Introduction: Ultimate Homemade Photo Booth

About: Split Reaction, now known as Cunning Turtle, is a group of DIYers, artists, writers, engineers and photographers based in the NY state region.


My fiance and I are getting married in October 2011 and we decided we wanted to build a photobooth for the wedding. We saw that the photobooths out there were nice but $1000 was too much. I asked her if I could build us something dorky for our wedding and she said only if it's not tacky. So I figured what better than this. We decided we could use it as the guest book and we could make our own picture frames and give them out as the wedding favors.

This instructable is broken down into 5 parts

Steps 2-19 are building your own mini itx PC
Steps 20-56 are building the photobooth
Steps 57-58 are schematics for building a serial button for the booth
Steps 59-63 is how to setup the software so you can run this on your laptop or pc
(sorry windows users only for now, also you must have webcam and speakers)
Steps 64+ are future upgrades I'm still working on

I work as an electrical engineer by day so carpentry, software, art and computer aided designs are not my strong point, but I figured it would be fun. So we gave it three months and we wound up designing everything from software to hardware ourselves. There are still a lot of details I'm working on. One big one is the robot that cuts the photostrips and how to access the twitpic api so I can correctly upload these to twitpic rather than using emails. But the basics are working. Any tips or ideas I would gladly pursue.

Keep in mind I will be working on this for ten more months so this is the beta release. I hope you enjoy my instructable. If you are interested in downloading the software just skip ahead to step 60.

For updates and samples go to

V0.22 available at Step 60
beta release
-voice enabled
-webcam enabled
-limited config editing enabled
-gui in progress
-tweeting in progress
-printing disabled

[video compressing]

Step 1: Intro

Step 2: Intro & Materials-Elegant All in One Wood PC

All the parts and Print outs to build the PC part of this project are included in the file and pdf below.

Step 3: The 3D Model

This 3D model was made in google sketchup. Every single part down to the screws and webcam I modelled myself. The skp file is the 3d model

Step 4: Printing the 3D Templates

Make sure you print the PDF in step 2 using these settings. Verify it is to scale using the 1x1" reference box

Step 5: Aligning the Templates

I taped all the printouts to the window and I used these squares to match up all the prints.

Step 6: Gluing the Templates

I used some 3M spray on glue to tack these onto some 1/2" plywood

Step 7: Construction-Cutting Out the Pieces

I cut all these pieces out in a day using the bandsaw. Ow my back was killing me that day

Step 8: Cutting the Tricky Pieces

Some things like holes and inside cuts aren't easy on a bandsaw. Instead I had to use a dremel or cheat and cut the part hoping I could repair it with wood putty and glue later

Step 9: Center Punching Drill Marks

These marks indicate where you need to drill. I used a punch tool or a nail to mark the locations. the paper tends to rip up so you may lose it.

Step 10: Construction-Drilling the Pieces

Stacking multiple pieces makes you lose accuracy but sure is faster.

Step 11: Creating 1/4 Inch Wood Spacers

This model requires spacers to keep the plywood pieces apart. I used some 1/4" ply and a hole cutter and cut dozens of 3/8" spacers. It was pretty quick as long as the piece didn't jam in the hole cutter.

Step 12: Cutting the Threaded Rods

The lengths for these are in the print out file. You can cut them on a dremel but it will take forever. I recommend using a miter saw and cleaning the ends on a sander.

Step 13: Testing the Fit

I tested the stack up to see if it would still fit the monitor. Success!

Step 14: Sanding All These Beauties

Now I disassembled all the pieces and used a router to round them and sandpaper to sand them smooth. In some cases I used the bolts to hook them all together and I sanded multiple pieces at once.

Step 15: Lacquer and Paint

This part I'm not so proud of. I've never had any real experience with lacquers and this is the result. The wood had a darker finish than I has expected.

The front plate and the spacers i did not lacquer. Instead I painted them black. For the faceplate a friend actually had some Hammer finish spray paint. That turned out really well.

Step 16: Assembling the PC

This part is a bit tricky. Once you have all your pieces cut you need to secure them all together the same way the 3D model has them. The easiest way is to follow the 3D model. If you're daring You can try following from the pictures alone. They are sorted in the sequence you need to layer them in.

