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How to Make an Overhead Camera Rig for Filming and Taking Photos of Your Art Horizontally

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

So you want to be able to shoot flat from up above, you want consistent results, and you don't want your arms and back to kill you the next day? No problem. Here's my fix.

My gentle pitch: If you're a total newbie when it comes to photographing your art and want to get better at it, I also offer one-on-one classes and mentorship opportunities on this very topic! I will show you

  • how to take photographs of your resin art without glare,

  • how to take the best macro shots that showcases the color, sparkle, and depth of your piece, and

  • how to retouch your photographs to achieve results you can't create in-camera alone.

For more information, please inquire within.


3 of Avenger D200B 2.5-Inch Grip Heads

1 Backdrop Stand Kit or 2 Light Stands (The beauty of buying a backdrop stand kit and not just plain light stands is that you can repurpose these later when photographing detail shots of your art! Make sure to get a heavy duty stand kit for it to handle the weight you're about to set on it. It'll last you longer too.)

1 Spigot

1 Tripod Head (Doesn't matter which one you have as long as it's secure and you know it won't let your camera drop! Protect your investment and invest in quality gear or you risk paying the price in more than just money in the future if it ends up costing you your art work too.)

5/8 inch diameter - 11 x 72 inch Threaded Rod (Measure the length of your table first and make sure 72 inches is enough for you. If you can, try to find a shorter table rather than a longer rod though, because depending on how heavy your camera is, the rod may bend in the middle over time if there's too much weight resting on it. Ikea sells great glass desks that are shorter than 72 inches in length. It doesn't matter that much that the rod is threaded; just find the thickest solid metal rod you can find that the grip head will still be able to hold on to, at your local hardware store.)

DSLR camera body (I use Nikon D5500 because that's what I had lying around, it's also light and it has a flip screen so you can see what you're filming if it's sitting above your eye level. Nikon D5600 is a good newer option. However, if you'd like to use your iPhone instead of a DSLR camera, scroll down; I list the alternative supplies below.)

DSLR camera lens (For filming behind the scenes footage of your art making, I highly recommend a wider angle lens like this Nikon 10-20 mm)

2 Sand Bags

Ok let's get to it!

So the original set-up design I borrowed from this video here:

However, instead of an extension arm (40 inches in length), I chose to get a solid metal rod that I found at Home Depot, 5/8th of an inch in diameter, 72 inches in length, because I wanted the two stands to be on each side of my table and my table is about 68 inches.

If I went with the extension arm, the camera would never be perfectly centered and flat on my work surface. I also really disliked that I'd have to be really careful working around the legs of the stands, being careful not to knock anything down. Because when you're working on your art, the last thing you want is to pay attention to your surroundings, right? ;)

Ok, so if you need the written instructions for this set-up, it goes like this.

1. Set up the two stands on either side of your work table.

2. On the floor, put all three grip heads on the metal rod. Use the hole on the grip head that has the smaller black knob on it. Space them out as you would want them to be.

3. While the metal rod with the grip heads is on the group, untwist the blue knob and loosen up the two metal plates that come just before the yellow separator (as shown in the picture). Sometimes a bit of force is needed for both of them to come loose. Don't worry, you won't break it!

4. Attach the spigot to the middle grip head.

5. Screw on the tripod head onto the spigot.

6. Set the metal rod onto the stands by securing it with the other two grip heads.

7. Set a sand bag on each stand. (Not shown in my photo unfortunately)

And that's it! I hope that's clear enough of an explanation but if it isn't, let me know and I'll clarify below in the comments. (I'm trying to weasel out of making a video of this set up because I hate being on camera and there's someone else with a similar-enough of a set up that I feel I should be ok for now without the video ;) ).

If you would like to be able to film with your iPhone and not a DSLR camera, you'll need a tripod head with an iPhone holder attachment. I have a Joby Ballhead X, which is similar to this one, and I purchased an iPhone holder attachment separately here. Alternatively you could also buy an iPhone tripod, remove the tripod head (make sure it's removable because not all of them are!) and attach the head to the spigot that's attached to the grip head.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This helps me create more content like this for all other artists and craftsmen to keep doing what we love most - create! Thank you so much for your support!


Alex Labunets is an abstract artist based in Seattle, Washington. She mainly works with epoxy resin but uses other media in the mix to achieve various results. Her work is inspired by nature and semiprecious gemstones, geodes, and agates. To inquire about a possible commission, click here.

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