I love craft beer and am regularly impressed by the graphics I see on cans and bottles. Some are much better than others of course, but it got me thinking that it would be a nice thing to somehow capture. I had conceived an idea where I might build a contraption that would allow me to move my phone around the cylindrical object smoothly in order to leverage the panographic photo feature to get a nice flat image.

It came to me when I realized I could take a pano pic out the window of a moving car with some success. The subject just needs to appear to be moving (not necessarily the phone itself). I tested it sloppily and knew it would work. What to build it out of and where I’d find the time resigned the concept to one of dozens of ideas I have drafted up in Evernote which I’m unlikely to ever execute.

One day, it hit me that I could have the can move instead of the camera to achieve the same affect and quickly purchased a rotating display platform online for about $30. It worked like a champ! The smooth motion of the rotation made for a great picture but I encountered a couple of other easily solved problems that were making it a challenge to get them just right.

First was the lighting. Any reflections or unusual light levels in the room would have varying affects on the image depending on the conditions and the reflective nature of some labels, and especially when trying to capture images painted right on the aluminum of a can or directly on the surface of a bottle. This was an easy one to solve; I already had invested in a light box and photo station in my office for photographing items I sell via my BlindBoxes store.

Next, I was seeing that if I didn’t get the object directly in the center of the rotating platform, it would result in some warping and distort the aspect of the image from end to end. This I solved by purchasing a centering circle (various sized circles painted on the surface of a clear plastic disc). I still have to play with it some, but it is much less of a guessing game.

If it was not quick and easy to do, I knew it would be something I would not stick with long. So to address this challenge, I attached the motor and the lights to a Wemo outlet for Wifi control and connected that to a Google Home device I was not using. Now I can just say “turn on the Camera Station” and everything is a go, I drop the can, take the pic and turn it back off with another voice command (see video below). Then at my leisure, I crop it and leverage an application called “Instasize” to get the dimensions and backgrounds just right.

I have a decent collection of beers I’m cellaring as well as some shelves of empties I keep in the garage for my favorites so I have a good supply of subjects to start with, especially my current favorite breweries: To Ol and Jester King.

After a few months now, I’m happy to see interest is growing with over 5,000 subscribers. Come follow me!