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Photo Booth Ideas

by Erin Peloquin on March 15, 2012 · 9 comments

I got to run the photo booth at my daughter’s elementary school “Daughter” dance.  My camera and I haven’t had so much fun together in a long time!

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The ladies in the photo above are the chairs of the Daughter Dance Committee.  They did an amazing job.  And the French theme was so cute for the little girls with their Daddies and other VIPs.

Wish I could show you some of the kids’ photos, but with 300 plus pictures taken in 120 minutes, well, needless to say people weren’t signing model releases.

How is this Photo Booth different from what the old school photographer has done at this dance in years past?  It was more specific and personal.  The backdrop was chosen specifically to match the theme and the decorating colors.  And I bent over backwards to connect with and make the subjects feel comfortable (and silly) in the few seconds they had for their photo.  I ended up with candid and authentic shots that made lots of people happy.

Not all of the photos were silly, either.  One mom said, “These have got to be some of the sweetest pictures I’ve seen in a long time.  I’m all misty now, thinking of my Dad.”  Well, you know there is no higher compliment for a photographer.

Photo booths could work at any event, from a small birthday party on up.  They are a great way to spread the word about your talents and develop your brand.  If you are interested in something like this, here are my tips.

  • Choose your location wisely.  Our coordinators originally suggested that I set up in a hallway.  Now, you know what elementary school hallways look like.  The left side was painted bright orange, and the right, navy blue.  Can you imagine ickier white balance?  I suggested a classroom with bare walls, got the principal’s approval, and set up there.
  • Print cards that have the web address where people can download their photos.  Passwords are important, especially if kids are involved.  On this card, include things like your logo, website and and contact info.
  • As I said, with all these kids there was no way to get model releases or even names.  I put all the photos in one web gallery – the parents had to search through 10-20 pages of pictures to find their photo.  I would probably change this if it weren’t a volunteer gig.  I’m not sure that paying clients would want their guests to have to look through 300 photos to find just one or two.
  • Consider off camera lighting, especially if you are setting up a photo booth at night.  I used my flash bounced off an umbrella.  The flash was to my right.
  • Bring lots of extra batteries for the flash.
  • Use a tripod.  Your arm is gonna get tired!
  • Put tape on the floor to show subjects where to stand.  Have a bench, stool and boxes to vary the poses and help with height differences.
  • Each year, my husband and daughter have talked about how long the line is to get photos taken.  It was no different this year.  Be honest about your abilities and don’t be rushed.  If the organizers really want to shorten the wait time, they will hire additional photographers or recruit other volunteers.  If you’re a pro, or headed that way, you don’t want to display hundreds of not-so-good pix to potential clients.  Take the time to pose, compose and focus.  The biggest consumer of time is going to be herding out one group of subjects and posing the next.  That’s not something you can speed up too much.  But a good assistant can help!
  • Along the same lines, I started by taking one serious and one silly photo of each couple.  The organizers asked me to limit it to one each in the end to speed up the wait time.
  • With large groups, an assistant is key to direct traffic, manage prop choosing, and to give out instructions on downloading photos.
  • Set up early.  Have someone with you who can sit for a couple of photos while you set exposure.  If the photo booth is inside or after sunset, you just might be lucky enough to only need to set exposure once for the evening.
  • I used my 24-70 instead of a prime to accomodate different heights in subjects without having to move the camera.
  • Music!  I had French music playing in the background to set the mood.
  • Props?  Props can be fun depending on the event’s theme.

Photo Booth Supplies

You could spend a lot of money on a photo booth or next to nothing.  If you plan on doing it more than once, it’s not a bad idea to invest in good equipment.  I’m including my flash info here for those that are interested.

  • Backdrop – I used the Savage pink damask.  You could use seamless paper or something else.  If you’re improvising, make sure that the paper or other material you’re using isn’t reflective.  Wrapping paper, for instance, doesn’t make a good backdrop no matter how cute it is.  Don’t ask me how I know that….
  • Backdrop stand
  • Steamer to get wrinkles out of backdrop.  I didn’t take the steamer on site.  I steamed at home and rolled the backdrop into a loose ball to prevent creasing during transportation.
  • Clips to to make sure the wrinkles STAY out of the backdrop
  • Props – I bought mine from Etsy.  Loved them.  However, being paper, they were pretty beat up by the end of the dance.  I’m thinking these felt sets from Amazon would be more durable.
  • Thought Bubble Dry Erase Board – I didn’t have one of these, but I want one.  Two actually – one for those currently posing, and one for the people about to pose to fill out while they wait.  Don’t forget erasers and markers!
  • The CrazyBooth eBook – expensive, but full of very specific and helpful info
  • Flash
  • Flash stand, umbrella adapter and cold shoe
  • Umbrella
  • Transmitters

My Pinterest Photo Booth Inspiration

This project is definitely something I want to do again, so I’ve set up a Pinterest board to save inspiration.  Want to follow me?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky March 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Do you use a light meter?

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Erin March 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Nope, not with the flash – just my eyeball.

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coachwife6 March 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I am doing one of these for a hospital fundraiser. We are a government-run hospital so I will be doing this with my own equipment, which consists of a tripod, a built-in flash on my Nikon300DS and I do have another flash I can attach to the camera. These are great tips. But I don’t want to spend my own money. I was just thinking of doing a paper backdrop and doing the camera flash. Will this work or will it look cheap? They want me to print them out on the scene as well.

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Erin March 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hard to say without knowing what kind of paper. I would use the external flash and bounce it off a wall or ceiling if possible.

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coachwife6 March 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm

What cheap kind of paper would you recommend and color? White or black? I love your Pinterest page, BTW. I am new to Pinterest and pinned most of your items. :)

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Erin March 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I would buy something like these papers. Color will depend on the look of the fundraiser probably. And thanks, I love Pinterest!

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coachwife6 March 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Thank you so much!

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coachwife6 March 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm

One more question: What settings would you use? Would you put it in Automatic to make it easy? How many shots do you take? And what would you charge for a 4×6 printed on the spot? Thanks.

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maria April 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

hi again!
i also just did a photo booth for my daughter’s first birthday. with a 3-year-old sister and older cousins i needed a fun activity where i could also capture fun photos of our guests. it was so much fun that i would do it over and over again!
here it is: http://haveyourcakephotography.com/2012/03/18/my-2nd-had-her-1st-part-two/

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