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Using the Camera in Flutter: A Step by Step Guide

Using the Camera in Flutter: A Step by Step Guide

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Using the Camera in Flutter: A Step by Step Guide

Sometimes we build apps that include features that require access to the user's camera. This access can be in the form of a live feed from the camera or saving a photo or video to use in the app. How do you implement a camera feature in your Flutter app? Luckily, there's a camera package for Flutter, and in this post, I'll teach you how to use it. 

Prerequisites

This post includes a sample app below, and in order to use it, make sure to have the following: 

  • Visual Studio Code or Android Studio IDE
  • Flutter SDK installed
  • A physical Android/iOS device or a simulator with access to the camera
  • Basic programming knowledge

With all that in place, let's take a closer look at the sample app we'll build. 

How to Use the Camera in Flutter

For the sake of this tutorial, we'll be developing a small sample app capable of capturing still images. After capturing the image, we'll display it in an image widget. The app mimics the common profile photo upload feature you'll find in social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. However, for the scope of this tutorial, we won't cover how to upload the photos users take. The following screenshot shows what the app will look like:

flutter camera example app

Now let's walk through the steps for using the camera in Futter. 

Step1: Create New Project

Let's create the project we'll be using the Flutter camera in. To do that, run the following command in the terminal from the folder where you wish to save your project: 

flutter create flutter_camera_example

After that, wait for Flutter to set up the new project. Once that's done, open the project in VS Code or Android Studio and get ready to start coding. If you already have an existing project, you can skip this step. 

Step 2: Install Dependencies (Packages)

In order to use the camera in our app, we need to add the Flutter camera package to our project. In addition, we'll also add the path_provider and path packages. These make it possible to reference the photo taken from the camera in our code. For example, we need the path for a photo in order to show it in an image widget. First, install the Flutter camera by adding the following text to the dependency section of your project's pubspec.yaml file: 

camera: ^0.9.4+18

Next, add these two lines just after the above line:

path_provider: ^2.0.9
path: ^1.8.0

To finish installing the dependencies, save the changes and run the flutter pub get command. Tip: Indentation is everything when configuring YAML files. So make sure you paste the above lines with the correct indentation (preceding whitespaces). I've attached a screenshot of my pubspec.yaml dependency section to show this:

pubspec.yaml

  To finish up the initial setup, do the following: For Android, set the minimum SDK for your project to 21. You can do this by updating the value for minSdkVersion in android/app/build.gradle to 21. For iOS, add camera permissions. You can do this by adding the following code to ios/Runner/Info.plist

<key>NSCameraUsageDescription</key>
<string>Explanation on why the camera access is needed.</string>

Step 3: Add Widgets

In this step, we'll add the widgets. But before we start, let's clean up some of the code that we won't need. Open the lib/main.dart file and delete the content of the default counter example so that all that's left is the following code: 

void main() {
  runApp(const MyApp());
}

class MyApp extends StatelessWidget {
  const MyApp({Key? key}) : super(key: key);

  // This widget is the root of your application.
  @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {
    return MaterialApp(
      title: 'Flutter Demo',
      theme: ThemeData(
        primarySwatch: Colors.blue,
      ),
      home: const MyHomePage(title: 'Flutter Demo Home Page'),
    );
  }

class MyHomePage extends StatefulWidget {
  const MyHomePage({Key? key, required this.title}) : super(key: key);

  final String title;

  @override
  State<MyHomePage> createState() => _MyHomePageState();
}

class _MyHomePageState extends State<MyHomePage> {



    @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {

       return Scaffold(
      appBar: AppBar(
        title: Text(widget.title),
      ),
      body: Column(
        children: <Widget>[

             ],
      ), 
    );
  }
}

Next, add a TextButton widget to the screen. To do that, paste the following code within the children array of Column: 

TextButton(
  onPressed: () {},
  child: Text("Take Photo")
)

Let's also add an image widget just below the TextButton widget: 

Image.file()

With the above code, we now have a view to display the photo we'll take in our app and a button to take photos. In the next steps, we'll see how to make these widgets actually do something. 

Step 4: Start Camera

At this point, we want to start the camera after the user launches the app. First, add the following code at the beginning of the _MyHomePageState class: 

  CameraController? controller;
  String imagePath = "";

  @override
  void initState() {
    super.initState();
    controller = CameraController(cameras![1], ResolutionPreset.max);


    controller?.initialize().then((_) {
      if (!mounted) {
        return;
      }
      setState(() {});
    });
  }

The above code initializes a camera controller. We'll use this controller later in our code to display a camera view. Nore that the value cameras[1] is the selfie camera. To use the main camera instead, you can use cameras[0]. 

