Photo booths are a lot of fun; in fact, most of us can probably remember using them with friends or family and getting those small strips of pictures.
It turns out that photo booths were conceptualized in the
late 1800s and made a public debut at the World’s Fair in
1889. Shortly after that, they began to show up on streets
around the world before becoming a staple of shopping
malls and ID card stations. The earliest photo booths used
traditional chemical developer techniques that were messy
and hazardous, but luckily for me, digital cameras can
now fill that role. I wanted to make a digital photo booth
that can store and tweet photos for guests.
The requirements I came up with for my project were
simple. I needed an easy-to-use photo booth that could be
set up by anyone in just a few minutes. It also needed to
be portable since I currently live in Pennsylvania and the
wedding was in Missouri. The photo booth should take a
series of photos so people can try different props and
poses. A live preview of the photo was also essential so
that nobody ended up headless in our album.
The particular occasion and venue posed a few
additional challenges. The venue had very variable lighting
and we didn’t want dark outlines as photos, so the photo
booth would have to provide its own lighting. It was
unclear if Wi-Fi at the venue would be adequate, so
photos would have to be stored locally with the option to
post to social media, as well.
To fit with the wedding and my general taste, it
needed to have a vintage look and feel. The final two
constraints were purely practical: It needed to be
inexpensive and relatively quick to develop. Anyone who
has planned a wedding knows the cost and time that goes
into it, and this project could only excuse so much
centerpiece duty. The final result (Figure 1) met all of
these requirements and was surprisingly easy to build!
When starting a project like this, it is always a good
idea to see what’s in the parts bin already. In my case, I
pulled out a Raspberry Pi A+. While the A+ model isn’t
good for RAM intensive applications, I didn’t plan on
loading the graphical user interface (GUI) for the
operating system. It is also a small board and very
inexpensive. With the large support community behind it,
the Raspberry Pi is also very easy to set up and use.
My fiancée thought a photo booth
would be a fun addition to our wedding
reception. She had a table with some
props and a cheap camera for people to
use in mind, but it gave me an excuse
to start a project and build a fully
automated portable photo booth. In
classic style, an offhand comment about
something turned into a few weekends
of solder smoke, coffee, and coding.
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■ FIGURE 1. This completed photo booth keeps that
old-time feel, while making digital photos available to
guests just seconds after they are taken.
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