How to Turn Your Phone Into a DIY Photo Projector for $1

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

Slide projectors are great but outdated. And digital projectors cost a bundle. What’s a photographer to do when they’re looking for a bigger picture?

We’ll show you how to turn your phone into a photo projector for just $1.

Yep, for a buck you can have Instagram on overdrive and Flickr living large.

The project is so easy, you might even have time to sneak in a cat video or two.

Make a DIY Projector for $1

Why it’s Cool:

paint-smA phone based projector is a great way to show off your mobile photos and your phone hack savvy.

Just picture laying in bed browsing your feed or watching a movie on a ginormous screen.

A projector provides a new way of looking at your shots, and for $1, who can afford not to try this project?

The Ingredients:


  • Shoebox
  • Paperclip
  • Smartphone
  • Magnifying glass (get it for $1 at Dollar Tree), or a large aperture lens
  • X-acto knife or similar
  • Electrical or black duct tape


  • Matte black spray paint or black paper


Step 1: Trace a Hole on the Box

paint-smA shoebox or similar will work great for your new projector.

If the inside walls of your box are a bright color, you may want to spray paint them black or tape up some black paper for best image quality.

Once your box is ready, trace the outer edge of your lens or magnifying glass onto one of the short sides of the box.

Step 2: Cut a Hole in That Box

paint-smCut out the inside of the circle you just traced.

You don’t want light leaking around your lens so try not to cut too much.

At the back of your box, cut a small hole for your phone’s power cord.

Step 3: Attach Your Lens

paint-smNow you’ve got a porthole cut in your shoebox its time to stick on that lens.

If your magnifying glass has a handle, you may want to remove it first.

Line up your lens with the hole and apply tape around the entire edge of your lens.

Make sure your lens is held securely and there are no holes between the tape for light to escape.

Step 4: Take a Stand

paint-smWe used this very helpful tutorial to make a stand for our phone out of a paper clip.

Other stand ideas include this ultra-portable Tiltpod, this hand dandy Gorillapod, or this super creative lego stand from this cool tutorial.

Step 5: Flip Your Screen

paint-sm When light passes though a lens (including the lenses in your eyes), it gets flipped, which means the picture from your projector will come out upsidown.

No fear though, we have a fix!

For the iPhone go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on AssistiveTouch.

Once activated, a little white orb will pop that you can drag around the screen.

Click on the orb and go to Device > Rotate Screen.

This will allow you to flip applications like the Photos app which would normally rotate itself right side up.

Andriod users can download the app Ultimate Rotation Control.

Or if all else fails you can just stand on your head.

Step 6: Finding Focus

paint-smIf your walls are plastered with pics you will need to clear out a little space for your projection.

For a screen you could use a white bed sheet, turn a poster around, project onto a shower or window curtain, or just use the bare wall.

Without a focus ring on your magnifying glass you’re going to have to foot focus.

Position your phone in its stand near the back of the box and walk forwards or backwards until your image starts to come into focus.

Once you’ve found a good range you can fine tune focus by moving your phone forwards or backwards in the box.

If you used a camera lens for your projector, you get the bonus of a focus ring that gives you some extra flexibility in terms of screen size and focus distance.

Step 7: Don’t Fight the Light

paint-smIt’s not the power of your projector. It’s how you use it!

For best viewing, turn the screen brightness of your phone all the way up and turn the room lights down.

Set your phone’s photo app to slide show mode for a hands free experience.

Your power cord can go through the hole you cut in the back of the box and a little tape will seal the deal.

Taking it Further

  • Use your magnifying glass to get an up-close perspective on your phones pixels.
  • Try using your computer screen instead of your phone as the display in a new projector project.
  • Check out this crazy sophisticated DIY digital projector that can create a 120″ HD screen!
  • This mini film projector fits in the palm of your hand and was made from an Altoids tin!
  • Leave it to the Japanese to do something this awesome with a projector. Hint: Samurai swords, shadow battles.

Thanks to MattBothell for inspiring our project!