Tag Archives: camera

TinkurBooth Photobooth

I remember the first time I visited my friend Jim at college many years ago.  Upon walking into his small two person dorm room, the first thing I noticed was all the Polaroid photos hanging around his door frame – of smiling friends and a few funny faces.  Jim had a tradition of taking a Polaroid picture when someone new visited him – a way to remember all the great people that one encounters at college.  I’ve always had a love of candid photography – photos the capture the essence of a moment or a person.  Photobooths and Polaroids are great tools for capturing candid pictures – they’re easy, quick, and produce a tangible result.

TinkurBooth Prototype

A basic prototype of TinkurBooth.

While I still love the Four Frames Photobooth, it takes a bit of time to transport, set up, and take down.  Although Four Frames Photobooth has had a busy life – attending multiple weddings, a few business parties, and even a happy hour – I wanted something the would be, well, easier, quicker, and a ‘lil bit more playful.  Meet TinkurBooth – a platform for taking quick and candid photos with endless possibilities for innovation.

TinkurBooth was my first project using a Rasberry Pi.  Many of TinkurLab’s creations have already used microcontrollers such as the Arduino.  However, I’ve been looking for an excuse to try a Raspberry Pi.  Not only are Pis cheap ($30-40) the Pi Camera module is also cheap ($30) and you can use a cheap ($10) wi-fi adapter for connectivity – < $100 for a photobooth is a pretty good deal.  And honestly, there’s just something geekily awesome about taking pictures using shell commands and switches!

“And honestly, there’s just something geekily awesome about taking pictures using shell commands and switches!”

I wanted TinkurBooth to be more then a “once and done” photobooth.  I wanted it to be a platform for experimentation and play – for trying new ideas.  Coming from my day job as an agile leader and coach, I am often reminded about the countless opportunities for experimentation – to try new things, test a hypothesis, and validate the outcome.  The TinkurBooth experience is built around four steps, which allow for many possibilities: Trigger + Interaction + Capture + Sharing.


Trigger + Interaction + Capture + Sharing

“Aren’t you going a bit too far?  It’s just a photobooth!” is what you’re probably thinking right now.  Let me explain.  Thinking of each of these steps as separate but related, helps me think about the possibilities of changing one or more of the steps to create a different experience that engages different people in different ways.  For example, one day the TinkurBooth could use a motion trigger while another day it could use a sound trigger that listens for a clap.  As another example, TinkurBooth could capture a single black and white photo one day while another day it could take four photos and merge them into an animated GIF.  In fact, my goal for the next year is to have a new version of TinkurBooth every month or two to see how each variation changes the user experience.



This step is about the system knowing the user wants to interact with it (or convincing the user to interact with it).  Examples of triggers could include:

  • Button: Pressing a button

  • Motion: Passing within a certain area (width and depth)

  • Sound: A loud sound or a certain type of sound (ex. a clap or whistle)

  • Light: A dramatic change in light, indicating something has changed

  • Distance and Movement: Coming within a certain distance

  • Time: A certain amount of elapsed time

  • Proximity: Being within a certain distance, although not necessarily within visual proximity (ex. think about using geo location)

  • Something You Have: Needing a smartphone to interact with it

  • Pattern: Press a button in a certain pattern

And let’s not forget about the possibility of mashups such as Distance + Time.  For example, an early prototype of TinkurBooth required the user to be standing within a 2 foot area before it would take a picture.  Too close and it would yell at you to stand back.  Too far away and it would start to worry and ask you to come back.  Really far away and it would ask you to come play.  And if you stood in just the right spot for two seconds, with would take your picture.



While the trigger could directly move to the capture step, there’s a great opportunity for interaction at this point to engage and delight the user.  Examples of interaction could include:


  • Engage: In the Distance + Time example above, the photobooth is playful, using an LCD screen with text based on distance and time to engage the user.

  • Inform: The LCD screen could also be used to tell the user how to interact with the photobooth.  In the above example, before starting taking pictures, the photobooth asked the user to make a funny face and then showed the user a random word such as “crazy” just before taking the picture.

  • Give and Take: Interaction could also consist of the user providing something, such as their Twitter username, in return for the photobooth taking a picture.  The photobooth could then use the Twitter username to tag the photo.



The photography step of the equation.  Examples of capture could include:

  • Timing: The time between pictures or a random time

  • Number of Pictures: The number of pictures taken or a random number

  • Shape of Pictures: Vertical, horizontal, square

  • Filters: Color, B&W, think Instagram

  • Lighting: Flash, No Flash, Ringflash

  • Post Processing: Keep pictures separate, merge photos into a 4 x 1 strip, merge photos into an animated GIF



One of the greatest challenges with photography is doing something with all those pictures.  Sharing is the part of the equation that allows people to share and remember moments.  Examples of sharing could include:

  • Twitter: Posting to Twitter

  • Printing: Printing a photostrip

  • Emailing: Emailing to the user



However, before experimenting with variations, I had to create a working prototype.  There are lots of great tutorials and troubleshooting posts all over the Internet, so I won’t provide step by step instructions here.  However, if you have specific questions, feel free to contact me.

