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Picture of A Makers Wedding - Photo booth
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This Instructable is about:
building an automated photo booth. The total build cost was around $150 as I re-used a lot of the components and materials I already had in my garage - in addition to what I could salvage from scrap yards.


Why? - I decided to build my own photo booth after trying to rent one from local photography studios. The going rate for a rented photo booth is around $600 in addition to the hourly rate of the attendent to watch over the equipment. As this was not in my wedding budget, and I did not want to deal with an additional vendor, I decided to build my own for under $200.

My Goal - Build an automated photo booth for under $200 - that could be easily operated by anyone at a party - and is durable and compact enough to fit into a compact car.


(Note* this photo booth does not print pictures. I have been working on a script that automatically uploaded the photo to flickr, but I did not finish it in time for the wedding. I'll try and include that in a future post )
 
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Step 1: How it works

Picture of How it works
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The photo booth operation is simple. Users walk up to the back side of the camera - See themselves on the screen - Press a button and strike a pose.

The mechanics of the photo booth are a little bit more complicated, but ideally, the user never has to know what is going on under the hood.

The guts behind this photo booth are based on OSX lion. With Lion, the photobooth application can be extended to full screen and it can be set to use an external camera. So I connect a logitech web cam and an external monitor to a laptop running OSX Lion. The only thing i needed to build in addition to this hardware setup was an array of lights and a button (mapped to the enter key) to trigger the photobooth application to take a picture.

The "business end" of the photo booth can be seen in this step.

Step 2: Software and Trigger Button

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A Brief Overview
As previously mentioned, this photobooth uses the OSX Photobooth application. The OSX Photobooth application was chosen because it was the most stable software i could find - and it comes with every MAC computer. Like most applications, users can trigger features and functions with mouse clicks and keyboard commands.

Triggering the Photobooth Application
With OSX Photobooth, pressing the Enter Key triggers the program to take a photo. I didn't want to expose my computer to people hammering on the keyboard (espeically if they had been drinking). This is why i decided to use an external button, connected to an arduino microcontroller, to trigger the photobooth application.

This is how it works:


The button is pressed - A Staples Easy button was modified to act as a regular button. It's really durable, so people can beat on it without breaking it.

An Arduino registers the button press - When it registers a button press, it sends a serial command to the computer. In this case, it sends the [enter] serial command.

AAC Keys listens to the serial port for serial commands - AAC keys is a free application which litens for serial commands and emulates mouse and keboard events. You can download it here. In this case, when AAC keys receives the [enter] serial command, it tells the computer (and the photobooth application) that someone has just pressed the enter key on the keyboard.

When the photobooth application registers the enter key being pressed, it takes a photo.

Wiring the circuit - If you do not know how to make a button circuit for an arduino, read this tutorial - http://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/button

B
e sure to connect the button to pin 10 on your arduino. If you choose to wire your button to a different pin, be sure to change [int buttonPin = 10] in the arduino code to match the pin number you selected.


Writing the code - Here is the code i wrote to send an [enter] serial command to the AAC Keys. If you are not familiar with writing arduino code, use this tutorial here. It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it. http://arduino.cc/en/Guide/HomePage

const int buttonPin = 10; // the number of the pushbutton pin

int buttonState = 0; // variable for reading the pushbutton status

void setup() {

pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
Serial.begin(9600); // open the serial port at 9600 bps:
}

void loop(){

buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);

if (buttonState == HIGH) {
Serial.println();
}
else {
// nothing
}

}

Installing AAC keys - As previously mentioned, AAC keys is a free program. "That receives commands through your computer's serial port and translates them into keystrokes and mouse movements, giving you full control of your computer from another device such as an [arduino]". You can download the program here: http://www.oatsoft.org/Software/aac-keys

Using AAC Keys is quite simple. Make sure you have an arduino plugged in via usb, running the code seen above. Open AAC keys application and access the applications preferences. When the dialogue appears, check to see that you have selected the serial port associated with the connected arduino (generally it's selected by default, but it is good practice to check), and that it is running at 9600 bps.

