The EyeEm Photohaus

a 1 sqm house used as a photo booth

Tobi Poel
Tobi Poel
Feb 16, 2015 · 6 min read
EyeEm Photohaus by Jędrzej Kamiński

We work at EyeEm, a photography community and market place based in Berlin, Germany. Our team regularly organizes yearly PhotoHackDays (@photohackday), where over 100 photographers, developers, and creatives team up to build things. Anything goes, as long as it’s related to Photography. We’ve even built a pretty succesful selfie app for cats (Snapcat).

This past December, our team got together for 48 hours for a Christmas hackathon, with some really fun results. We produced a magazine, built a beautiful dashboard, a really cool infrastructure tool for feeds, and a photo booth!

If you come visit us at our Studio in Berlin Kreuzberg, you might notice a small house-shaped wooden box with a curtain on the side. Open the curtain and you’ll find a bench on your right and a tablet on the wall to your left. Climb inside and have a seat. You’ve just entered the EyeEm Photohaus, a hand-crafted photo booth that allows you to capture your visit at our office and upload a photo directly to EyeEm.

At EyeEm, we are all about photography and just as we’ve believed in the potential of mobile photography right from the get go, we’ve always kept our eyes and minds open for every type of photography out there. One style, however, that is highly underrepresented in our community are photo booth strips.

Photo booth we rented for our office house warming party (Photo by Eric Hartsuyker)

Naturally, the idea of having our own photo booth in the office has been around for a while. We’ve rented a photo booth for our office warming party, and almost every single one of us has at least once dragged a friend into a photo booth to capture a moment together.

Now, we finally have one, and it’s a beauty! While we’re not the first to want to take photos of our visitors (check out @twisitor), we believe that the special photo booth aesthetics of the EyeEm Photohaus bring the idea to a whole new level.

Just have a look at the most recent photos here:

This article is about sharing the idea and showing you how we’ve built this little gem of office furniture in just two days during a company internal hackathon just before Christmas break.


Hardware: a One SQM House and a tablet

The EyeEm Photohaus is based on the plans for the 1sqm house, created by Berlin-based architect Van Bo Le-Mentzal. The plans can be requested for free on Le-Mentzal’s blog, and in return he asks for a story. Well, here it is.

Since photo booths are more fun as a group experience, we had to make the house slightly wider than the original plans, so that at least two people fit next to each other. We also adjusted the height to account for taller people.

EyeEm Photohaus, Day 1 by Tobi Poel

The basic wood construction was done within one afternoon and the full version with walls, bench and light installation was finished by the end of Day 2.

This timespan includes several walks to the DIY shop and back, carrying different types of wood and 5mm thick medium density fibreboard that we’ve used for the walls.

One of our main concerns was the lighting inside the photo booth, which had to be both bright enough and diffused, so as not to cast strong shadows. To get this effect we built a semi-translucent light shade behind the camera. We initially wanted to do this with Perspex, but being on a budget we went for a slightly cheaper version using some translucent plastic sheets from the Arts & Crafts store. The result turned out to be pleasantly close to how public photo booths look as well.

All in all we managed to get away with a budget of just under 200€, excluding the tablet we use to take the photos.

EyeEm Photohaus, Day 2 by Tobi Poel

There are some improvements already being planned, which include adding a small printer under the bench, to directly print the photos taken in the booth or painting the outside walls with magnetic chalkboard paint, to write on it and stick printouts on the outside.

We are also planning on adding some wheels, to be able to take the booth around to our meet-ups or other events like the EyeEm Festival.

Check out this time lapse by Michele Palmia, documenting our efforts:

Team with trust issues by Peter Willert

Software: EyeEm Photohaus Web App

The software was built as a web app, so we can freely switch devices to any of the iOS and Android tablets we have at EyeEm for testing purposes.

Just like our main frontend, the photo booth uses a node.js/express.js setup on server side and Facebook’s React framework on client side. We’ve adopted this setup for most frontend projects at EyeEm and we’re very happy with it.

Inside EyeEm Photohaus by Peter Willert

The interface is very minimalistic. The main screen shows the camera stream and a start button. When tapping the button, the app will take three subsequent photos in randomly chosen intervals of two to four seconds. We strongly believe in the power of snapshots and think the fact that you don’t have full control over the selfie photos you’re choosing is part of the particular charm of photo booth pictures. We’ve yet to catch somebody poking their nose in the photo booth, but we’re on it.

After pictures are taken, they get processed (black & white and high contrast: an infallible recipe to make everybody look cool), stuck together into a photo strip and uploaded directly to EyeEm. Caution: enter at own risk, everything is uploaded right away, there’s no confirmation dialog.

The only other screen the app offers is a history of photos taken previously.

Future Plans

Two days were enough to have the basic project up and running: At the end of our little internal hackathon we could already let everybody go crazy taking photos in there. However, there are some ideas we didn’t manage to do, yet. This includes adding an actual printer under the bench and painting the whole thing with magnetic blackboard paint. However, if you feel like we missed the number one killer feature, just tell us. We’d be happy to know. More importantly, however: If you want to try it out yourself, just pay us a visit at the EyeEm Studio Kreuzberg. Visitors welcome.

We work at EyeEm, a Berlin/San Francisco based photo community and marketplace for a new generation of photographers. Follow EyeEm Dev on Twitter for more developer news! We’re always looking for passionate people to join our team, check out www.eyeem.com/jobs and drop us a line! Thanks for reading, Peter Willert, Fabian Heuser, Kirsty Lee, Giulio Zecca, Gen Sadakane, Lotti Müller, Michele Palmia, Jack Mahoney, Tobi Poel

Stories from EyeEm

The Lives And Times Of The People Building @EyeEm

    Tobi Poel

    Written by

    Tobi Poel

    Frontend Developer at @eyeem

    Stories from EyeEm

    The Lives And Times Of The People Building @EyeEm

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