How To Create A Simple Photo Booth

Photobooth

At a recent wedding Lauren and I had the opportunity to set up a photo booth.

These 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!

Want to make money from photography?
Click here to watch the FREE video taken from our course, Essential Photography Business Lessons!

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!

The Setup

1. The Lights
We used a single Studio flash placed right beside the camera in order to reduce shadows. We bounced the light out of a white umbrella.

This is one 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.

photoboothdiagram.jpg

The Details

  • 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).

Next Time

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!

_MG_0387.jpg

_MG_0443.jpg

_MG_0529.jpg

_MG_0586.jpg

_MG_0360.jpg

Happy Shooting!

If you have any great photo booth tips, feel free to share them in the comments below!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

Extremely Essential Camera Skills

Extremely Essential Camera Skills

A multi-media tutorial designed to help you get control over your camera, and get creative and confident with your photography.

Learn more →

Comments

138 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. I do a lot of these photobooth things at events and I do on-site printing as a part of this service. Normally this consists of a team of: two people (a photog and a printer) a sony snaplab and a a box of media including clear plastic frames.

    Usually the set-up is two lights with a white shoot through each at a 45 degree angle, one right, one left to eliminate odd shadows and stuff that can occur with a larger group. The person shooting shoots large jpegs and prints as the other is shooting (if i t's a smaller party you can do this alone) use two memory cards so there is always a card in the printer and one in the camera. Shoot, print, shoot, print. The snaplab allows for a custom border… USE IT, this way if guests want a better version of the photo later they can call you (your info will be on the back of the frame as a business card sticker) and you can charge them for a properly edited print. Booyah. What you do is arrange with the couple (as part of the whole wedding package) for a certain # of prints to be included and typically you print one photo per guest and provide a cd (WITH BORDERS) of the jpegs. The snaplab is easy to use, they have them set up in retail stores as photo kiosks so ANYONE who can press a button can print high quality images on proper thermal photopaper quickly and easily. Boom goes the dynamite. Snaplabs are expensive to buy (about $3000) but cheap to rent (about $100) and the media isn't too expensive but it's top quality.

    Alien bees sync to 125, use that as your shutter speed. (why you need to shoot faster than this is a mystery since your subjects are not moving athletes)

  2. Wow Holly! Thanks for taking the time to share your workflow. It's especially awesome that you've thought through a way to handle printing! And thanks for the tip on shutter speed!

  3. I shoot tethered to a laptop which is hooked up to an external monitor. As I shoot I have an Apple Automator Script Coupled with a PhotoShot Script that crops the image to a standard size and brands the image, with what ever logo/graphic I had present. I do tons of corporate events so I can charge a little more to have branded images for that company.

    From here I set the Desktop Background to show an automated slideshow of the images in the folder, which updates automatically with new images as they are taken.

    I found that people get much more into it when they can see their photos and everyone else's as well. People will tend to congregate around the photobooth to see what crazy things come up and what they can do next.

    If you ever want any other tips let me know.

    • Hi!
      I am a complete novice who has a granddaughter graduating, a family reunion, and a grandson getting married all this summer.
      I thought, if I could , the photo booth thing would be great for all 3 events. However, price is out of my range so I want to build one.
      The booth part is no problem but all the camera jargon is greek!
      Can you list out for me what I need to get? I have a couple older laptops and grandkids that can run stuff.
      Anything would be helpfull

      • John, this is not something for a novice to do. The equipment and software needed is expensive and requires considerable time to learn how to use . I know you’re thinking you can just use your $50 inkjet printer and a laptop, but you will not be happy with the results.
        If you live in a decent sized city, you can probably find a photographer who will provide this service at a reasonable price. In fact, he may not charge you anything, but just charge the guests a few dollars for each photo printed.

      • Hi John,

        No need for a camera if you have an iPad or Android tablet and a PhotoBooth app. We’re investigating this at the moment and looks easy to set up.

        Cheers, webgurl

        • Maybe… Can the customer really see themselves in a 10″ screen? How far or close do they need to stand? Where will you put the camera and the lights? Would they be able to use a remote control? Would the quality of the photo (sharpness, clarity…etc) be up to par?

          Ok… Good suggestion and I have to retest this. I followed a German Photographer who did this back 2010-2011?! Maybe I will try an Android or Window tablet this time!!!

        • Webgurl: Are you planning on doing the Photo Booth with the ipad/ipod without any extra flashes, etc… that have been mentioned in this discussion? I know nothing about lighting and cameras. We are just planning on using iPad.
          Also, thinking about using a printer that has wifi. Any suggestions? I’ve read a lot of reviews and not willing to spend more than 200. Is there a photo printer that can handle 150+photos in a 3 hours, that won’t jam, and the pictures are good quality?
          -And, how did your Photo Booth work for your event?

    • Kevin stated: I found that people get much more into it when they can see their photos and everyone else’s as well. People will tend to congregate around the photobooth to see what crazy things come up and what they can do next.

      I agree with you on this. Seeing images on a large TV screen is so exciting. I am looking into a projector (handheld) and syncing it to my MacBook Air. However, I am using the ABR800 RingLight along with the 56″ Moon Unit. You can’t avoid seeing this big huge Round (Ring) SOFT BOX with some nice lights. You can’t help but to walk over to my photo booth station. It is always a hit at the event!

    • Are you able to explain better exactly the steps to create the automator ‘scripts’ for that. I am on Mac Mini. I’d like to use an older Nikon Camera as my DSLR is brand new and don’t want to take chances with it getting bumped, broken or worse. I have a small TV as the monitor. I am lost on those scripts and what software is actually taking the photos. Thank you. I’ve found software that uses a webcam, but mine is awful quality.

    • Very nice article! We build and sell Photo Booths, you can also research Photo Booth Softwares online. Most of all of them give you a free trial on their softwares. We use Darkroom software which is very good!

    • Hey Kevin, I saw your post “I know it is a few years old” and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I am trying to use Automator to allow for me to take the picture with my Canon 7D then tag it with a logo and save. I would love for it to be used with Lightroom in the chain somehow due to I use it to pre-process the look before it shows on the screen. You have any ideas? Thanks for any help you can provide…

  4. Hey I just finished buying my setup for all this jazz. I actually have all of the same gear. But I have a 9'seamless to go with it. I love this fabric though.

    I have been thinking about getting the snaplab too. For now I'm just going to rent it as I don't know I'm ready to commit to it yet.

  5. thanks guys for sharing. normally photographers are selling out their tips about photo booth. i am glad i found your blog.

  6. Thank you for sharing your setup. Looks like fun.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing, great tips.
    Do you have a photographer/operator dedicated to the photobooth all day? Or do you think a single photographer can handle the wedding coverage + the photobooth?
    I have a destination wedding coming up and I'm wondering if I need to hire an assistant on-location to operate the photobooth.

  8. Hi Fiona!

    We only had the photobooth set up during the reception when we were close by. So we were able to do our shooting, but walk by every once in a while to check in.

    If you had the photobooth up while you weren't in the room that might be tough. But if you are going to be nearby, and are letting the guests control the booth with a remote, I think you'd be able to keep an eye on it while still doing your coverage!

  9. I recently wrote a little guide myself to how I went about creating a series of photo booth style images. The write up can be found here:

    http://www.boywithacamera.com/2011/02/23/how-to-get-mugged/

    I should note that this is not the same process I use for my photo booth business http://www.mugshotlounge.com , although similar in some respects. I will be high lighting that process in the future.

  10. Hey Kevin!

    Wow, that is an awesome guide! And I love your concept of "Get Mugged" very clever. Thanks so much for sharing, can't wait to check out more of your stuff!

  11. Rob & Lauren: Your site is as refreshing as the coming spring. Thanks for sharing your experiences so freely and in such an inspiring way. So glad I found your site! Keep up the great work.

  12. I did my first few photo booths this past season and came up with a pretty cool solution for the guests to trigger the camera. I got a a pre-trigger cable that is generally used to fire the camera via pocket wizard, but instead of plugging it into a pocket wizard I had it plugged into a guitar foot switch/pedal, this using a 1/4" plug so I needed an adapter & cable to size that down to the mini plug used on the pre-trigger cable.

    The pedal was then placed on the floor where I wanted people to gather for the photo. Guests would hit the pedal, the camera would then start a five second countdown using the timer and then blam: photoboot!

    Like other folks I had a monitor reviewing the previous image to guests could see how it looked and re-shoot if they wanted too. It was a smashing success and I didn't need to worry about loosing a camera remote.

    • DEREK.

      This is amazing. I’m doing a photobooth for an upcoming show and this would be PERFECT. PER.FECT.

      Are you even using PocketWizards at all? Or just a pre-trigger cable straight to camera (with an adapter?).

      Ugh, I don’t think my camera has a typical sync port. I’ll have to think about this. Btw, your site seems to be super slow – can’t access your ‘About’ page.

    • DEREK and Rob and Lauren,

      I am trying to make the foot pedal mentioned in the blog post.
      I bought the foot pedal, what else do I need to buy.
      I have lights and camera and backdrop but I am very unclear about what to do with the
      1/4 inch plug.

      Thank you,

      Ara

  13. @Kathleen: Thank you so much for the super kind words, you're too sweet!

    @Derek: DUDE! Such a good idea, I love it!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing your brilliance with us :)

  14. Thank you for this. I'm planning to use your tips tonight for my photobooth at my outdoor party.

  15. I'm planning to create my own photobooth setup at my upcoming wedding. I found software that will automate the workflow. Click the button, Canon t2i's live view shows on the laptop, formats the picture into 2 strips of 4, and then prints on my canon selphy cp800. The one thing I'm not sure about is if I should use my 430ex ii on camera with sto fen diffuser, or try to get some sort of cheap umbrella lighting system instead so the photobooth is always lit. The venue itself will be pretty dark.

    • Hi! I’m 64 and not a cameAs wizzard but this year I have a granddaughter graduation party and a grandson wedding so I want to do the photo booth thing for them. I can do the booth, need a list of what I need to do the photos and get them on those 3-4 pic strips. also I like the idea of being able to show them at the events. Can you guide me? I dO have a laptop.
      Thanks in advance, John

    • What software did you find for this? I am trying to set this up with my laptop, Canon Selphy printer and my Canon 7D for a photobooth next week.

  16. *@Kelly:* You're welcome! Hope it went well for you!

    *@Thomas:* Very cool setup you have planned! That automation sounds very nifty!

    You could always try using the 430, though it's not the most powerful flash, and would likely take a while to recycle, especially if you're shooting larger groups that require a higher aperture. It also won't be able to create light that's as flattering as an umbrella.

    Can you go to the venue beforehand and test the 430? That will give you the best idea of how it will act in the venue, and let you decide if it's powerful enough, or if another setup is needed.