At a recent wedding Lauren and I had the opportunity to set up a photo booth. Photo booths have become a popular addition to weddings and are a ton of fun for party goers. So here’s a look at how we did it, so hopefully you can get a few tips for one of your own!
First, a little disclaimer: there is likely no single right way to setup a photo booth. I’ve seen a variety of awesome setups all producing great shots, so feel free to adapt these instructions to your liking! Experiment! Have fun!
1. The Lights
We used a single AlienBee 800 placed right beside the camera in order to reduce shadows. We bounced the light out of a white umbrella. AlienBees are some of the most affordable lights on the market and I feel it worked excellently for the booth.
2. The Background
Our lovely couple provided the awesome background. It was fabric they had purchased from an outlet. They had created a rather elaborate PVC structure to hold the fabric, but you could just as easily tape fabric or paper to the wall. Interestingly, you need much less fabric or paper than you would think. I think you would be more than safe with an area covering about 5 feet high and about 8-10 feet wide. If you’re super fancy, white seamless paper on a proper stand would be very lovely. I’d suggest trying this out before investing a lot on gear though, since you can do it very simply! Renting or borrowing paper and a stand are other options.
3. The Triggers
We used PocketWizards to sync the camera and the light, but since you only need one light and it’s extremely close to the camera you could easily just use the free sync cord that comes with the light.
4. The Camera & Settings
The camera was a Canon 5D on a tripod set to shoot large JPEGS (I didn’t want to process all the RAW files!). We set our shutter at 1/200 (can’t sync the light faster than that). The aperture was set at f/5.0 in order to get larger groups in focus. Aperture was set to 125 ISO, and the light was set to almost it’s lowest setting. We also set the camera to all points focus, in order to hopefully maximize the sharp shots given that many people would be in the shots and not all standing on the properly marked X. :P
5. The Lens
Surprisingly we used a 50mm lens. I thought we would need a wider lens but the 50 just perfectly covered the amount of fabric background. If you had a larger background using a wider lens, shooting from farther away, or shooting vertically would all be interesting options to experiment with.
6. The Remote
We used a cheap eBay remote to allow the guests control of the camera. I think this is a pretty great part of the photo booth. You could try to man the booth yourself, but I think you’d get very different photos from the ones they would take themselves. This is where the all points focus and the larger aperture of f/5.0 help out. Update: These are the wireless remotes we now use which are more robust and reliable.
7. The Instructions
It’s useful to have some instructions printed out explaining what people should do. Our couple had a sign up that invited guests to grab a friend. I would probably also add where to stand, where to look (yes, some people looked at the light, not the camera) and how to use the remote. All simple things, but very helpful!
8. The Props
Props and costumes are part of the fun! Have a box next to the booth filled with stuff from the dollar store and you can’t go wrong.
- If you can swing it bring a spare remote. It would suck to have the remote break half way through the shoot!
- Make sure you bring extension cords, you never know how far away the outlet could be
- Bring gaffers tape to tape down cords, and masking tape to mark out where people should stand
- You might want to switch your camera to single shot mode. Or reduced burst mode. For some reason people like to hold the button down and then you end up with a ton of less-than-funny, usually-unflattering images.
- If you can, bring your tripod and light stand in a bag, and bring your lights, extension cords, and cables in a large lidded bin. It makes tear down and setup pretty quick.
- Try to setup your photo booth near or even on the dance floor. I think there was a lot more traffic through the booth because of this.
- Put a “Please Do Not Touch” sign on the back of the camera. A lot of guests want to see the image, but the camera will invariably get bumped and the settings will get changed if they’re all over it. In fact, check back frequently to make sure everything is setup properly (and framed correctly).
Because this was our first photo-booth there are a bunch of things that we would do differently next time. These are untested ideas!
- Possibly setup a monitor to allow guests to review images. Even though guests kept knocking the tripod, and ignoring the Do Not Touch sign they loved seeing the photos of themselves. Seeing the images is obviously an important part of the experience. I’m not sure exactly how we would do this, if we would plug a monitor into the camera (which you can do) or shoot tethered into Lightroom, and have the photos automatically go into a slideshow.
- Another option I know other photographers do is make prints available right away. I personally think this is too much work (either figuring out how to automate everything and setup a printer, or hiring someone to man a booth (which has it’s own draw backs)).
- While it would be awesome to get a print into the hands of every photo booth guest I think the better option is to have cards available with information for where they can view and download/purchase the photos online. We’re giving the full set of hi-res jpegs to the couple, but it might be difficult for guests to easily get the shots. In the future I would try to make web resolution images available online for sharing as quickly as possible (great marketing potential via Instagram / Facebook photos!). This also means that they have to visit your site! Double great marketing!
- I might spend some more time thinking about more props and costumes. I don’t think they have to be super elaborate, just more options. It’s fun to get variety in the photos, and also to see how your guests creatively use the props. I think almost all the props got used!
- A larger background might be nice in order to get more people in front of the camera.
- Potentially move the light right behind the camera to reduce shine and shadows even more. Also would reduce confusion about where to look.
- I might reduce the shutter speed to 1/160. It was a bit dark near the bottom of the images which might have had something to do with the sync speed of the flash.
- If we had a bigger background we’d use a wider lens (a 35mm would probably be perfect) to fit in more people easily. The large groups are always great fun.
Again, this being our first photo booth, we don’t claim to be experts at them! There’s plenty of room for experimentation and improvement! It was a very fun experience though, and I can’t wait to share the images with the bride and groom!
Here are a few examples!
If you have any great photo booth tips, feel free to share them in the comments below!