Step 17: Adding the PC Parts

So this is an all in one pc. The entire motherboard and power supply are embedded inside. I used some M3 screws washers and nuts to secure all the parts.

Step 18: Make Buttons

One problem I notice was the wood got in the way of the power button. In order to still have access to it I turned a nail into the an extension by clipping it to length and sanding it round. Then I drilled a access hole.

Step 19: Finishing the PC

This is the finished PC. The best part is now I only have to lift and drop it in place. In all honestly for a photobooth this PC is way too large. But I have some plans to use this as a home PC after the wedding so this isn't too bad.

(btw there are still two wires, one for the monitor and one for the power supply. I will rewire these to be one wire when I have more time. I don't recommend you do the same unless you are qualified and trust in your abilities to do so)

Step 20: Intro

Step 21: Photobooth 3D Model

Here you can download the 3D model for the photobooth. Since this part is so big I didn't generate any print outs. Most of it you will have to measure and cut.

Step 22: Materials

I bought three 2'x3' 8" foot studs and cut each down into two 24 inches pieces and 2 9 inches pieces.

For wood I was considering 1/2" ply, but it warps so much and there are so many voids I decided to spend the extra $15 and get 3/4" furniture grade (finish) plywood.

Then I bought four 48" piano (continuous) hinge.

Hardware wise you can use whichever screws fit. You will need 1/4"-20 tee nuts and 2.5"-20 bolts. You will need 16 sets.

For the curtain I used PVC pipe and for the cloth I used a full sized bed sheet.

Step 23: Cut 2x3 Studs

Best way to cut is with a miter saw.

You will need six 24" pieces and six 9" pieces

Step 24: 2x3 Stud Center Punch Patterns

I used one of the scrap pieces and made a pattern with it to center punch the studs.

Step 25: Pre Drilling 2x3 Studs

I predrilled all the studs before hand to make sure they wouldn't break. It's not always necessary but I didn't want to risk wasting material.

Step 26: Counter Sinking Screw Heads

To make sure none of the screw heads were exposed I counter sunk the heads of the screws.

Step 27: Cut Plywood

The plywood needs to be cut into these sections. You lose 1/8" in each cut but it isn't very noticeable.

2 12"x48"
1 24"x48"
1 24"x24"
5 12"x24"

I cut all of this using a circular saw. It tried to model it to use the lease amount of scrap.

Step 28: Adding Tee Nuts to 2x3s

This can be done earlier, but I had a shortage of Tee nuts. Tee nuts are nuts with a T flange so they can set into a hole.

I made this PDF as a template so you know where to drill them. This is a critical part of the booth so it needs to be aligned very well.

Because T nuts have a tendency to fall out I also added screws to keep them in place. I pre-drilled everything. I felt everything came together a lot better that way.

The ones with four holes are for the center module that connects the two halves of the photobooth. The two with only two holes are for the top and bottom module.

Step 29: Assemble Boxes

The boxes are screwed together with 3" dry wall screws. I used the 12x24" board to make sure they were aligned at first. Then i secured the three studs and secured the plywood on top. One thing to be careful of is hitting any intersecting screws.

Step 30: Finishing With a Router

I have a nice bit on my router table that allows me to round the corners on all  the boxes. It is much faster than sanding and more consistent. bit you need to make sure you will not hit any screws or you will damage your bit.

Step 31: Route Plywood

Since I had the router out I also decided to route the plywood.

Don't route out or sand the corners where the hinges are. The 3D model shows which sides the hinges below on.

Step 32: Cutting Hinges

These 48" hinges are great but two of them need to be cut down to 24." The best tool I had for this was my Dremel and a cut off wheel.  It was fast but a bit of a nusance since I broke 3 cut off wheels doing it. Does anyone have any better ideas?

Step 33: Cut Channels for Hinges

This time I used a straight bit for my router and I routed out channels for the hinge joints to fall into. Its not required but it makes alignment a lot easier. I just lowered the bit so it was flush with the hinge joint. Then I aligned the guide fence and cut everything off in two passes. remember to only route the sides with the hinge joint.

