What’s a photography turntable?

Photography turntables are round docks used by photographers to take images or videos of objects or people in 360°. The idea is that the object itself sits in the exact middle of the plate, while it spins, either manually or automatically, so you can get a good shot of the product from every angle.

 

Why we built it?

Sometimes we need to take images of the components we add to circuito.io, and a photography turntable is useful for taking pack-shots from different angles. Also, we like to take good photos of the circuits and projects we build. Plus, it’s a cool project!

What’s special about this photography turntable?

It’s Automatic – the photography turntable is fully automatic, meaning that you don’t have to spin the table or click your camera

Camera-table Sync – programmed to trigger both table and turntable (only for Cannon at the moment, sorry Nikon). Once you push the button, it both turns and triggers the camera, so you can sit and relax

Accurate and easy to setup – we used a stepper motor which gives you much higher accuracy and control over the angle you want to shoot

 

Mechanics

Laser cut parts

The photography turntable has 4 Laser cut parts. We used white Plexiglass in 3 different thicknesses, depending on the part. Pololu offer an affordable laser-cutting service.

The parts are:

  • Round plate – 10mm Plexiglass
  • 2 Gears – 8 mm plexiglass
  • Base casing – 3 mm plexiglass

You can find the .ai files on Thingiverse.

photography turntable physical parts

We designed the gears using geargenerator.com, then exported them to Illustrator and added drilling holes for screwing the pieces together.

In the small gear, we made the drill holes slightly smaller so it sits tightly on the stepper motor.

We used makercase to design the case and chose t-slots which we glued together. After designing the case, we exported the file to Illustrator, and made room for the LCD display.

 

Materials and tools

To connect the plate, gears, and casing to one another you’ll need:

  • Lazy Susan bearing
  • 4 X M3 12mm screws
  • 4 X M3 16mm screws
  • 8 X M4 12mm screws
  • 8 X M4 nuts
  • 4 x M3 Brass threaded inserts
  • 8 x M3 5mm Female Threaded Brass Hex Spacer OR 8 x M3 5mm Brass threaded inserts

Materials:

  • Acrylic glue
  • Super Glue

Tools:

  • Electric drill
  • Soldering iron
  • Caliper

 

Electronics

Click the image to see the components you’ll need for the build:

Components for photography turntable

Main components

  • Arduino Uno
  • Stepper motor
  • Rotary encoder
  • LCD 16*2 I2C
  • IR led

Secondary components

  • easy driver
  • Transistor + Resistor
  • Female Barrel jack

 

Wiring

Click the image below, then click on “view project guide”. Then, follow the steps on the app to connect the circuit using a breadboard.

wiring diagram for photo turntable

Once you verify everything is connected properly and working, you can make a small shield. Shields are better for permanent circuits and they are more compact. Breadboards, on the other hand, are good for testing and planning because you can connect and disconnect components easily.

Why we chose these components

  • Stepper motor – accurate and easy to use. Programming the stepper motor is much more simple because you can set it to count the number of steps between the angles.
  • Infrared LED for camera trigger- we wanted a wireless connection with minimum setup. We found the IR code for a Canon camera and set it up accordingly. You can do the same for Nikon.
  • Rotary encoder – we decided to go with a local option for the menu and add an LCD screen with a rotary encoder. You can also hookup a Wifi module and create an IoT dashboard to control the photography turntable wirelessly.

 

Code

Steps to use code

  1. Upload test code from circuito.io to check the circuit
  2. Visit Github repository
  3. Download photo-turntable.ino
  4.  Copy code from line 16 (leaving “include libraries” and “pin definitions” from the original code)
  5. Make sure that the pins are set correctly
  6. Upload new code

Code Logic

The code implements a basic menu using a 16×2 LCD and a rotary encoder which also has a pushbutton.

Throughout the Firmware.ino you can see:

  • pin declarations
  • components settings
  • constructors
  • setup() function provided by circuito.io.

