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Using Paperclip and jpegcam to get pictures from your webcam into Rails

Example application to make your webcam work with Ruby on Rails.

Update: This post is written for Rails 2.3.x. See Rails 3 version of this post.

Here’s how to get pictures from your webcam into Rails using the Paperclip plugin and jpegcam.

What we will do is create a Photo model and a Photos controller with actions new, upload and create to take care of the image creation.

Start by creating a new Rails application:

$ rails webcam_app
$ cd webcam_app

Create the Photo model:

$ script/generate model Photo description:string
$ rake db:migrate

Create the Photos controller:

$ script/generate controller Photos

Edit config/routes.rb to contain a photos resource:

map.resources :photos, :only => [:index, :show, :new, :create], :new => { :upload => :post }

Download jpegcam and put webcam.js in your public/javascripts folder and webcam.swf and shutter.mp3 in your public folder.

Create the layout file app/views/layouts/application.html.erb and insert the following HTML:

    <%= javascript_include_tag :defaults %>
    <%= javascript_include_tag 'webcam' %>
	  <%= yield %>

Next, create app/views/photos/new.html.erb and make a div for the webcam contents:

<div id="webcam"></div>

And the actual webcam javascript:

<script type="text/javascript">
  webcam.set_api_url('<%= upload_new_photo_path %>');
  webcam.set_shutter_sound(true, '/shutter.mp3');
  $('webcam').innerHTML = webcam.get_html(640, 480);

That will run the actual webcam so you can see yourself :) But for taking a picture, we’ll need to add the following button:

<input type="button" value="Take picture" onclick="webcam.snap();" />

Now when you click the button, the webcam image will be posted to /photos/new/upload. Try it out:

$ script/server

and go to http://localhost:3000/photos/new.

Let’s add some code for handling the upload.

The webcam.swf just uploads a bunch of jpeg data so we’ll need to get a hold of the raw post data. That’s done with Rails’ request.raw_post. In your PhotosController:

def upload, 'w') do |f|
    f.write request.raw_post
  render :text => "ok"


def upload_path # is used in upload and create
  file_name = session[:session_id].to_s + '.jpg'
  File.join(RAILS_ROOT, 'public', 'uploads', file_name)

Remember to create the public/uploads folder.

Now, back to app/views/photos/new.html.erb. Create the following at the bottom of the view:

<% form_for, :html => { :style => "display: none;" } do |f| %>
    <%= f.label :description %><br />
    <%= f.text_field :description %>
    <%= f.submit "Save the photo" %>
    or <%= link_to "Take another", new_photo_path %>
<% end %>

In your javascript just below the webcam div, insert the following function:

function upload_complete(msg) {
  if (msg == 'ok') {
  } else {
    alert('An error occured');

And add the following webcam code:

webcam.set_hook('onComplete', 'upload_complete');

Now when you take a picture you will get a new photo form for entering a description. If something goes wrong, the webcam will be reset so you can try again. This might also be a good time to check your logs.

Now we have the upload (see for yourself in your public/uploads folder) but we still need to add Paperclip to the model.
Start by installing the plugin:

$ script/plugin install git://

In the Photo model:

class Photo < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_attached_file :image, :styles => { :medium => "300x300>", :thumb => "100x100>" }

For this to work, we need to add some necessary Paperclip columns to our Photo model:

$ script/generate paperclip photo image
$ rake db:migrate

Now we can show photos like this:

<%= image_tag photo.image.url(:thumb) %>

We just need to save the photos first. Add the following to your PhotosController somewhere above the private keyword:

def create
  @photo =[:photo])
  @photo.image =

  redirect_to @photo

def show
  @photo = Photo.find(params[:id])

def index
  @photos = Photo.all

In app/views/photos/show.html.erb:

<p><%= image_tag @photo.image.url(:medium) %></p>
  <strong>Description:</strong><br />
  <%=h @photo.description %>
  <%= link_to "Take a new picture", new_photo_path %>
  | <%= link_to "See all pictures", photos_path %>

And last but not least in app/views/photos/index.html.erb:

<h1>All photos</h1>
  <% @photos.each do |photo| %>
    <%= link_to image_tag(photo.image.url(:thumb)), photo %>
  <% end %>
  <%= link_to "Take a new picture", new_photo_path %>

Now start your script/server if it isn’t already, go to http://localhost:3000/photos – aaannnd.. it works!