Step 34: Touch Ups

So it looked like at some points I didn't hold the piece down well. So I took a chisel and fixed those up quickly

Step 35: Install Bottom Hinges

I installed the hinges by laying all the parts in the open position. I would clamp one side down to ensure it was straight. They recommend you predrill some holes but I skipped it and It was okay. You do need to install every one since this holds the pieces together.

Step 36: Testing Hinges

Hard to see cause the wood blends in so well but the hinges do open and close without hitting each other. If you don't you may need to check your measurements and possible shave off some material so they can close.

Step 37: Removing the Screws From Packaging

Whoever invented the packaging the hinge screws came in hated me. It was as if someone heat shrinked all the screws into the tube. The packaging was really hard to remove and I had eight of these tubes. I finally took out the air compressor dialed it to 15 psi and shot all the screws out into a bucket like it was a pea shooter. It worked!

Keep in mind its extremely dangerous, I had safety goggles on and also I had the lid closed so the screws would ricochet back at me.

Step 38: Install Top Hinges

These are the hinges for the larger half. They are more challenging just because they are larger. You may need to lay the entire material on the floor to do this. Keep a ruler handy to make sure everything is straight before you secure it.

Step 39: Connect Two Halves

The two halves then need to be connected with another hinge. The only way to do this is by laying the two halves on the floor. I tested it a bit by secure the flaps with some clamps. it wasn't very stable with only clamps holding it so I took the whole thing down pretty quick.

Step 40: Verify It Folds Over Correctly

If everything is correct your module should fold up just like the intro video has it.

Step 41: Positioning the Connecting Box

The connecting box we made now needs to be installed into the frame. I put two nails in the center to help me align this piece between the top and bottom half.

Step 42: Leveling the Booth

My floor isn't perfectly flat so I had to raise the bottom section up more to close the gamp and make sure the two sections were level when I secure the center module. If its not the photobooth will be tipping.

Step 43: Drilling Holes for Bolts

In order to make sure the holes aligned I actually predrilled through the tee nuts using them as a guide. Be sure not to damage the threads by using a 1/4" bit. You will need to find something smaller to start with and then drill the rest of the way from the other side with the center connector block removed.

Step 44: Counter Sink 3/4 Hole for Fender Washer

On the outside of the 3/4" sheet I counter sinks a few holes and placed some fender washers in there. If i left the bolt as is over tightening would even destroy the plywood. Also they sell plugs that i could buy to go over the bolts if they were an eyesore. I used a 3/4" hole cutter to counter sink about 1/8" of the way into the ply.

Step 45: Test

Here it is almost there

Step 46: Repeat for Top and Bottom Modules

For the top and bottom modules you will just align them while the booth is on the floor and drill the holes the same was as the previous steps.

Step 47: Drilling Holes for Wires

In the center block module and the wall of the booth I cut a large hole to route any cables. This type of bit leaves a better finish if you drill from one side and then drill from the second side. Otherwise it may crack the wood when you make it to the other side.

Step 48: Filling in Voids

The plywood had surprisingly few voids. Most of the ones I had to fill were the gaps between the 2x3 studs and the screw holes I didn't want to see. I just used some cheap wood putty to do the trick.

Step 49: Painting Primer

Step 50: Paint Surfaces

For this I tried both spray paint and regular brushed paint. In my opinion the spray painted finish came out better so that is what I stuck with. I only did one coat and that took about 3 cans of black paint. I will paint a design over it in the future, but I haven't thought of one yet.

Step 51: Creating Rods for a Curtain

For the curtain rods I used PVC rods. These are about 1" pvc and the do not flex to much when the curtain is installed. I wouldn't use anything smaller because it will probably bend like a bow. I painted it black with a hammer finish. It looks more like a piece of anodize aluminum than the $3 pvc it really is.

Step 52: Cutting Holes Into the Top Module

The top module of the photobooth holds the curtain rods. The rods are angled because the booth width is only 24" and it needs to be around 36" to fit two people on two chair. I drilled the front hole 7" from the edge and the front hole 2.5" from the edge.

Step 53: Cutting Holes-Things to Avoid

The hole cutting bit I was using didn't make it all the way through. I had to actually remove some material before continuing. Also make sure you don't hit any screws. If you will remove them first.