If you've done this, AAC keys should be interpreting the button press from the arduino as an [enter] command on the keyboard. open a text editor and give it a shot. Type a few lines of text and press the button attached to your arduino instead of using the enter key. You can also open photobooth at this time and see that pressing the button triggers the program to take a picture.

Step 3: Booth Design

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The photo booth was modeled after an old school LOMO camera, instead of the traditional box with a curtain, for three reasons:

- Ease of construction - Its basically a box with a fake lens on it
- Recognition - People will be able to see a large camera from far away, and they might easily deduce that it must take photos in some form or fashion.
- Novelty - The accentuated size of the camera will create a conversation piece in addition to eliminating the fear of social contract (the users fear of approaching and using it without permission or instruction)

After settling on the design, I sketched it out in adobe illustrator (the .AI file is included on this page). Illustrator is a good tool to make quick "blueprints" which can be easily scaled and printed. if you don't already own adobe illustrator, you can get the demo right here http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=illustrator

With this quick blueprint, I created a front and side view of the camera. The size of the camera is dictated by the size of the LCD monitor and a a varying height range of users - something that would be easily accessible for people who are 5'2" - 6'4".

After completing the design, I measured the size of the panels and started building.

The Adobe Illustrator file (.AI) is attached to this page.

Step 4: Cut The Panels

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The panels were cut out of 1/2" Plywood. They are thin enough to be light weight, but thick enough to screw / nail into without worrying about additional reinforcements inside the case.

Step 5: Bottom Panel - Tripod Mount

Picture of Bottom Panel - Tripod Mount
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The camera body was designed to mount onto a heavyweight tripod. Inorder to make it stable, I had to provide an additional support in which the tripod tube could slide into and lock.

I borrowed this tripod from a friend. it has a 1 1/4" Outer Diameter tube which i used to mount onto. Home Depot sells galvanized pipe with an Inner Diameter that is slightly larger than 1 1/4" in addition to the necessary surface mounting hardware.

The galvanized pipe has a hole drilled into it, allowing me to insert a pin (which intersects with holes in the tripod tube), creating a stable mount that can only be released from inside the camera box.

Step 6: Box Construction

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The camera box was constructed from 1/2" plywood, with a 3/4" Pine base (for added strength).

Step 7: Adding Components

Step 8: Testing

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Once all of the components were added, I decided to stress test the photo booth. I wanted to see how long the device would continually run without any intervention, in conditions that it would likely encounter (sitting outside in the sun with +90 degree temperatures).

Note to you - TEST OFTEN AND EARLY!!

Here is a video of my early test - this is what i learned


http://anotherfrog.tumblr.com/post/12445371555/photobooth


Heat is an issue - After watching the computer overheat with about 15 minutes of use, I realized that heat was a big issue. I installed some old PC fans to help get rid of the heat.

Mac computers heat up with the Lid closed - Even with installing the fans, the compute was getting too hot. My original mouting system secured the computer in a vibration proof rig - with the lid closed. It was only after opening the computer so that the processor fans could run unobstructed that the device no longer overheated. This discovery led to 1 more fan (in the base of the camera box) and a mount which held the computer open.

The button was in the wrong place - with the button on the edge of the camera box, pressing it too hard caused the box to rock back and forth. Potentially an issue with inebriated guests, I moved the button to the center of the camera box, so that the force is directly perpendicular to the tripod.

Step 9: Details and Finishing - Part 1

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In this step, the components are removed, the box is primed and sanded. A coat of spray adhesive is applied to the surface to give the camera box a rough texture. The box is then primed and painted with Duplicolor paints - available at most auto supply stores.

Step 10: Details and Finishing - Part 2

In this step, additional embellishments are added to make the camera box appear more like a camera.

Step 11: Usage

Here are some of my favorite photos from the wedding (The guests took over 800 photos in a 4 hour period). My wife and I also rented a bunch of props from a local theater company, in addition to making a few of our own.

