Photo Booth III (Incremental Improvements Indefinitely)

“Dave…What are you doing Dave?”

“Dave…What are you doing Dave?”

This project is a folly in the traditional sense, born out of my (not-entirely-wrong) belief that it is possible to build a photo booth for less than it costs to rent one. I succeeded, in that a photo booth was built and worked (even still works)! But failed perhaps in that I now own a photo booth, and once you own a photo booth, you take it places, see how you could make it better, and upgrade it...

My partner’s sister (my sister-outlaw, as they would say) was having a wedding and wanted a photo booth. When I heard the cost, I declared the I could build one for less, and man it myself! So, gauntlet thrown, deadline looming, hacked together a button, some lights, and a Raspberry Pi, “borrowed” some relevant code from github (particular thanks to drumminhands, who has kindly shared his code with the world) and encased the thing in PVC and Ikea curtains.

Not everyone read this as a photo booth. Weird, eh?

Not everyone read this as a photo booth. Weird, eh?

The BRAINS!

The BRAINS!

Above, the RasPi and a little perfboard LED driver I cobbled together. It has five channels, and only four are used - three for the RGB LED in the big button, and one for the LED “ring flash” around the camera. Everything is coded up in Python, again, with much thanks to drumminhands and the fine people at StackExchange. The program is relatively simple: It loops to take 3-4 pictures, composites them into a 4x6 photo, and sends that to the printer. The printer is fast enough (and the programmed wait time long enough) that you can’t really over-run the printer. Print time is actually what drove me to use a legit, fast, photo printer; I was worried that we’d form a line of disgruntled people if the printer was the bottleneck, and not the other people taking photos. So far, no regrets on the printer front - it’s a DNP RX-1HS, but I’m sure there are other CUPS-compatible photo strip printers out there too.

From the baseline booth I updated the code here and there as I tweaked setting on the camera and changed timings, but the main assembly stayed the same: A lot of PVC pipe and curtains. This required a few sandbags, about and hour, and a cordless drill to setup securely, and despite my best efforts, was clearly on the value side of the value engineering. After a few times setting this up and tearing it down, I decided I was over having a booth and scrapped the PVC frame. Since the RasPi was built into the frame, this required a new container for it, the button, and camera, as well as affording a prime opportunity to add a screen, etc, etc... After some epic scope creep we wound up with the current embodiment, which had had a few runs and is a vast improvement over the original in portability. (and, to be honest, aesthetics)

Still need to decide what to do for wire management.

Still need to decide what to do for wire management.

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The non-booth design makes it easier to get groups in the shot in addition to making set-up and tear down substantially easier. We’ve also found that Mylar backdrops make everyone look great. The latest addition is some custom vinyl “Look Here” lettering around the camera in hopes of getting people to look at the camera, and not the screen.

While this iteration is pretty good, I think I want to tweak the photo timing a bit, re-write some of the code in my own hand, change out that lettering for something a little bigger, and…

The fun never ends! Note, I don’t run this photo booth as a gig, usually just for friends and family. But if you know me, and have a cool event that absolutely needs a photo booth, let me know and we can possibly work something out.

A final composited image - the event-specific bumper on the bottom is blurred out to protect the innocent.

A final composited image - the event-specific bumper on the bottom is blurred out to protect the innocent.