Step 54: Creating Safety Curtain Clips

I just cut some short cloths hangers and painted them black. I'll finish them with some hammer paint. One big concern I had for my booth was any children pulling on the curtain and tipping over the booth. The booth is 150lbs and bottom heavy so it doesn't like to tip by itself but long curtain rods would give the child significant leverage. So these clips made it so the curtain would snap off if too much force was applied. Plus when someone looked close they would see it was just a cloths pin and be able to fix it.

Step 55: Installing the Curtain

I originally thought I would need a center bar but it looks goo enough without it.

Step 56: Setting Up the Photobooth

I throw the all in one PC in there and install a printer below and I am ready to go. Setup takes around 8 minutes. There are some tricks I plan to do in windows to make my program run at startup so I wont need a mouse and keyboard.

Step 57: Making the Button

So in the previous step there was a button for the photobooth. This is to start the machine. I didn't want to spend too much money or open a keyboard. I wanted to remove any peripheral devices especially if my friends could mess with the PC. So I decided a dedicated button would work.

I bought an arcade button from and installed it onto a pvc pipe. I made a little circuit to connect it to the PC.

The button is a simple 555 timer circuit. I designed it to steal power from the DTR pin of the serial power and when the button is pressed it sends the U character to the PC. If the Program is on it will wait for those UUUUUs before starting.

I chose it to send U because at 9600baud I can make a square wave that is 4.8kHz and the PC will think its a U character.

Schematic and eagle files are in the attached Zip

Step 58: Testing the Button

Step 59: Download IRFAN

IRFAN is the backbones of the image editing. My program relies on it to stich and resize the photos. You must download it into order to use my program. You can acquire it here.

Step 60: Download Photobooth.exe

Extract all the files to a folder. The folder structure must be maintained in order to make this work so you can't just extract one file.

It works on Win XP Win 7. Because Autoit does not work on Macs or Linux it is not cross platform. In the future I may rewrite it using Processing which is java based and cross platform.

To start click on the Photobooth V0.22.exe. The software will immediately start taunting and talking.

To start taking photos press insert once. When the voice is done talking it will start your webcam. Press ESC to close.

Then it will take four pictures and save them into the pictures folder. It will also merge them into a photostrip.

Normally it would print directly to the printer, but I've disabled it since I haven't figured out a way to set the paper size yet. If you are familiar with autoit you can go into the .au3 code and uncomment the lines that control printing. But it does not intelligently set the paper size, instead it prints on the default.

A few software upgrades are in the works, but are too buggy to be released.

Serial Comm Support
Manual stepping between photos
Twitter (TwitPic) Support
User GUI
Canon Power Shot Support (for better images)
Printer Paper size Calibration

Step 61: Using the Program

Run the Program file Photobooth v###.exe

There is no window

Press Insert whenever you are ready to start talking photos

Press ESC to close

The picture quality is determined by your webcam.

Step 62: Generating a Voice

I used this site to generate all my GLaDOS-like voices.

You can create your own sounds by using Audacity and exporting them as .wav files.

The sounds are organized and detected in the sounds folder. Just number your sounds in sequence and the program will automatically use them. 1.wav 2.wav 3.wav and so on.The sounds are randomly chosen so if you want a certain sound to appear more, you just put multiple copies in.

Step 63: Customizing the Software

The software has a .ini file. In this first beta release you can change how the program behaves by modifying that file. More support will be written in later releases.

The software used for this was autoit. It uses au3 files. You can download that software here if you would like to modify the code

Step 64: Adding Props

Props are a great addon for photobooths. Funny hats, boalas, fake mustaches and white board bubble signs can be hung from the top part of the booth.

We'll make our own in time and place it into this step

Step 65: Adding a Shelf for Props

[to be created]

Step 66: Adding Wheels

The top module of the photobooth is not seen by most people. A great idea would be caster wheels on the top module. That way I can remove the top module and use it as a skate board to push the entire unit around.

Step 67: Paper Cutting Robot

The printer mechanism by itself isn't very interesting. Right now our guests would have to manually separate the photo strips or we would have to perforate 400 of them. If we had a laser cutter it would be very easy to perforate them all. But unless we do I plan to have a robot operate kind of like a shredder would. It's still in the works.

[to be created]

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