I hope you enjoyied this post. Please let me know if you make this yourself and especially if you make any big changes. I'm always excited to see how people make things their own.

Matt Franks

Mfranks at famunited dot com
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Carleyy3 years ago
This is fantastic! I love that you build a giant camera for the photo booth. Not only is it functional but it looks awesome!
letMeBeFranks (author)  Carleyy3 years ago
Thanks for the commen!

This is AMAZING!

I know I'm a bit late but.... would you be able to tell me what the dimensions (approx) for the camera lense were?

EllieN3 months ago

Hi,

I am trying to make this now. Would you mind posting a clearer picture of how you wired up the breadboard (I am having trouble getting the wiring exactly right. i.e. what to connect to ground and what else other than the soldered wired needs to be circuited). Thanks I would really appreciate it!

This is incredible! Did you end up finalizing the code to automatically post to flickr? I hope we can complete this project for our wedding!!

bix11 months ago

I wonder if this could be simplified slightly by using something like the Teensy:

https://www.pjrc.com/teensy/

It's an ATMeg32u4 USB emulator. That way, all you'd need to do would be program the Teensy to send the return key's ascii whenever the external button is pressed. I've had a little experience with the Teensy and it's perfectly suited for an applicaiton like this!

3ss0neR1 year ago

Hi Frank, first off: good job on designing a cool photo booth! I wasn't able to find any measurements to make the box, did I miss them or do you have them handy for you to post?

Thanks!

Wouldn't using a Makey-Makey allow you to scrap the need for AAC & the Arduino?

If all you're needing is an Enter button then the Makey-Makey would make the leg work quite a bit less.
jjorgy1 year ago
Thank you for the idea and inspiration!

I just got married and thought this would be a great addition to the reception, and it was, people could not stop taking pictures. 

My Photo Booth is on the heavier side requiring 2 people to move it. It has 2 monitors; one for viewing the HD webcam feed on the Sparkbooth Software and the other monitor on the other side running Faststone image viewer displaying a constantly updated slideshow of pictures already taken. Everything is being run off my PC laptop and triggered by a button tied to a USB keyboard PCB.

I plan on redesigning the box to be much smaller and lighter and have a built in PC so all one should have to do is plug it in and everything starts automatically making it very easy to rent out someday.
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mkelly193 years ago
I ended up building a photobooth for my wedding after I saw how much they are to rent.  I used my Macbook Pro inside and wired 4 computer fans on the sides to keep everything cool.  There is ZERO heat inside the box.  I used a HD webcam and just recently installed LEDs for lighting for the next wedding it will be at this weekend.  I upload all the images after the wedding to a dedicated Flikr account for each wedding and leave business cards with the booth at the event with the web address on it.  I used a SteathSwitch II slave switch as the only button the guest can press to take the photo.  The application I use is the built in PhotoBooth app.  Everything is inside and not accessible to the guests, so I don't need to worry about anything getting broken unless they toss the box off the table or decide to carry it out with them.  The box is made of cheap 1/4" wood so it's fairly light and then I just stained it to make it look nicer.

It was a big hit at my wedding and I look forward to using it at other people's weddings and events.
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hi would be the cost to build a photo booth
Anyone else running into problems with serial device options in AAC? It only allows Bluetooth-PDA-Sync. Help?
swidkid2 years ago
Very cool idea. I just want to say if you're more interested in simple photos vs. an Adruino project; I've seen this done more simply with an iPad and a music stand.
MicheleBee2 years ago
I am in the process of building my own booth based on yours and just had a quick question -- did you make all of your own decals in photoshop or purchase them somewhere? Your decals look fantastic! Thanks for your time and for sharing your Instructable!
jackies353 years ago
Why did you choose ply wood? Is it light and easy to car? Also, could you tell us how much does it weight when loading it into a car?
letMeBeFranks (author)  jackies353 years ago
I chose plywood because it is more durable than mdf or particle board. As for weight, I'd say the whole thing weighs just under 50lbs. Loading it into a car is not difficult for one person to do.
Oh, ok... 50 lbs or less is reasonable. Sorry for the typo. I wanted to say "light and easy to carry".

