Cranky Photography: How to Set Up a Photobooth

Posted by: Maggie

By special request (Hi Kendra!), I’m going to walk you through how to set-up a photobooth for your next event.

I set-up my first photo booth for my sister’s baby shower back in April. Simple photobooths have become really popular at weddings and events in the last couple of years and they are a lot of fun for party goers.

Before I show you how I set mine up, I want to say that there is not really any single right way to do it. I’ve seen a bunch of great setups that create great shots. So use these instructions as a guide and then experiment and adapt as you like.  Also, I’m assuming a little bit of knowledge about cameras and lighting. Sorry if I assume too much, this would be a very long post if I explained more than I do.

How to Set-Up a Photobooth for Your Next Party

1. Set Up a Backdrop – I used a roll of blue seamless paper. It was 9 ft x however tall the pergola on my mom’s deck is.  I hung it from the top of the pergola using Gorilla Tape.

You can use any number of backdrops, from professional seamless paper to a large sheet, to a nicely painted wall, just make sure that it’s at least 6 feet tall. You want to cover at least waist high to a little over head. Keep in mind that you will have different sized guests. The baby shower had guests from 4′11″ (me) to at least 6′2.” You can use a professional backdrop stand (available to rent at many camera stores for $5-20), or tape it to a wall. I’ve also seen some homemade PVC stands.

2. Light It - I’ve got an umbrella continuous light kit. So I used a single light, set-up camera left at a 45 degree angle from the backdrop, and just a tad above eye level. I don’t think the set-up was ideal. It was outside at night, with very minimal ambient lighting, so my light was the only thing lighting the booth. I think I would have benefited from a second light set-up camera right. For small groups of three or less there was no problem, but larger groups ended up with an occasional person in shadow.

You can also use strobes (lights triggered to go off when the camera shoots using a cable or wireless sync) with a lightbox if you go the professional lighting route (all available for rent at camera stores as well).  If you don’t have professional lighting try setting up in a well lit area. If your party is in the daylight hours you can set-up indoors near window light or outdoors in full shade.

3. Get Your Camera – Set up a Camera on a tripod. I used my Canon 50D with a 50mm 1.8 lens. I used one of my brothers as a model for me to determine how far back I set the tripod from the backdrop. You want to get back far enough that you’re capturing at least waist to above the head for your tallest and shortest guests.

I don’t think you need a fancy camera for this, a point-and-shoot would be fine if it has the ability to hook a wireless shutter release to it. Set your camera to auto-focus and if you’re not shooting on Auto mode I recommend an aperture of f5 to get everyone in focus.

4. Gotta Have a Wireless Shutter Release -I’ve got a pretty cheap remote, but it works well.

I think the real key to a great photo booth is to allow the guests to control the camera. You can have someone man the booth, but I think you get much better photos if guests don’t have someone watching them be ridiculous. Make sure to look for one that works for you particular make and model of camera, all remotes are not alike.

5. Tell Them What to Do - It’s useful to have a sign telling your guests what to do. I made some Xs on the ground with masking tape to show people where to stand, you want them a few feet in front of the backdrop. I told them to grab a friend, grab the remote, stand on the X, look at the camera, and snap away!

6. Tell them What Not to Do – Put a “Please Do Not Touch” sign on the back of the camera. A lot of guests want to see the image, but you don’t want them to move the camera at all or change your settings. Be sure to check back frequently to make sure everything is setup properly.

7. Be Safe – Be sure to tape down all you cords really well, you don’t want your guests tripping.

8. Have Fun with it! – Bring props or costumes! I didn’t do this, but I see it done all the time. Have a box next to the booth filled with stuff to play with. Even better, get props that fit the theme of your party.

EXTRA TIP- shoot tethered to a computer so your guests can view the photos as they are taken.

If you have any great photo booth tips, feel free to share them in the comments below! