DIY Brief: Tripod Add-on for Flat Lays

I LOVE timelapses. I am all about learning and trying new things, and keeping record of your progress. It’s so important to be able to look back and be reminded that yes, with enough time and effot, I am capable of becoming better.

To capture myself working on art, I essentially have to rig up my phone for a flat lay. This is somewhat of a meta-post; I’m going to show you all the ‘prototypes’ I’ve gone through (jump straight to the final DIY solution).

Phase 1 of rigging up my camera for flat lay angles
I dub this, “String Theory”

I’m so sad I didn’t take a photo of this; it was my favourite. I had cut pieces off of a yogourt lid so that my phone would fit. Then, running wild with inspiration from macrame plant hangers, I tied it onto our ‘chandelier’ with string that was lying around the house. The #frugalLife, m’right?

It was when I sighed in frustrated agony at the constant swaying of the camera that Husband came running over with his blessed engineering mind. Sometimes he is charmingly serious when he doesn’t need to be. This was one of those times. He pondered about my predicament, then suggested that I need to tie it to some anchors. He is the best, most loveliest husband, because he then proceeded to HELP me cut some more strings and to tie the yogourt lid to nearby table legs, chairs, everything.

I sat down to test the set up and… it worked. It felt like I was peering into a mosquito net, but it worked. So we stepped back and tried to admire our handiwork in silence.

Finally, I said, “You know, I really meant for it to be a temporary, portable, kind of solution… And… it’s a bit of an eye sore… And… it will take me 20 minutes to set up each time…”

Husband agreed a little too quickly, “There must be a simpler way.”

So we wiped our minds clean (although we bring up this story from time to time to laugh about), and.. a-HA! The solution was so simple!

Phase 2 of rigging up my camera for flat lay angles

We had some scrap wood from another project, so we taped it together, put it on the kitchen peninsula, and popped some photo albums on top to hold it down.

I LOVED it. Simple, quick to set up and take down, easy to store. It was also completely separate from my workspace, so I can shift around and accidentally bump into the table if I pleased, and it wouldn’t affect the camera.

It was perfect for many many months, until it started warping (as shown in the picture). My paper started to look trapezoidal. How unattractive.

So it was time to ponder about a Phase 3, and to address any lingering issues. Although it was easy to put away, it was not at all portable. We only had one spot in the house where it would work. And because this one spot is a solid counter, I could only record from a set height.

This time, I took inspiration from a more suitable place, the construction crane. I love cranes.

Can we please pause for a moment to discuss just how MUCH I love cranes??

They are such elegant, tall, odd looking creatures (might explain why I love giraffes too). I very much enjoy visiting any downtown and spying all the cranes peeking out from amongst the skyscrapers.

Look, I even drew a picture with giraffes and cranes together:

'City of Giraffes - Take II', 2009
The love is real. ‘City of Giraffes – Take II’, 2009

One of my dreams is to be able to operate one, only for a moment. Honestly, I’d be happy just to sit in one and watch a demonstration.

Our relationship was a long one. Here I am, seven years ago, having made my own wall decals where a crane is lifting up my window.

Custom construction crane wall decals.
Sorry I don’t have a better full-view shot (this was taken back when phone camera resolutions were VGA). My face obviously shows I’m upset about it.


Phase 3 of rigging up my camera for flat lay angles
I’m in love <3

Phase 3! : )

Now, I know there are tripods where the center column can swivel to a horizontal position, but they’re pricey, and I already have a tripod I love (it was on sale! #frugalLife). Besides, inventing a solution is always more fun.

I was puzzling over how to embed a female part into wood for the tripod quick release plate to attach to, when Husband fished out an optics part from his pocket (bless his engineering heart). Of course! Embedding a male end is easy with the average power drill (it’s just a screw). What we needed is a female-female connecting piece. Off to Home Depot we went! (The materials list sounds confusing, but the instructions/photos will help.)


  • Tripod
  • Smartphone mount
  • Power drill
  • A piece of wood (the add-on arm) that is long enough to reach your desired recording area (mine was 4 feet total, and attached to the tripod in the middle at 2 feet)
  • Materials to connect the add-on arm to the tripod
    • one 1/4″ carriage bolt
    • one nut
    • one coupling nut
  • Materials to connect your camera (eg phone) to the add-on arm
    • A small piece of wood + 2 screws to attach this to the add-on arm
    • one 1/4″ carriage bolt
    • one nut


Left: How it’s all put together; Right: assembled, ready for a tripod quick release plate

Drill a hole then put your carriage bolt through the add-on arm, secure it with a small nut. Make sure that once the coupling nut is screwed onto the carriage bolt, there is room for your tripod quick release plate’s screw to go in, too.

Top: assembled; Bottom: How it’s all put together

Attaching a camera to the add-on arm is simple, just repeat the previous step, excluding the coupling nut (cameras have female ends, so you want to have a male end here). The trick is, without a means to embed a carriage bolt, we had to attach a small piece of wood on top and just drill through that.

And that’s pretty much it! Here’s some extra stuff I added to mine:

Details about my tripod add-on for flat lay angles

Counter-weight: This is where the crane inspiration really came in. Having the tripod connect to the add-on arm in the middle helps balance it, but the counter weight will make the add-on more versatile. eg if I wanted to tilt the camera, or if I wanted to swap my phone out for my semi-dslr. It’s a simple addition achieved by just screwing in a hook, and tossing some pebbles in a bag.

Alternatively, if you commit to a heavier counter-weight, the length of the add-on arm opposite to your camera can be much, much, much shorter.

Extension: I repeated my first step somewhere in between the original connection point and the counter-weight. This way, if I needed to increase my camera’s reach, I can attach the add-on arm to the tripod there instead, and it would be an extra foot longer. This is where the counter-weight is crucial.

Protection: Yes, it’s a lot of weight and forces on the small little screw sticking out of the tripod quick release plate. So I rolled up a bunch of cardboard (or, Husband helpfully suggests, cut a paper towel core) and all I need to do is place it between the tripod and the wood to help spread out the force.

I am LOVING my new add-on. : ) This solution is portable, quick to set up and take down, is height adjustable, and my phone is secure (vs in the past, where it just sits on top). And for fellow frugalites out there, this project only cost me a total of $4.08 (pre-tax; add ~$50 for the tripod, $2 for the smartphone mount)!

Have you invented anything? Tell me all about it!



Until next time,

Afrisa's initials signature. afrilly

2 thoughts on “DIY Brief: Tripod Add-on for Flat Lays

  1. This is SO amazing and SO over my head! LOL! I am beyond impressed… you are beyond knowledgable about alll things art & design & craft. I have been thinking about you lately- how is life?! I have been stuck indoors in the hospital and I need a creative outlet- I thought to myself, “I should go to Frilly’s place to find inspiration”. And as always… I have found just that! Hope all is going well for you :)


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