Would you think this could be built using aluminum or another lightweight material? Or do you have any suggestions?
For an application that doesn't need to be particularly durable, foam-core can work. There are also industrial cardboards that are used in construction that are strong and light.

Acrylic is a good option, and it's not expensive. A 48x96 sheet (1/8" clear cast acrylic), cut into more manageable sizes, is less than $100 at the plastics place near our house. Opaque colors aren't much more (like a few dollars or so per sheet). Just watch for sharp edges when transporting this!

At the expensive end of the spectrum are composites, such as carbon fiber-resin composites. You can build them yourself (not cheap), or use sheets and have them cut for your use (also not cheap). Marine plywood clad in fiberglass is light and durable, and not as expensive as you might think (Pygmy Boats uses this construction for their nice, light kayaks).

It all depends on how much work you want to do, and how much you're willing to spend!
Thanks for the share and Idea!
Since I don;t have arduino, I would rather hack an old USB keypad. They are pretty cheap.

Also there are a couple of cooling fans designed for notebooks and laptop in some computer stores.

you can replace the lights into colored ones for another special effects.

My only problem now is how to add a flash into it that sync with shooting...

I agree with jiivaneshvar on the keyboard hack. Arduino is kinda overkill if you have a single, simple button embedded in the case. There are lots of tutorials on keyboard hacking in the DIY arcade community, just search for "MAME cabinet keyboard hack", and I'm sure you'll get something. I imagine this would be cheaper and easier for most, though it would take up a bit more space.

That being said, if you ARE familiar with Arduino, the possibilities here are endless. You could use the button to simultaneously trigger a flash, for example.
jhall30 ntodd3 years ago
To further this idea, the Arduino's code could be tweaked over time to get the synchronization right with the lights, but another, simpler method would be to turn the lights on for half a second, and take the photo a quarter second into that. No synchronization needed, and the added benefit of some red eye reduction!

Remember, the further you can separate the flash from the camera, the better the lighting will be, and the less red eye problems you'll have. The pre-flash helps, too, by causing the subject's pupils to contract. A bright red LED can have the same effect, as well, with the added benefit of being less painful to look at.

If you were to add a mobile photo printer to the device, with a slot, you could send a print command with a second button (after displaying a preview). Have the thing full of photo paper, choose the layout you want (can all be done programmatically using AppleScript, which I'm sure you can run with a command from the Arduino), and print! While this does add some cost to the project, it's another option, and shouldn't be that expensive. It might even still come in under $350, plus the computer you're using. Pick up an old (a couple years old) macbook, and it can stay dedicated to the photo booth!

Add some pipe and drape, a backlit green screen (LED lit white panel, with Arduino color sensors to switch to blue if subjects are wearing green), choose a custom background, and go nuts!

Now I should probably build something like this, since I've been commenting with a stream of consciousness.
matthew38383 years ago
I am having the same issue as pmoore10. I am wondering if maybe I downloaded the wrong version of AAC Keys???? Everything else seems to work. Does anyone have suggestions?
pmoore103 years ago
Hi this really good project, I have just started using arduino to interface with programs and was looking at ur code, although it works in the serial monitor I can not seem to get it to work with photoboth. I have downloded AAC keys and have it running I was wandering do I need to use a bluetooth shield with my arduino uno to send the key stroke as the only serial device i can pick in the aac pref is the bluetooth-pda-sync. I hope this makes sense and you can help me out...
I am having the same issue as pmoore10. I am wondering if maybe I downloaded the wrong version of AAC Keys???? Everything else seems to work. Does anyone have suggestions?
noxben3 years ago
great build. good on ya!

lights: were they synced with flash or on constantly?

button: is the an easy usb button mod that will activate photobooth shot?

letMeBeFranks (author)  noxben3 years ago
Hey Thanks!

The lights were always on. It really helped with the guests walking around in the dark part of our venu.