One of the first animated GIF examples posted to Tumblr http://tinkurbooth.tumblr.com/ by TinkurBooth.

How It Works

The following is an overview of the TinkurBooth Platform workflow:

  1. Run sudo python boothsnap.py script

  2. Script monitors for motion

  3. When motion is detected, four pictures are taken using the raspistill command and saved locally; code based on https://gist.github.com/benhosmer/5653641

  4. The four photos are merged together using ImageMagick and saved locally as an animated GIF

  5. The annimated GIF is uploaded to a Gmail account; code based on http://mitchtech.net/connect-raspberry-pi-to-gmail-facebook-twitter-more/

  6. The If Then Then That (IFTTT) service monitors the Gmail account and runs macros to post the animated GIF to Tumblr (and thanks for Tumblr for being so awesome as to actually support annimated GIFs!)





  1. Follow the awesome Adafruit Raspberry Pi Tutorials

    1. Prepare SD Card and Install Raspbian OS ://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-raspberry-pi-lesson-1-preparing-and-sd-card-for-your-raspberry-pi

    2. Configure Pi http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruits-raspberry-pi-lesson-2-first-time-configuration

    3. Configure Network http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruits-raspberry-pi-lesson-3-network-setup

    4. Configure VNC (so you can program from yoru desktop or laptop) http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-raspberry-pi-lesson-7-remote-control-with-vnc

    5. Setup GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) Libraries http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruits-raspberry-pi-lesson-4-gpio-setup

    6. Trying Sensing Some Movement http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruits-raspberry-pi-lesson-12-sensing-movement

  2. Setup and configure the Raspberry Pi Camera http://raspberrypi.werquin.com/post/43645313109/initial-setup-of-the-raspberry-pi-out-of-the-box
  3. Download the TinkurBooth source code from GitHub at https://github.com/TinkurLab/TinkurBooth


Helpful Tutorials


What’s Next

Stay tuned for future posts about TinkurBooth.  Forth the 1st “TinkurBooth” of the month, I’m going to be creating a version that is activated by distance and uses an LCD screen to interact with the user asking them to play a game to act out a event that will be turned into an animated GIF.

And if you’re wondering about that Polaroid from Jim’s dorm room, here’s it is – Jim, Adam, and Val.

Jim Adam and Val Polaroid


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Four Frames Photubooth


I love photographs. Their ability to capture a single candid moment of life. The play of light – black, white, shades of grey. Reminders of the people, places, and things that make life special. Ever since my friend Jim introduced me to photography as a teenager, I’ve had a special place in my heart for photography – taking pictures, post processing and darkroom, incorporating photography into my daily life and adventures, collecting vintage cameras, pushing myself to become a better photographer.  Out of all my photographs, the ones I enjoy the most are candid shots of family and friends. So I suppose  its a logic extension that I have a special interest in photobooths – the ultimate candid moment maker. Four Frames – four frames of uninhibited glory to do whatever you want. So with that love of photography and photobooths, TINKURLAB’s newest creation is the Four Frames Photobooth.

Four Frames Photobooth

A modified a dryer duct diffuser provides a finished opening for the camera lens. The extra room in the opening enables adjustment of the camera height and angle for different shooting situations.

The Four Frames Photobooth is based on an earlier photobooth named Das Booth created for our 2010 Oktoberfest party – “Fest”. Das Booth had no housing, with all the components freely exposed – a Nikon D200 digital SLR camera, a netbook computer, an Alien Bee 400 watt studio strobe, DIY Photo Bits software, and of course a big button. All this gear was setup in a small shed attached to our house (from the 1950s – it has odd storage locations). We also spruced up the inside shed, hanging black fabric on the walls and adding a small bench for those who didn’t want to hang upside down, through the door, do handstands, etc. After entering the booth, partygoers pressed the button, struck a pose, and took 4x pictures. After a minute of inactivity, a slideshow of random photos began playing on the screen – almost as popular as the actual taking of photos. The photobooth was a hit, and ever since has been an staple of Fest.

Four Frames Photobooth

Photostrip catch basket catches photostrips as they leave the printer, awaiting pickup by event guests.


Fast forward to 2012, Val and I had 4 weddings to attend in 2012, three of which were interested in having a photobooth. So as Matt and I started talking about all of these upcoming weddings, his among them, we decided to take Das Booth to the next level – to build a photobooth that would be of high reliability and quality (aka pretty to look at) for use at his own weddings. That seemed like a good high level acceptance criteria. We continued to discuss “must have” features, and decided on the following:

Automated Photo Taking

  • Show descriptive “how to start” instruction on screen
  • Press button to start
  • Take four photos
  • High quality photos and lighting
  • Save original photos and photo strips to computer

Print 2x Photostrips

  • Print 2x photostrip of four photos
  • Photostrips must be 2″x6″ (not 4″x6″ requiring manual cutting)

Highly Reliable and Self Sustaining

  • Zero failures during event usage
  • Take, store, and print 300+ photostrips of 4 photos each without materials replacement (paper, ink) during 5 hour event


  • Able to be set up in 30min or less by one person
  • Able to be torn down in 30min or less by one person
  • Must fit in a mid sized SUV

Well Packaged

  • Look good
  • Look professional
  • Something we’d want at our own wedding / event and would pay money for renting

We also kept a backlog of other “nice to have” features that may be implemented in the future.

