Ray Diagrams
Light, Sound and Waves

A ray diagram for a pinhole camera

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Representing a pinhole camera.

The following animation follows a step-by-step approach to constructing a ray diagram for the formation of an image by a pinhole camera.

What to Prepare

  • the interactive, enlarged on a screen or interactive white board (see below)

What Happens During this Activity

The interactive diagram provides a focus for the attention of the whole class. Your job here is to talk through each of the steps of constructing the ray diagram, engaging the pupils in discussion as you proceed.

First, the pupils explore the formation of images using a pinhole camera with one, three and many pinholes.

Talking through the ray diagram

The key question is:

Teacher: How can we draw a diagram to show how the various images are formed on the screen?

Now turn the class's attention to the animation on the white board.

Teacher: [Screen 1] We have a light source here which is sending out light in all directions. Concentrate on two parts (one luminous, one not, as it happens). You can predict where the light will end up by using rays.

Teacher: [Screen 2] Suppose we place a pinhole camera in front of the light source. Choose to draw rays that go through the pinhole.

Teacher: [Screen 3] Now then, what will we see on the screen, with the candle placed there in front of the camera?

Teacher: How could we use this diagram to show exactly where the image of the candle flame will be formed on the screen?

Teacher: OK, so take the ray of light that is leaving the top of the filament and passing directly in the direction of the pinhole, is this the only ray of light leaving the top of the filament? No, of course not, rays are being sent out in all directions. We just pick out this particular one because it travels through the pinhole and hits the screen.

Teacher: Now pick out the ray that is leaving the bottom of the candle and passing through the pinhole. So where will the image be formed on the screen? That's right, between the two rays drawn in.

Teacher: And what does the ray diagram tell us about the image?

Teacher: Yes, that's right, the image is upside down or inverted. The rays from the top of the filament land up at the bottom of the image and the rays from the bottom of the filament end up at the top of the image.

Teacher: [Screen 4]Suppose the camera is moved away from the candle. What do you think will happen to the size of the image? And if it is moved closer? How about changing the size of the candle?

Teacher: How could we develop this ray diagram to show what happens with three pinholes?


Download the software for this activity.

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