Hands Free Photography With a Smart Phone





Introduction: Hands Free Photography With a Smart Phone

About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

I make pop-up cards, and, since I like showing others how to make them too, I shoot videos of my hands cutting, folding, and gluing.

My phone is by far the quickest and easiest camera for making web quality videos, but there are surprisingly few phone tripods on the market. I wanted a mount which I could easily adjust and put right by my face as I work, to get perfect POV shots. I can keep one eye on the screen and one on my hands, to make sure they stay in the frame and in focus. The footage shows the pop-up being made as you would see it, which makes it easier to follow.

Possibly, if I'd spent lots of time looking, and lots of money to buy and ship it, I could have found a ready-made solution manufactured half way around the world. Instead, I rummaged through my recycling bin and my pile of lamp parts (collected while walking my dog on garbage day), and rigged this up in about 15 minutes. A quick and dirty job. It might not be pretty, but it was free and works like a dream.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

This is the list of the parts I used, but since looks don't matter here, I encourage you to use whatever you can find in the trash: don't buy  parts if you can re-use something which is going to be thrown out....

A weighted lamp base
A gooseneck pipe (24" is ideal)
A fixture crossbar (for attaching the gooseneck to the lamp base)
A tin can (14 fluid oz or 414 ml)
A pipe flange with a female threaded hole or a hickey to attach the gooseneck pipe to the tin can
A couple nuts and bolts (for attaching the hickey or flange to the tin can)
A rubber band

The only tool you'll need is a drill to make small holes in the tin can where you will be attaching the flange or hickey.

NOTE: you can also skip most of this and just use an existing adjustable table lamp, as long as it's strong enough to hold the weight of a phone. 

Step 2: Assembly

Attach the lamp base to your gooseneck pipe by threading the crossbar on the pipe through the hole in the lamp base.

To attach the tin can, drill small holes towards the middle of the can, where you will be bolting your flange or hickey (a flange is better, but I used a hickey because that's what I had on hand). Use your nuts and bolts to attach the can to the flange, then screw the whole thing onto your gooseneck pipe.


NOTE: Theoretically you could also skip the flange, drill a slightly bigger hole, and attach the tin can directly to the gooseneck pipe with a nut on the inside of the can. I chose not to do that because I was worried that it would stick out too much inside and might get in the way of the camera, but I'm sure it could work too.

Step 3: Use

Put your phone into the tin can and use a rubber band to make sure it doesn't slip out when you adjust its position. Sometimes I'm lazy and I neglect this step, and though I've never broken my phone there have been some close calls... The phone has never slipped out with the rubber band in place.

To adjust the lamp, make sure you hold the top of the gooseneck pipe and NOT the tin can, or you might bend the tin.

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    Might make mine using a see through plastic jar to allow viewing from more angles, but otherwise perfect. Just have to finish that peanut butter.

    5 replies

    Not sure how good the optics would be though a recycled peanut butter jar... but it could provide an interesting filter effect. Maybe you could make some peanut butter stuffed turkey to use up your jar today....

    I'm thinking Titch meant it's the view of the screen that would improve, and I like that idea too. :)

    That makes sense... I didn't think of it that way because looking at the phone screen from a slight angle actually isn't a problem at all (for my use). I have to place the camera slightly on the side otherwise it gets in my way.

    Was just on the view of the screen idea, the optics aren't that good but certainly better than through a tin can.
    Also in Australia we don't do thanksgiving. But for a use for turkey leftovers, a Vietnamese style coleslaw with leftover turkey, cabbage (Chinese if you can get it), bean shoots, mint (Vietnamese mint if you can get it) carrot, coriander leaves, crispy and or green shallots, onion, peanut butter &/or peanuts, with a dressing from rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, chilli, brown sugar crushed garlic and peanut/vegetable oil. (from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion). Enjoy with a nice Traminer Riesling.

    That sounds delicious... you should write an instructable with the recipe!

    did you use another, taller, phone-rigging-can to achieve the over-head shot?
    i love me some recursive instructables...

    1 reply

    A taller, live, bipod got that shot.... though the attention span of inanimate objects is superior, this shot was done quickly enough so I didn't get too many complaints.


    Very nice. I use the same patent to increase the voice of the Smart Phone's speaker while hearing music.

    Definitely adding this to the mental kluge pile. Frankly I had never read the little CC by-nc-sa licence before. I like.

    I like the idea of recycled lamp parts... nice idea. If you have access to a bandsaw you could use PVC pipe and modify to have a nice opening in the back... or perhaps a laser cut part to hold the camera/phone. But overall... very clever and nicely done.

    1 reply

    Yes, there's definitely room improvement, improvisation, or customizing it to your specific use -- I hope it inspires you (and others) to make something even better.

    What a great idea! I love your philosophy and commitment to using something already made instead of rushing out to buy things. Good for you.

    Excellent, simple idea that also repurposes old parts. About the commercially available tripods: most of the ones I have seen advertised for phone are small and short. This one gives you the height you needed to film your projects and the flexibility. Nice job!

    Good,I like your website! Hope working on! (2012 Best Copy Swiss

    watches: http://www.saleukwatches.com )