Taking Instructables Photos Without a Third Hand





Introduction: Taking Instructables Photos Without a Third Hand

We all need a third hand when taking photos for Instructables.  I have an old helmet for cycling.  My idea is to mount a camera on the helmet and use the camera's self-timer to release the shutter.

This photo shows the natural position of my hands and my head when working at my workbench as I might while photographing views for an Instructable.  The photo was taken with my camera mounted on a tripod.  I drew the yellow lines in MS Paint and held a protractor on the computer screen to determine the proper angle for the camera's field of view relative to a reference line on the helmet.

Step 1: Cut PVC

I wanted to use some PVC I will flatten and bend with a heat gun.  I used five inches of PVC 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Step 2: Make Kerfs

The center kerf runs the length of the five inch piece of PVC.  The two kerfs on either side of the center kerf are 2 3/4 inches in length.  I used a cutting wheel in an angle head grinder to make the kerfs.

Step 3: Flatten and Bend the Center Section

It required more than one step, but I used the heat gun to flatten the center piece.  Clamping it between two pieces of wood while the PVC is soft is a handy way to work.  Here I am heating the center section again so I can bend it back toward the camera a little.  The piece being heated will attach to the helmet with screws.

Step 4: Check Screw Fit

If I were riding a bicycle with this helmet, I would not use screws that could injure my head in a crash.  For standing at my workbench these screws I found on the road one day will be fine.   

Step 5: Check the Angle of the PVC Bend

The "T" bevel square is set to 130 degrees.  A piece of wood across the helmet duplicates the reference line in the Introduction photo.  Mark the PVC's location on the helmet and/or heat again and tweak the bend.  

Step 6: Screw PVC to Helmet

I used four screws on the center section for good support.  Use the heat gun as necessary for a good fit.  Here you see the heat gun in use to heat the side bracing before drilling and attach it with a screw.  Do the same with the side brace on the other side.  It is a good idea to check the 130 degree  angle in step 5 several times as you proceed.  Try to heat the PVC without melting or burning the helmet.

Step 7: Drill a 1/4 Inch Hole to Mount the Camera

Here you can see all of the screws holding the PVC to the helmet.  The PVC is really quite rigidly mounted, which is a good thing.

I also drilled a 1/4 inch hole for the bolt that mounts the camera. 

Step 8: Mount the Camera

Here you see the camera mounted to the helmet.  I used a 1/4 x 20 cap screw with a wing nut.  Turn the screw into the camera.  Snug it up with the inverted wing nut. 

Step 9: Actual Photo

This is an actual photo taken with a camera mounted on my old bicycle helmet.  I have not cropped the photo in any way.  The chin strap on the helmet should be as tight as possible to keep the helmet from slipping forward on your head due to the weight of the camera. 

To use, engage the camera's self-timer and press the shutter.  It is easier if you can find the self-timer button by touch.  The duration of the self-timer is probably long enough that you could also set it and then put the helmet onto your head before the shutter fires.  If you want to check your results, you will need to take the helmet off of your head, but that is not a problem.



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    what cutting wheel do you use for the pvc? Like a blade or the fiber type cut off type

    I used a common 1/16" thick fiber wheel for cutting metal. Thanks for looking.

    ;What I want to know is how did Phil take photos for this 'ible when the 'ible is about how to take hands-free photos! :P

    I know your question is tongue-in-cheek. I did use a tripod for the photo in the Introduction. The photo in step 9 was taken with the camera attached to the adapted bicycle helmet. The others were taken as I held and worked the camera in one hand.

    Tee hee! :]

    This looks pretty ingenious.  I have a "miner's light" that mounts on your forehead with a strap around the back of your head, I wonder if that could be modified, if the camera wasn't very heavy...  By the way, how do you know if the camera is pointed exactly where you want it everytime, does it vary somewhat each time you put the helmet on?  I saw some ads for "spy eyeglasses" with a camera built into a pair of eyeglasses, and a bluetooth transmitter, but they weren't cheap, and the resolution was rather low.  I think your invention is by far the best solution.   Sorry if you already answered this, but how heavy is your camera, and what is the resolution?  Thanks for another great idea! 

    Thanks, Cody.  A lighter-weight camera would be an advantage.  The camera I use these days is a Kodak z710 (7.1 mega-pixels).  It weighs more than those that look like a deck of cards with a lens. 

    The miner's light strap might work with a lighter-weight camera.

    I figure the camera's field of view will usually cover what I need, even if it is not aimed completely properly.  I can crop a little later.  If the photo I want has more limited requirements, I could take the helmet off and check what I got after each exposure.  I think the biggest variance will be making certain the camera is not pointed to one side or other a little more than straight ahead.

    Thank you. 

    I recently bought a little remote that supposedly pairs with any digital camera.  It also has delay timer on it so you can click it and quickly stash the remote out of the shot before the picture is taken.  It's been absolutely priceless when I've had to take pictures using a tripod.  But I've been looking for something just like this!  Now to find my old helmet. . .

    According to the safety people, a bicycle helmet should be replaced every three to five years.  They fear the Styrofoam cushioning material may not keep its integrity longer than that.  The helmet I used in this Instructable was purchased in the mid-1980's.  But, I cannot see any evidence the Styrofoam in it has deteriorated in any way.  I took a nasty spill a couple of years ago and hit my head enough to crack that helmet in two places.  I got away without even a headache.  The point of this comment is that you are probably due for a new helmet soon, anyway (if only you can find your old helmet).

    I don't have a bike anymore :)