I'm not sure of a usb mod, but i'd be willing to bet you can find one on instructables. I have since gotten rid of the arduino - and taken apart an old keyboard, and modified it so that the easy button triggers the enter key [the key currently reserved in iphoto for taking pictures].
ModMischief3 years ago
Thanks for this fantastic instructable!



Inspired by you, we were able to make our own giant camera photo booth for PROMdemonium and it was a huge success.



Ours doesn't look as polished as your version, but we were able to throw it together at the last minute with materials that we had on hand or found in the trash.

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jheiselman3 years ago
Awesome project. My buddy and I are building one for his wedding.

We are replacing the Easy button with a "Stick N Click" push button light. The button is very simple to modify. I replaced the constant button inside the light with a momentary button and put a piece of velum over the light to diffuse it. It now acts an indicator when someone presses the button.
reado3 years ago
This instructable is soooo good.. But i had a slight modification that people maybe interested in. When my easy button was pressed down the Serial.println would print a new line every time the loop iterated. In my case, I only wanted to add one [enter] (or in my case, the letter 'g' to appear) instead of 100's. I modified the code to allow for a previous state variable that will only execute the Serial command once for the duration of a button press

const int buttonPin = 10;

// Variables that will change
int buttonState = 0;
int previousState = 0;

void setup() {
     // Initialize the button pin as an input
     pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
     Serial.begin(9600);
}

void loop() {
     // read the state of the pushbutton variable
     buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);

     // If the button is being pressed
     if(buttonState == HIGH) {
          // If the button is being held down then the previous state
          // will be checked and only if the previous state was LOW would it
          // display the character
          if(!previousState) {
               Serial.print('g');
          }
     }
     previousState = buttonState;
}
abolton33 years ago
This is AMAZING.. !!
HatterAP3 years ago
I was just about to build this very same thing and then I saw this post! Maybe not a giant camera, but that's still pretty cool. It took me only a few minutes to set this up with a simple button, tomorrow I'll be buying the "Easy Button" and complete the build.

I love my Arduino.

Great job!
letMeBeFranks (author)  HatterAP3 years ago
Thanks! Good luck with the build..
Awesome work!
How did the webcam work out with regard to image quality and blur? Interested in this for my wedding, but tried my Logitech webcam last night and the blur was really bad so don't think it would work very well. Also the colors and image quality was pretty terrible. Will the better lighting fix it?

Going with my SLR involves batteries etc so extra hassle, but might be my only option. Unless there is a webcam out there with significantly better IQ...
letMeBeFranks (author)  ObiDamnKenobi3 years ago
The new logitech web cam supports full 1080p resolution, and photobooth for osx was updated to take high res images. I can't remember the exact resolution, but it was large enough that the photos could be printed on 5x7 without any noticeable quality issues. Good luck with the slr!
solmstea3 years ago
Cool in the way that it's cool and fun to make photo booths for events like these, but just one question: Why Lomo? The entire point of the Lomography community, as far as I am aware, is to celebrate ANALOG technology. So while Lomo has hipster cred and thus is an obvious choice for this venue, this doesn't seem like an idea Lomographers would actually celebrate (unless you nested an analog camera within the fake camera, which would be pretty cool, though extremely impractical to actually implement).
letMeBeFranks (author)  solmstea3 years ago
The form factor of the camera made construction and finishing very simple. I would have gone for a DSLR camera, but the build time would ahve been crazy. Not to mention, the styling of the lomo has a certain novelty factor when it's scaled up to 4 ft wide.
mmamic3 years ago
great tutorial..gonna get wed soon....i'm gonna make 1 like these...posting in few months i hope :)
letMeBeFranks (author)  mmamic3 years ago
Sweet! Can't wait to see it!
jkeenam3 years ago
Hi.. Building one now, do you still have the files you printed the decals on?
Thank you!
letMeBeFranks (author)  jkeenam3 years ago
Ohh Yes! I forgot to upload those. There is now and illustrator file on step ten which has all of the decals appropriately scaled to print on a 36" wide plotter.

Cheers!
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