So with our features identified we set a deadline of the end of March 2012 to have the new photobooth fully completed and tested to ensure ample time for the bride and groom’s to make other plans if the photobooth wasn’t ready in time. And as things often go, we started working on the photobooth in mid April 2012 – two months before the first wedding, and well after our deadline. Hey, it was ski season!  Gota get in the turns while you can.

Four Frames Photobooth

Locking wheels provide for mobility to and from the event location. A single 30′ power cord provides an umbilical for all power in the photobooth and is long enough to deal with far away electrical outlets – a common challenge at events.

Development and Testing

Because I already had a lot of confidence in the photography and automation aspects of the photobooth, our initial focus were on the largest risks:

Packing (the housing for the photobooth) took the most time of the project. We were trying to keep the costs down, so we were constrained by finding materials that looked good, were durable, but could also breakdown for our transportation and speed requirements – all at a reasonable cost. Matt, Val, and I all set out working on designs – together and independently, finding examples of photobooths that we liked, creating sketches, and periodically reviewing together.  In terms of material, we initially gravitated towards 80/20, dubbed the “industrial erector set, a system of aluminum stock and connectors that all work together to build almost anything. After learning a bit about 80/20 through online research, Matt and I created a specifications and a parts list. 80/20 is generally only sold through resellers, one of which offered to created a CAD schematic to validate the design – ours was spot on. After receiving quotes, the total cost for just the housing was coming to over $3000 – over our budget. The most expensive component were acrylic panels that would form the sides, top, and bottom of the photobooth. Realizing that spending so much money on a material we had never worked with, combined with the cost and looming schedule, I was hesitant to proceed. I also wasn’t happy with the look of the material – the design was busy – not simplistic and clean enough. So we did that anyone would do in such a situation – Matt, Val, and I went to Ikea and didn’t leave until we found the best possible solution – a large white cabinet of wheels that separated into two halves with a window on the top for the flash. About $200. Perfect. The exercise provided us a great constraint to work with what was available, and allowed us to move forward. We can always change the packaging in the future, after we’ve had some real world testing to learn more about the pros and cons.  We also decided to make the photobooth “open”, not having any enclosure for partygoers.  This is also something we can add in the future, but during testing we actually found out that allowing people waiting to use the booth to see people using the booth can actually create excitement and boost usage. Check.

Das Booth was fairly reliable. But sometimes it locked up. Or crashed. Maybe one or twice during a party – but still too frequently for someone else’s event. It was also important to us that the photobooth be highly reliable, not requiring any maintenance during an event. Given the looming schedule, we decided to buy a reliable and cost effective photobooth software package. While we will certainly want to do custom scripting in the future and may develop our own software, we felt the best decision was to invest the $150 rather then potentially invest $1000s of our own time without having enough real world testing to learn more. After a few rounds of testing the software, we confirmed it was rock solid. Check.

The last major area that needed presented a risk was the photo printing. After consulting with a friend who is a sports photographer and does onsite printing, we decided to buy a HiTi dye sublimation printer – that same type used in professional photo labs. The printer uses a roll of paper which is capable of printing 330 4″x6″ photos without replacing ink or paper, and has an average print time of 12 seconds. As an added bonus, the printer also cuts a 4″x6″ photo into two 2″x6″ photostrips. Perfect. Check.

The first integrated test of the photobooth occurred one evening when George and Matt, two of the grooms, were over for dinner. What better way to convince potential clients then a demo! After setting up the gear in the middle of our living room, we took a few test shots. Awesome! I love how everyone just knows to act crazywhen there’s a photobooth. Both “clients” were convinced and we also got some great photostrips as well.

Four Frames Photobooth

The finished photobooth, complete with flash diffuser, camera, touchscreen, and photostrip catch basket (left).  A very clean design.

More to come in another post about alpha and beta testing (aka weddings), example photostrips, and what’s next. Stay tuned for posts in the near future.  Until then, check out www.FourFramesBooth.com.


  • Ikea Cabinet
  • Fluorescent Light Cover Material (for flash diffusion)
  • Nikon D200 camera and 28 f/2.8 lens
  • Tripod Ball Head (for mounting camera to shelf and providing adjustability)
  • Dryer Duct Diffuser (for camera lens cut in cabinet)
  • Alien Bee 800 watt Studio Strobe
  • Lug Bolt and Nuts (for mounting flash to shelf and general in cabinet mounting)
  • Asus Netbook Computer
  • Photobooth Software
  • HiTi Printer
  • HiTi Paper and Ink
  • Wire Basket (for catching photostrips)
  • Power and Data Cables

Four Frames v.Next Potential Features

  • Interaction with social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Allow users to tag photos or automatically tag using RFID or NFC
  • Create interaction with other products (ex. Das Bot)
  • Gamification
  • Allow users to request reprints
  • Taunts (when inactive, taunt users to take photos)
  • Other Activation Methods (sound, motion, face detection)
  • Random Timing (take random number of photos and/or random timing)



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