The loop function starts with reading the rotary encoders state, Left or Right, and its button as well.

The menu is implemented using a switch-case finite state machine – navigating through the different states:

  1. HOME – idle
  2.  VIDEO – enter video mode
    1. VIDSTART – start turntable in video mode
    2. CHANGESPEED – set speed of the turntable 0-100%
      1. SPEED
    3. VIDBACK – go back to HOME
  3. STILLS – enter stills mode
    1. STILSTART – start turntable in stills mode
    2. CHANGEANGLES – set number of angles
      1. ANGLES
    3. STILBACK – go back to HOME

Toggle between states using the rotation of the encoder.

Select by clicking the button.

The two states: SPEED and ANGLES allow you to modify the variables responsible for the number of stop points in stills mode and the speed of rotation in video mode.

VIDSTART – calls the video() function:

  • Sends the start recording IR code to the camera using the IR LED.
  • Starts the table rotation at the chosen speed for a whole rotation.
  • Sends stop recording IR code to camera using IR LED

Note:

For a smooth start and stop of the table, we implemented cubic acceleration and deceleration on the first and last 600 steps.

STILSTART – calls the stills() function.

  • divides one full rotation by the number of set angles
  • For each angle it sends the single stills shot IR code to the camera using the IR LED
  • Starts the table rotation until reaching the next angle

Note – For a smooth start and stop of the table, we have implemented cubic acceleration and deceleration on the first and last 600 steps.

 

Putting it together

Follow the instructions together with the images (from left to right):

  1. Connect the side walls, the bottom (longer part) and the back wall, and glue it together with acrylic glue or acrylic dissolvent such as methylene chloride
  2. Take a nail and put it through the main hole of the large gear and the main hole of the plate, aligning them on the same axis. Test by spinning the gear.
  3. Mark the 4 small holes (M3) on the plate, through the holes in the large gear
  4. Drill the 4 holes in the plate according to the markings you made in the previous step with a 4 mm drill, 5 mm deep.
  5. Insert the brass threaded inserts into the holes (with m3 screwing)
  6. Insert the motor gear into the middle rail of the top Plexi-glass piece, then force the small gear into the motor shaft.
  7. Place 4 spacers in between the motor and the top Plexi-glass piece. Screw 4x12mm M3 screws into the motor holes, but don’t tighten, to allow the motor to slip into the rail.
  8. Place 4 M4 screws on one side of the Lazy Susan with nuts
  9. Connect one side of the Lazy Susan to the top Plexi-glass piece with M4 screws and nuts
  10. Align the Lazy Susan, make sure the screws on both sides are exactly one above the other.
  11. Remove the nuts
  12. Connect the other side of the Lazy Susan to the large gear using M4 screws and nuts, using needle-nose pliers or locking pliers.
  13. Move the motor closer on the rail, bringing together the small and large gears, and tighten the motor screws.
  14. Use 16mm M3 screws to connect the large gear to the plate. Place spacers with M3 screwing, 5 mm height.
  15. Insert the LCD screen in the front niche of the box.
  16. Insert the rotary encoder to its place and super glue it. Connect a knob to the other side ( you can either print one or buy one)
  17. Insert the LED into its place
  18. For quick and easy assembly, we used a Prototype Shield. This allows connecting the components and Arduino comfortably with jumper wires and male headers.
  19. Jumper Wire 2-pin – for the IR Led
  20. Jumper Wire 4-pin – for the LCD
  21. Jumper Wire 5-pin – for the Rotary Encoder
  22. To connect the power supply and Arduino we made an extension cord using a DC Barrel Jack Plug – Male and DC Barrel Jack – Panel Mount, soldering wires to ground and VCC between them. We connected the Panel Mount Barrel Jack to the back panel and the male to the Arduino. This way we can connect the power supply to the back wall.
  23. Place the plate and motor in the boxing
  24. Connect the panel to the front of the boxing.