While the life of a photobooth photographer may seem glamorous, I assure you – it is.
With that said, here’s your guide to creating a
successful kick-ass photobooth.
Backdrop – either a 5 ft or a 9 ft backdrop can be bought at your local camera store (serious camera store, folks, not Ritz) for $25-$50.
I’ve tried patterned backdrops, as clients have suggested them – the result? Follow your heart.
Sometimes less is more, and this is a time when that’s exactly the case! A simple, subtle backdrop makes the subjects more prominent, and much “less” like they’re posing for Santa!
(This booth below seemed more like a ‘magic eye’ than anything!)
Lights – I use two White Lightning x1600′s, and bring along one backup just in case. I like to use the cybersync battery-powered radio transmitters to relay the flash, but a sync cord also works – as long as you position the lights so they can catch each other’s light (if they’re in view of each other, they’ll fire automatically). If you’re in a tight spot, position one light directly opposite the backdrop & it will provide a simple look without ugly shadows. This booth was actually done with one light (warning PG-13).
Here are some diagrams to show you how I like to set up the booth.
In other setups, like this one or this one, I’ll switch it up to get cool back-lighting. In the fluxx booth, I took a 580ex II and placed it on ‘master’, then had 2 other 580′s in the background to function as slaves, while 2 x1600′s just turned on constant light. In the andaz rockstar booth, I used a x1600 in front, and both of the other x1600′s I placed behind the subjects, but facing me – which gave it a strong *stage* presence.
I think there’s a HUGE presence of the EXACT SAME props at weddings. And you can find them all at Party City! You know the ones I’m talking about: huge sunglasses, fluffy boas, funny cowboy hats. Lame.
If you want to go extreme photobooth, like I do, then personalize the hell outta’ em!
Find out the theme or style of the wedding. And Get INTO it. Hell, spend enough to create a strong value and an unforgettable experience for your clients and their guests. I bought this B.C. Rich Warlock guitar and broke even on this booth, but you know what? I’ll be using the SAME props for an event at the Hard Rock next week. SCORE! And you know what else? I’m gonna get some recognition for a seriously kick-ass booth AGAIN. It pays to invest in yourself and the experience you’re creating.
After doing many booths, I feel like I’m a circus clown with all these strange accessories, but it’s getting to the point where I can start re-using them and start profiting from my initial investment. I did a photobooth for Sidebar last year on Cinco de Mayo – guess who has two thumbs and is doing one for Andaz this year? That’s right – THIS GUY!
So, which props WORK and which DON’T? Here’s a list that gives you an idea:
Sunglasses. Anyway you can work them in, do it. I think everyone secretly has a desire to wear sunglasses in the club, party, etc. Help them live their dream. Get them in sets of four.
Funny hats/wigs. The minute they put these on, laughter ensues. Let nature take its course. Yes, you’re always going to get a germaphobe claiming they’ll get some disease from wearing a wig that someone else wore for three seconds, but whatever – germaphobes are the ones that secretly want to get the craziest in the photobooth anyway! Just wait until they’ve got a few cocktails in them!
Mustaches. These are tricky, because you have to buy one for each person – but the resulting photos & the enjoyment people get are worth it. Plus, if you get them on EBay, they’re super cheap!
Sunglasses. Yep, I’m saying it again just because people love them that much.
Gloves. Easy on, easy off.
Handheld theme items. Brainstorm ideas from TV shows, movies, or concepts that reflect the theme you’re creating. Which of these will register in the minds of guests at the event? Holiday themes are pretty straightforward, but make sure to include items that people actually want to hold/wear rather than just cool knick-knacks.
Jackets/Ponchos/Scarfs. Don’t get ones that are complicated. Anything that must go over the head isn’t gonna fly. “Too much effort!”
WHAT DOESN’T WORK:
Necklaces. Sure, they’re cool, but people won’t notice them as a component in photos. They may add to the experience, but that doesn’t outweigh the cost, in my opinion.
Basically all small stuff. I was going to mention rings, finger claws, etc. But the thing is, small stuff just doesn’t get noticed. So, don’t buy it. If it’s a small prop that showcases the event theme, try to find it super-sized, like a syringe…um, yeah.
Clothes that take time to put on. Nobody’s going to put on a full costume. Well, maybe ONE person might. But most likely they won’t. And costumes cost a lot to rent or buy compared to smaller props.
Things you put in your mouth. [Insert joke here] But seriously, I used vampire fangs for a Halloween photo booth and they weren’t a hit. They were individual fangs, so each person had their own, but still – guests weren’t fans of them.
High priced props. If you’re gonna do it, be prepared to lose them. People inevitably drop props, spill cocktails on them, mishandle them, or accidentally “take them.” As a general rule, try to keep each prop in the $5-10 range.
I picked up fake eyelashes for a particular booth – only one guy wore them, and that was because I asked him to. Got a cool look, but this just points out – no matter how cool YOU think an idea is, others won’t necessarily agree. (We were going for a clockwork orange look in this booth.)
WHERE TO GET PROPS:
Ebay. Craigslist. Flea Markets. Dollar Store. JoAnn Fabric. All-year costume shops. (In that order of preference). These places are gems, I tell ya.
Solo shots turn out best & I’ve found clients like negative space so they can place their logos – also concentrates on the theme better than group stuff. These make it onto Facebook profile pictures a lot more, which clubs love to see (and obviously the person loves), so it’s a win-win.
Jumping. People love it. Especially in funny costumes.
Group shots – these don’t turn out the best aesthetically, but people love doing them. Give ‘em the joy of doing the class photo of ’79. The look-away. Know that it’s not gonna have the photo booth theme to it, but hey, they’re having an awesome time. And that’s HALF the experience – so don’t ‘eff it up for them by telling them it’s not gonna turn out, just let ‘em ride.
Inevitably, there are gonna be guests that want to do ‘just a normal’ photo – obviously missing the point of a photo booth. Humor them anyway. Like I said, most of this service is the experience involved.
Set-up & take down. Allow for about an hour each way, bonus points if a guest destroys the booth by falling into it while drunk. Kidding. Make sure to have enough of the roll to allow at least two falls. These will presumably start about two or three hours into the event.
Editing. Try to get everything to fit in the colored space in the background. Crop out stragglers if necessary. If it’s a little dull, strap a Lightroom preset on that beast and batch process that biotch.
Miss anything? Tell me in the comments below & I’ll get right back to ya. Happy Wednesday, and go Lakers!
Tim King is an event and wedding photographer based out of San Diego, CA. He has shot over 1,000 events in his time as a photographer including nightlife, PR, wedding, and corporate. Tim is an open book, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask him, feel free to get in touch!