Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Project Documentation and Photography

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Project Documentation and Photography


Foot pedal photo setup, DIY, video from Adafruit (uses Boarduino available in the Maker Shed)

Ladyada uses a foot pedal to trigger her Nikon camera so she can easily take pictures that feature her two hands busy makin’ stuff.


Eye-Fi card, $50-$100

These nifty gadgets replace your standard SD memory and pack in some tiny ‘tronics to connect to your wireless network. Automagically transfer photos from your camera to your PC (and share them online via Flickr, etc.) without ever connecting a single USB cable. Speeds up your post-production time considerably!


Tripod, $varies

Taking clear, crisp photos is a huge part of documenting your project well, and if there’s one thing that’s going to get you there, it’s a good sturdy tripod. If it’s even a smidge darker than natural daytime sunlight, you’re going to want one to eliminate motion blur caused by your subtle hand-held motions. Manfrotto makes the best ones, but you can get by with a cheapy Sunpak or similar. I’ve been eying Manfrotto’s variable friction magic arm, which I could clamp to a table or shelf and quickly manipulate to get the shots I want.


Digital camera, $varies

I’m really digging the compact size and pro-looking photos coming from the micro four thirds cameras these days. Pictured above is the Olympus ELP-1, but I’ve also been eyeing the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1. There’s nothing wrong with the big DSLRs, or small point-and-shoots, though. Canon PowerShots can run CHDK, a more fully-featured and hacker-friendly firmware perfect for manually controlling exposure, making your own remotes, etc.


DIY Cyclorama, build it yourself, tutorial by Johngineer

A nice seamless backdrop for photographing small projects can make the difference between a “blah” and a “wow!” photo.


Flickr Pro account, $25/year

Share your full-res photos online in an organized, unlimited fashion with a Flickr Pro account. License your photos under Creative Commons so others can use and share them.


Gorillapod Magnetic Tripod, $25, Maker Shed

For grabbing stable shots from non-standard locations.


Helping Hands, $9, Maker Shed

These come in handy for holding small parts still while you snap pics!


Instructables Pro account, $23.40/year

Get rid of ads and utilize a more fully featured step-by-step documentation environment by signing up for an Instructables Pro account.


Photo editing software – $varies

Photoshop, the GIMP, Aperture, iPhoto, whatever. DIY project makers need to at least be able to adjust the light levels and crop photos down to size.


In the Maker Shed:


Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

15 (Wed) – Postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – Ground shipping deadline
18 (Sat) – 3-day shipping deadline
20 (Mon) – 2-day shipping deadline
21 (Tue) – Overnight shipping deadline

*Orders placed after these dates using these shipping methods may arrive on time; however, the dates listed are what we consider likely “safe dates.”

United States Postal Service (USPS):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, please order by Dec 15 if you intend to select this method. However, we have had increased reports of packages sent via USPS lost or delayed in transit during this high-volume period. Since we do not replace or refund any order placed using this shipping method, we strongly encourage you not to use this method in December.

6 thoughts on “Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Project Documentation and Photography

  1. says:

    Good ideas in the guide. One comment I have for anyone thinking of buying an EyeFi card is to do some research. They are really cool technology, but they are definitely not very Maker friendly. I’m not sure if the blame falls on EyeFi’s business model (charging more for features like RAW uploads), or if the engineers are truly limited by the hardware (maybe RAW uploads isn’t as simple as a firmware patch, maybe bigger hardware is necessary).

    I bought one after reading it had FTP upload support. What that means is, the card can upload the photos to the EyeFi Internet server, which then uploads it to your FTP. You can’t upload to an FTP server on your LAN, it has to be Internet facing. And you have to trust EyeFi with your FTP credentials.

    Another strange thing about these cards is how integrated they are with the EyeFi website. You have to register your card with them before you can use it.

    To their credit, their engineers do follow the forums and will sometimes answer Maker questions. Ex: they helped out a guy who wrote a Unix server to talk to his card. But I think if the platform was a little more open, we would see some really cool mods.

    Some of this may have changed since I last played with my card. This was just a story of my disillusionment (like the time I bought a Super Gameboy).

    1. ian says:

      I’m glad someone else chimed in on the EyeFi. I wanted one since it was a prize in an instructables contest several years ago. I recently (two months ago?) bought one to speed up photos for how-tos on the blog. I haven’t been able to get it working well at all.

      Even right next to the router it never transfers more than 2 or 3 images before the card has to be completely power-cycled to make a connection again.

      As noted, you have to sign up on a website to use the card. I get the impression (though I didn’t snoop it) that the card pings their server to find your PC before an image is transferred.

      When I do get a couple pictures out of it, it’s not useful enough for studio use. I want a way to proof macro shots (for dust, lighting, reflections, etc) on the PC monitor. The Eye-Fi software not only takes forever to connect to the PC to transfer an image, but there’s no way to do a live full-screen preview of the images coming in.

      The software apps from Eye-Fi are junky Flash/Air affairs. ’nuff said.

      I think the EyeFi is a great concept, but it just didn’t work out for me. Could be a stupid user problem, YMMV…

  2. dustynrobots says:

    Nice video/write-up. For the PC users out there like me, I’ve found Paint.NET (from to be the easiest and most intuitive program for quick things like cropping/resizing photos. It’s free and is kind of like the original MS Paint on steroids. I use that for individual images, then IrfanView for batch editing.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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