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  1. Josh M says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this blog post, it’s been helpful to me for a slightly different use case that involved uploading binary data from Flex to Rails.

    One problem I still have is that Rails is complaining about a missing authenticity token. In other instances, I’ve worked around this by supplying the token using POST params .. assuming this is not possible sending the data as a raw POST – is that right?


  2. lassebunk says:

    Hi Josh,

    Strangely enough I didn’t have this problem.

    You could try the following in the controller containing your upload action:

    skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token, :only => :your_upload_action

    BR, Lasse

  3. vipul says:

    i hv captured the image and it is saved in uploades folder but i m not able to view it…….wat may be the problem

  4. jerry says:

    I followed the tutorial through and through yet I can’t seem to get the image uploaded. I’m getting this error when I go to photo/show:

    NoMethodError in Photo#show

    Showing app/views/photo/show.html.erb where line #3 raised:

    undefined method `image’ for nil:NilClass

    Extracted source (around line #3):

    1: Photo

    I also couldn’t get any image to upload into the uploads folder. Am I making some sort of fundamental rails-noob mistake? I’m running windows xp, rails 2.3.8, ruby 1.8.7. I got the paperclip.git from the github website as a zip file and had to install it manually just by adding it into my plugins folder. I did this because I couldn’t install it from the command line prompt. I kept getting the error “plugin not recognized as internal or external command.” But anyway, I assume my manual install worked because I was able to generate the paperclip and all the columns migrated just fine. The appropriate rake tasks also appear in the rake dropdown so I don’t think that’s the problem. Any help would be really appreciated. I really wanna get this working so I can build off of it. Please let me know if anyone out there has any ideas.

  5. jerry says:

    Sorry, instead of ()

    (%= image_tag @photo.image.url(:medium) %)
    (%= link_to “Take a new picture”, new_photo_path %)

  6. Blake Fischer says:

    jerry and vipul,

    In your image upload method, change…path…, ‘w’) to…path…, ‘wb’).


  7. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the response Blake. I haven’t gotten the chance to try this yet. I’m currently working on a different part of the project. I’ll post back when I try it out. Thanks again.

  8. Fernando says:

    Hi There,

    What if the computer doesn’t have a webcam? How can I detect it, because I’d like to hide all things related to taking pictures …

  9. makaroni4 says:

    Hello there)

    Could you please help me with a little problem? The thing is, that I can`t open the uploaded image. Btw I`m using Ruby 2.3.5

    The code in the view is

    webcam.set_shutter_sound(true, ‘/shutter.mp3′);
    document.getElementById(‘webcam’).innerHTML = webcam.get_html(320, 240);

    and in the controller I wrote:

    def upload, ‘w’) do |f|
    #f.write request.headers
    #f.write Net::HTTP.get_response(URI.parse(“php://input”)).body
    f.write request.raw_post
    render :text => “ok”


    def upload_path # is used in upload and create
    file_name = session[:session_id].to_s + ‘.jpg’
    File.join(RAILS_ROOT, ‘public’, ‘uploads’, file_name)

    After I execute webcam.snap(); function the image appears in the “uploads” folder and its size is 25Kb (seems like photo) but it couldn`t be opened in any photo viewer, browser and so on.

    I tried very hard to fix it, but it seems like only you can help me))

  10. makaroni4 says:

    Ooops)) Seems like I copied Ruby code


  11. lassebunk says:

    @makaroni4: Maybe you could try opening the file in a text editor to see which format it is?

  12. makaroni4 says:

    I opened uploaded image in SciTE and compared it to several others *.jpeg files – it starts and ends with same chars and it seems like the uploaded file is *.jpeg but it is broken and it is impossible to view it.

  13. lassebunk says:

    Sounds like something’s wrong with jpegcam then… Maybe you could try your version of jpegcam with another backend solution?

  14. makaroni4 says:

    I`ve tried php version and it works great (I found file test.php in jpegcam archive). I`ve tried older version of jpegcam and it still doesn`t work with rails.

    What version of rails do you use? Mine is 2.3.5, may be this is a problem?

  15. [...] Here’s how to get pictures from your webcam into Rails using the Paperclip plugin and jpegcam. It is an update of my previous post: Using Paperclip and jpegcam to get pictures from your webcam into Rails. [...]

  16. lassebunk says:

    I have rewritten this post for Rails 3:

    @makaroni4: Please try the new version – it is using the latest version of Rails and latest version of jpegcam.

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