Making a Camera Obscura (Science)


In this lesson, students will create their own "camera obscura" out of a cardboard tube to explore and reinforce the fact that light travels in straight lines.


Cameras are now as ubiquitous as the cell phone. Billions of photos have been uploaded to the Internet now that everyone has one in their pocket. But how exactly does a camera work?

The linked science lessons in this unit will look at the evolution of cameras through the lens of Physics. In this lesson, we will learn that light travels in straight lines, and it is this property that allows cameras to work. To explore this property, we will create our own "Camera Obscura."

This lesson is part of an integrated project called "Photographic Self Portrait." In this project, students examine how photographic self-portraits visually communicate who they are.

Materials needed per student or pair of students:

  • Empty Pringles can (or similar can, like an oatmeal can)
  • push pin
  • 1 foot of aluminum foil
  • scissors
  • tape
  • waxed paper or tracing paper

Lesson Time

2 class periods
120 Minutes

Industries / Subjects / Grades

K-12 Subjects
  • Science
    • Physics
Grade Levels
  • 11

Standards and Objectives


Next Generation Science Standards (2)
California English Common Core Standards (1)
California's 2013 CTE Standards (1)
California Academic Content Standards (1)

Related Instructional Objectives (SWBAT...)

  • Identify and observe that light travels in straight lines.
  • Illustrate how an image is formed upside-down using a graphical drawing
  • Explain how a camera obscura works using an understanding of the properties of light.

Get access to the rest of this Lesson and over 3000 more!

Create a Free Account or now!