we project an image onto canvasses within the obscura before tracing the light by hand. We look at key examples of paintings that historians suspect have been made using an obscura – discussing the tell-tale features that might reveal the use of a lens.




IMG_0196Solargraphs – We start by building pinhole cameras, demonstrating our knowledge of how the pinhole can replace a lens and explore the unique characteristics of a pinhole image. Next we imagine what a picture would look like with an extremely long exposure – one of 6 months long! By securely fastening pinhole cameras around the school we have a go at making our own. (instructions are left for teachers to retrieve the results 6 months on!)


Camera LucidaDSC_0028December

Many people know the camera obscura was used as an artists aid for drawing – but what about a camera lucida? Here, students get to use a simple prism to overlay an image onto their drawing pad.. but is it easy?!




”We had the most fascinating day working with Sam and his camera obscura.  Our pupils were challenged to think about how camera’s work and images are made with light.  It was a very hands on day full of learning opportunities.  Sam has a great approach with children, they responded really well to his questioning techniques and practical help.  I only wish the day had been longer so that we could have learned and experimented more! ” Zoe Batemen, Head of Art at Braunton Academy

Each workshop is fully risk assessed. I have a enhanced DBS check.

If you have any questions or want to enquire about having myself and the obscura along to your school, please just get in touch! I can be reached on or by calling 07745 860 157.


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