Before anything else, a disclaimer:
While this mount can be a powerful tool for photographers who are really on the go, keep in mind that you need to be careful. Distraction from the wheel can result in deadly accidents, and being a bit too overzealous with the photography has the potential to do exactly that. So use this tool with care, or even better, have a passenger operate it for you.
Supplies for Car Camera Mount
The following is a supply list for my personal suggestion on how to go about making a car camera mount; for other ideas, check out the next page of this article.
Screw/tripod mount. Since the car’s going to be speeding along at a tidy rate, that camera needs to be bolted down or there goes a rather considerable investment on your part! So, you’ll be wanting to mount your camera with the stablest method possible: via the tripod mount adapter on the bottom of your camera. Preferably, you should cannibalize a tripod mount from an old tripod, as that will provide the best possible swivel and angle control of the camera, but failing that, you can just use an appropriately sized screw from the local hardware store (which you will need anyway to attach the tripod mount.) Make sure to bring your camera along to check the fit!
Stick that is sturdy, thick enough to take some drilling, and of the appropriate length for where you will want to place your camera in the car. Metal looks nicer, but using a strong piece of scrap wood will do just as well, if not better: not only will it save your drill bit some unnecessary screeching and is probably just laying around the house anyway, but this also makes it unnecessary to thread the stick, which you can’t do with everyday tools anyway.
Alternatively, if you’re planning on using an old tripod, you could just keep deconstruct everything except a portion of one leg and the attached tripod mount for this. (If you really want to rough it, you can just strap your tripod sideways to the passenger head rest struts, but we’re looking for something a bit more stable than that!)
Drill. You’re going to need to bore a few holes, and depending on the material you’ve chosen for the stick, some metal could be involved, so make sure you have a drill bit that is appropriate. With metal, you’ll also want to have a device to thread the metal for use with the screws. You’ll want the drill bit to be slightly smaller than the screws if you’re using wood, as you’re going to be creating your own threads on the inside by screwing in the screw manually.
Four screws & wing nuts. It’s easier if these are the same size at the one that attaches to your camera, but not entirely necessary. If the screws have big heads, you can forgo the wing nuts: the idea is to interlock the ends of the screws to ensure a tight fit.
Construction of the Car Camera Mount
Now, as avid of a photographer as you might be, you probably don’t want to be modifying your car for the sake of your craft. So, it’s best to use existing structures in the car, as well as something that is preferably removable. This doesn’t give you a whole lot of options, let alone one that is useful to take pictures from. Uh-oh.
Now, one of the better options I’ve seen is by utilizing the metal struts within the head rest of the passenger seat, which is what I’ve decided to outline in this article. First, heighten the head portion of the seat, baring the metal struts. Place the stick against the headrest in the position you want it to be, and sketch out the diameter of the struts on it.
Now, drill four holes all the way through stick such that the outer edge of the holes barely brushes the outside of the diameter of the struts. If you’re using metal, thread the holes. If you’re using wing nuts, then screw them all the way on the four screws at this time. Placing the stick against the headrests struts, screw the screws in until the stick and the wing nuts are flush with the struts. This must be done forcibly if you’re using wood, as you are effectively threading it.
You should have a snug fit on either side with very little left-right or back-front wiggle room. You should be able to adjust the wing nuts to tighten or loosen the fit back-front, and jiggle this mount off of the headrest once the headrest has been removed.
Now, to attach your camera! With the stick mounted, mark out where you want to screw in either the tripod mount or the screw, depending on what you’re using. If you’re using a single screw, this will have to stick out the other side enough that you can attach it to your camera. Follow the same procedure as previously, drilling and then proceeding either to threading or forcibly screwing it in.
And voila! You have a car camera mount!
Other Ideas for Car Camera Mounts
Of course, if this doesn’t seem as if it would suit you, there are many other alternatives to this. Because the inside surface of the car is quite uneven, you can use a DIY Beanbag “tripod” for your camera for placement on, say, the dashboard. Just putting a towel over the edge of a lowered window can make turn the glass into a non-abrasive brace while shooting out the window. You may also want to look at adapting some other clever stabilization devices for cameras for use in the car, such as stringpods, gorillapods, and others.
For another approach to car camera mounts, one that involves a slight modification to the car, check out this article from CameraHacker.com
Unfortunately, I have been able to find very few other ideas on DIY car camera mounts, perhaps due to the difficulty of the project! If you have any other ideas, by all means comment and share with the world. DIY photography is an activity best done collectively!