Introduction: DIY Photobooth

About: College Student at Carnegie Mellon University

This is a tutorial on how to build your own photobooth much like the traditional ones seen at malls, amusement parks, and shopping centers the world over. This booth however is completely digital and is much much cheaper/easier to do at home.

I wrote the first half of the tutorial months ago and finally decided to finish it and post it up.

This project was the result of an undergraduate research project I did last year while attending Carnegie Mellon Univ. It was my first year of college so I thought that a photobooth would be a great way to discover the campus community. The project was a great success and, though my version had many bugs, I have literally hundreds of photos of my classmates.

Step 1: Design Your Booth

The design part is really up to you. Build whatever you think looks cool and works well. Here are some key things I had to keep in mind when figuring out my design.
- portability (fits through doorways, not too heavy)
- secure from theft
- attractiveness. This was important since I had to actually get people to use it.

Step 2: Computer Setup

Here's what you need for the "brains" of the photobooth:
- Computer
- Digital Camera w/ USB remote control capability
- Printer (preferrably for photoprinting)
- User Interface/Controller
- Money Collection Unit *** Optional and not used in this project

I have researched the topic extensively prior to this post so I can tell you there are two main ways to approach digitally constructing a photobooth.

Type 1: This process uses a Mac Mini as the main computer (PIMP) and a digital video camera to capture the photos. The article is entitled an Embedded View of the Mac Mini. This process is cool but the pictures usually come out somewhat poor quality (esp. when compared to pics taken from a digital CAMERA) But I'm sure someone with better programming skills than me can find some open-source camera control program and mess with it to work with macs.

Type 2: This type uses a PC and digital camera to preform the photobooth tasks. Type 2 is the one that I will be explaining in this tutorial. I purchased a program called Photoboof that basically runs the entire process. The program has a lot of features that you can customize (such as adding a second screen, skinnable printouts for logos, etc) You will also have to purchase PSRemote. This is the camera control program, currently only for a select number of CANON cameras. Photoboof also adds control to a number of other non-canon cameras so check there for the most recent updates. The forum is great help too.

So the user sequence for either type is pretty simple. The person sits inside the booth, pushes a button or two, the digital camera/camcorder takes the photo, the computer processes the photo, and the photoprinter prints out a copy for the user. In the mean time, the computer saves the photos on its harddrive, both in its original form and its "photostripped" form. The computer then has the opition to send photos via web server to an online website or another computer. However, for my project, I opted not to have the computer connect to the internet to send images. This was for both practicality (I'd have to manually log the computer into CMU wireless network every couple of hours) and because the grant organization rather me keep the identities of the users private and not published online.

Step 3: Construction: Electrical

There are a lot of really cool features I added to the booth that improve ease and use. I forgot to mention that this booth was free to students (but you can add a coin collector....just look up some MAME projects to learn more) But the booth had to be secure but yet accessible when needed repairs.

The button to turn on the computer was hacked and wires extended it to the lightbox portion of the booth. Two solenoids manually push the camera and printer on/off switches to turn them on.
All this was connected to a control box located in the front portion of the photobooth (where the sliding door in the next step would give access to)

Step 4: Construction: the Box

The booth has four sides, two of which have slideable walls. One "door" will remain permantly closed, while the other "main door" will be used for turning the booth on. The main access door is also a light box design (the pictures will explain it better) Inside there is a controller that has a main power switch, and buttons to turn on the computer, camera, and printer (the lights are always on, but you can add a switch for that too) There are also status LEDs to let you know that the computer is indeed on.

With this design, even if someone opens the main door, all they can really do is turn everything on/off (NOT STEAL THE PARTS) The door is kept closed by 4 concealed wooden dowels that need to first be removed before the door could slide open.

Step 5: Construction: the Facade

I printed my design out at the university print shop on a huge piece of sticker paper. I carefully placed the sticker paper onto the plywood and used a jigsaw to cut out my design. It worked out wonderfully and much better than expected. I then bought two pieces of frosted acrylic at the art store. I stapled them on the backside of the facade and then stapled the center on all the "o" letters. There's probably a better method, but mine worked and I was getting closer to my deadline at this point.

Step 6: Construction: Curtain and Bench

The curtain attachment was somewhat tricky for me to figure out. I had already built the photobooth body and planned on using locking hinges that would attach to the top of the booth and to a metal pipe ring (which held the curtain) The hinges didn't work. So istead I drilled two holes and got two "T" PVC joints. I got PVC pipe, one size down from the "T" pieces, and fit them through. I then just drilled another small hole on the opposite side of the entrance and used a long wooden dowel to prop the curtain up. This way, when I had to move the photobooth, I could just take out the dowel and the curtain would collapse.

I built a really simple bench out of pieces of scrap plywood I had. I used extra cloth from the curtain and covered a piece of foam, glued it onto the bench. It actually looked very slick, but sadly I do not have a picture of it.

Step 7: Finishing Touches/ Conclusion

I stained the photobooth a dark brown to give it a cool vintage feel.

I also purchased a slave flash that could be triggered by a camera's flash. It was only $20-30 brand new, I bought it off of ebay for $10.

Here were some problems I ran into:
- The solenoids were often too weak to push the button. Either that or the braces I made for them to stand over the printer and camera were too weak. Anyhow, that part of my booth failed and I had to open it up everyday to manually turn on the printer and camera. Here's where I got the idea from.
- My printer ran out of ink/paper every 100 photostrips. The problem was, I had to go to class and couldn't constantly check. Checking would also cause me to open up the booth from the back which was a hassel. I wanted to install some type of counter or sensor but this too was sacraficed for time.

I don't want to explain every single step I did, and plus I don't have enough pictures, but please let me know if you have more questions. I'd love to check out some other booths.

P.S. The Photoboof Forum is also a great place to get ideas from other DIY Photoboothers.