Sunday, November 27, 2011

DIY: Open Air Photo Booth - Construction

Part II: The Build

My DIY Photo Booth always included a built in softbox surrounding the camera and the LCD screen when I envisioned it in my head. I drew some sketches on my iPad and ventured to Home Depot to scout out supplies. Please keep in mind that I always intended to use as many supplies that I already owned. This included the base, which is a rolling work bench on casters that will hold my PC. I also already had multiple LCD screens that I wanted to mount to the booth. The PC was an old HP desktop that was destined for the dump, but powerful enough to run the photobooth software, so it got new life.

I began with a metal paint bucket and a florescent light cover as my base. What I discovered about the light cover is that the Acrylic was too brittle, and would probably have to abandon that idea. I pictured the LCD screen below the camera portal, or bucket, with a white, translucent material surrounding it to provide a lighting source.

I already had a couple of old 19" LCD screens in the basement, as I had upgrade my monitors on my home PC to widescreens. These Dell screens would work great for the booth. I knew that I was going to use dSLR Remote Pro as the software, in addition to BreezeViewer as a slide show. Using this combination allowed the Photo Booth to run off one monitor and the captured images to display on the second monitor. I planned on attaching the 2nd monitor to the outside of the booth enclosure so people could see their own images after they finished their session.

I purchased a couple of Adjustable Tilting Wall Mount Brackets for LCD from Amazon, as this would make my build easier as far as mounting the LCD screens.

I cut a 1x6" board to the height of my booth enclosure and positioned the bucket a the approximate level I was going to use. I also painted the inside a flat black using primer and then black paint. Using a second board, I attached the LCD mount. Now the LCD Monitor and the front lip of the paint bucket would be at about the same level.

I attached the bucket into its final spot, and drilled pilot holes and used 8 machine screws to hold it in place.

For the lens to fit into the bucket, I used a 4" hole saw to cut the opening through the bucket and wood all at once.

I routed the back edge of the hole opening to be rounded. I plan on covering the inside of the enclosure with mylar to use as a reflective material to optimize the softbox.

Using a extra mylar emergengy blanket that I purchased for use with my DIY Octo Softbox project, I covered the boards and reattached the bucket and LCD mount.

To get a feel for how the monitor would look, I attached it to the board and balanced it on the cabinet to see it.

Next is building the enclosure. I knew that in order for this Booth to work for me, it had to be somewhat portable. I decided that I would use an existing tool cabinet for the base, and build the booth enclosure to fit on top of that rolling cabinet. I chose 2x2 boards, and created a frame.

Here you can see the back , which has a board to hold the 2nd LCD monitor, as well as the mylar covered board for the camera portal and main LCD, are fitted into the new frame.

The back side of the enclosure with LCD mount.

Testing the 2nd monitor. The LCD monitor on the front side is recessed into the frame, and is flush with the front edge of the portal opening. I wasn't concerned about the rear side, and although does get mounted inside the main frame, does stick out farther due to the mount.

Patching some holes and filling in screw heads.

Here is the side panel, which will be removable to gain access to the inside of the enclosure.

Adding the camera shelf. I will be using a manfrotto ball head to hold the camera and attached to this shelf.

The back panel of the inside of the frame, I'm using contact cement which will give a tacky surface to cover with additional mylar reflective material.

Emergency Blanket, which is already been pasted to the back wall of the enclosure.

Just need to trim the edges and let it dry.

After standing it back up, here is the enclosure with the sides and back panels attached.

I knew that I wanted the enslosure to light up, and not just use strobes, so I added a couple of light bulb sockets and wired them to a switch inside the enclosure.

Here is a shot of the enclosure with the 2 lights on. I know at this point I'll have to add a couple of more lights to the top.

For the front panel, I gave up on the idea of using acrylic, and settled on using white fabric. I went to JoAnne's fabrix to pick out some nice white silk material from the closeout section. Getting the fabric on sale makes my wife more happy than me, but it seemed to work out great. I dusted off my sewing skills and sewed some re-enforcement loops into the fabric. The idea was going to be to cut a hole in the fabric wear the portal needed to go through, but to ensure that there was still strength in the sheet to not tear when stretching it over the remainder of the box.

Ended up going with sewing 2 loops before cutting.

Cut the opening.

Test the can to ensure that it fits. It's really tight, and will work fine.

How it looks with the fabric attached from the front.

Reattached the bucket with the fabric installed back to the original upright brace.

I built the frame so that it would have an additional frame inside the outside frame to act as a mount for the fabric. I stretched the fabric around the inner frame and stapled the silk to the 2x2.

Once the fabric was stretched and stapled to the frame, I needed to cut holes for the LCD mount to go through. I pulled out the trusty Duct tape and attached a piece to each side of the fabric. I used this technique to prevent the fabric from ripping once I cut through, as it was under some strain from pulling it tight over the frame.

He it is with the LCD Monitor attached. You can see that the fabric goes all the way around the camera portal and the LCD monitor.

Another shot with the lights on the inside turned on. With this much done, I knew that I definitely needed more lights on the inside.

Here is the enclosure with the additional 2 light bulbs mounted, and the softbox is much brighter.

Welcome screen testing on for the dSLR Remote Pro software.

I added another piece of 1x3 wood to the bottom to act as a mount for the arcade buttons, which will be configured to initiate keyboard strokes and mouse clicks to the photo booth software using the Teensy USB Development Board.

Update: Final Booth @ Wedding Reception
1/2" pipe was used to create a bracket that was attached to the top of the photo booth to hold the 2 softboxes to either side of the booth. Pocket Wizard remotes and Canon 430 EXII flashes were used to add to the light of the built-in softbox. I used my vinyl cutter to create custom accents on the booth frame and behind the buttons. A white backdrop was placed in front of the booth, and tape was stuck to the floor in a box, to help users know where to stand. You can see in this next image where the boox was positioned in the corner of the reception call, and the slide show which is displayed on the back monitor. The projector is off during the father of the bride's speech, but you can see how the softboxes are hanging off the pipe-bracket. The table next to the booth housed 2 Canon Selphy printers and the guestbook for guests to sign.


  1. Very nice! I love your booth. If you can do it over again, what will you change, suggest, or use the next time?

    Also, how much does this weight? How do you transport it to venue?
    Great job and thank you for sharing.

  2. I would probably use a light material if I were to do it again, but that adds cost as well. The top of the booth is separate from the bottom, so It's manageable for me, and I would guess that each half weighs less around 40 Pounds. Everything fits in my car remarkably, and takes about 30 minutes to set up.

  3. This is great! I did have some more questions though. How did you get the buttons to control everything on the side where the people were taking photos? Was this the step with the Teensy USB Development. Thanks so much! We're trying to build one for my mom for Christmas and surprise her

  4. I love this booth and build can you post the dimensions and what something like this would cost to build.

  5. I love this booth and build can you post the dimensions and what something like this would cost to build.

  6. WOW, its very nice collection. I love all images and article very much. Thanks a lot to share.
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