Step 5: Show CameraView

Next, let's modify the content of the  _MyHomePageState build method to include a CameraView widget. This widget shows a live feed from the device camera. Add the following code just above the TextButton widget we added in step 3: 

Container(
    width: 200,
    height: 200,
    child: AspectRatio(
    aspectRatio: controller!.value.aspectRatio,
    child: CameraPreview(controller!),
  ),
)

This code wraps the CameraView Widget in a 200 x 200 container so that we have enough space on the screen for other widgets. 

Step 6: Take a Photo

We're ready to smile and take that selfie. Or, almost ready. Add the following code to the onTap property of the TextButton: 

onPressed: () async {
                    try {
                      final image = await controller!.takePicture();
                      setState(() {
                        imagePath = image.path;
                      });
                    } catch (e) {
                      print(e);
                    }
                  }

Finally, we need a way to see the photos we take. So lets update the code for the image widget we added earlier to display our photo. Replace the code with the following: 

if (imagePath != "")
                Container(
                    width: 300,
                    height: 300,
                    child: Image.file(
                      File(imagePath),
                    ))

The above code sets imagePath to file(), and this path is a URI to the most recent photo we snap. You can do several things with the value for imagePath, including saving the image to a directory or remote server. At this point, we're done writing code and ready to start testing the app. Here's the complete code for our main.dart file: 

List<CameraDescription>? cameras;

Future<void> main() async {
  WidgetsFlutterBinding.ensureInitialized();

  cameras = await availableCameras();
  runApp(MyApp());
}

class MyApp extends StatelessWidget {
  @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {
    return MaterialApp(
      title: 'Flutter Demo',
      theme: ThemeData(
        primarySwatch: Colors.blue,
      ),
      home: const MyHomePage(title: 'Flutter Demo Home Page'),
    );
  }
}

class MyHomePage extends StatefulWidget {
  const MyHomePage({Key? key, required this.title}) : super(key: key);
  final String title;

  @override
  _MyHomePageState createState() => _MyHomePageState();
}

class _MyHomePageState extends State<MyHomePage> {
  CameraController? controller;
  String imagePath = "";

  @override
  void initState() {
    super.initState();
    controller = CameraController(cameras![1], ResolutionPreset.max);

    controller?.initialize().then((_) {
      if (!mounted) {
        return;
      }
      setState(() {});
    });
  }

  @override
  void dispose() {
    controller?.dispose();
    super.dispose();
  }

  @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {
    if (!controller!.value.isInitialized) {
      return Container();
    }
    return Scaffold(
      body: SafeArea(
        child: Center(
          child: Column(
            children: [
              SizedBox(
                height: 50,
              ),
              Container(
                width: 200,
                height: 200,
                child: AspectRatio(
                  aspectRatio: controller!.value.aspectRatio,
                  child: CameraPreview(controller!),
                ),
              ),
              TextButton(
                  onPressed: () async {
                    try {
                      final image = await controller!.takePicture();
                      setState(() {
                        imagePath = image.path;
                      });
                    } catch (e) {
                      print(e);
                    }
                  },
                  child: Text("Take Photo")),
              if (imagePath != "")
                Container(
                    width: 300,
                    height: 300,
                    child: Image.file(
                      File(imagePath),
                    ))
            ],
          ),
        ),
      ),
    );
  }
}

Step 7: Testing the App

To test your app, connect a physical Android/iOS device or start up a simulator, then run the following command: 

flutter run

Wait for the build process to complete, and once the app is installed, accept all permissions. Then you can finally smile for that selfie and hit the take photo button. Here's an output of the app:

flutter camera example app

As always, testing apps at various stages of development can save time and reduce the number of bugs. The method above allows for manual testing, but automated testing makes testing your app as simple as writing instructions that can be run multiple times. Flutter supports automated testing via tools like flutter_test and integration_test. However, configuring and writing tests using both tools can be complex. Waldo is a good alternative to running automated tests. It's a no-code testing platform for mobile that even nontechnical members of your team can use. You can learn more about it here

To Wrap up

Using the camera in Flutter is easy thanks to the packages Flutter offers. And you can find the full code for the step-by-step sample app we created on GitHub

This post was written by Pius Aboyi. Pius is a mobile and web developer with over 4 years of experience building for the Android platform. He writes code in Java, Kotlin, and PHP. He loves writing about tech and creating how-to tutorials for developers.

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