I'm always trying to take better photos and videos of my projects. Recently I've tried to fix a few problems with how I document what I'm making.
The tripod that I currently have will only rotate left and right - not tilt up and down. This was a problem because often times when working on a project, the work piece is on a table or the ground, and a downward-facing angle is needed to take pictures or video of what you're making. Tripods that can be positioned at any height and angle can be expensive, which is a problem for a college student, especially when it only holds the camera.
Lighting has always been a problem for me. To be honest I just find it annoying. There never seems to be enough light to make my camera happy!
To fix these problems, I made a three part camera and lighting system. The center post replaces the tripod, and allows the camera to be positioned at any height and angle. The two posts on the sides are for lights to be clamped to in order to illuminate each side of the subject. One drawback to this method is portability. For me this isn't an issue because my photos and videos will be taken in roughly the same place every time.
These are inexpensive and can be used for anyone taking pictures or video! Let's get started!
- Index -
- Tools and Materials
- Stands for Lights and Camera
- Camera Mount
- Use, Mistakes, and Conclusion
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Step 1: Video!
If you're like me and have mixed feelings about reading, watch the video I made!
Step 2: Tools and Materials
You'll need the following tools and materials to make your camera and lighting stands. I'm listing what I used, but you can definitely substitute some things.
- Jig saw
- Dremel rotary tool
- Yard Stick and Square
- Something to Stir concrete with
- Portland Cement
- Play sand
- 2x3" stud (x3)
- Scrap 1/4" MDF
- 1/4" Hex bolts and nuts
- Wood spheres - I'm actually using Doll heads that I found at the craft store
Step 3: Stands for Lights and Camera
These stands are incredibly simple - we're just putting wood into concrete!
First thing we're going to do is cut 18-20 inches off of our 2x3 stud. The ones I bought were eight feet long, which is a little tall for our stands, and we will need the wood we cut off for our camera mount.
You may also want to cut some notches into the end of your 2x3 to make it a little more sturdy in the concrete base.
Mix Portland Cement and Play Sand together in roughly a 2:1 Sand-Concrete ratio. Mix the powders together thoroughly and then add water and mix until it is thick.
If you feel like doing so, grease the inside of a two gallon bucket, and then pour in your concrete. Push your 2x3 stud into the wet concrete and wait overnight for the concrete to cure! It can then be removed from the bucket with enough pushing and pulling.
Step 4: Camera Mount
This is probably the most difficult part of this setup, but is also pretty straightforward. We're going to make a ball-and-socket joint so that our camera can pivot in any direction.
The first thing to consider is the size of the ball. Ours is roughly 1.25" in diameter, and is actually a doll's head that was bought at a craft store. This was used to determine the size of the sides needed to hold the ball.
One side is made by making three cuts on our left over 2x3 - the part we cut off at the beginning. This leaves roughly 1/4" thick segment of wood sticking out from the end. The other end of the 2x3 should be cut so that the total length is 5 inches or so, and a hole drilled in the center. This will allow a $1 spring clamp to be bolted on to the back. This way, the camera can be attached at any height.
The other side is made from a piece of 1/4" MDF scrap that I had laying around. I cut out a rectangle that was long enough to hold the ball, and bolt onto the 2x3 using the jig saw.
Holes were drilled in the center of each side, and beveled using the Dremel rotary tool. This helps a lot in holding the ball tightly. Holes were also drilled so that the two sides can be bolted together.
Another piece of 2x3 was cut lengthwise to be more of a 2x2, at roughly 4" in length. The ball was superglued to one end, and holes drilled in the other to allow a 1/4" bolt to slide through it and attach to a camera.
Hot glue can be added to the ball-and-socket joint in between the ball and socket to increase friction if necessary.
Step 5: Lights!
The lights I am using for my setup are nothing fancy. They're clip-on lights available at Home Depot for less than $10 depending on which size you get. You can put any type of bulb you want in them , they can clamp on at any height along your 2x3, and they have a built in ball-and-socket to pivot at different angles. I was pretty excited when I found them.
Step 6: Use, Mistakes, and Conclusion
The lights are meant robe positioned one on each side of the subject with the camera in the middle. However, I'm no lighting expert, and I will largely be going with whatever I think looks best for any given photo/video that will be made. What is best about this system is the ability to position both lights and the camera at any height and angle possible.
Originally, I tried to use 3" diameter cardboard tubes as the base for each of these stands. The cardboard tubes were given to me for free and so I wanted to reuse them. I had assumed that because of the weight of the concrete at the base, that the stands would be stable. In practice, the 3" base was not wide enough to create any sort of stability. I tried to glue the base to a cut 2x8" piece for more stability, but the glue did not hold for any considerable length of time. It was at that point I knew I would have to add more concrete to make a wider base, and went with the 2 gallon bucket as a mold.
I haven't used these much yet, but I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. The making of the ball-and-socket joint went surprisingly well, and worked the first time without the need to redesign any of it or re-cut anything. As a three-part system, I think it will do its job well while being much cheaper than any professional camera and lighting setup. Thanks for checking out my project! Leave a comment about what you thought, anything you would change, or just to say hi! I like comments, they keep me motivated. If you make your own, make sure to post some pictures here!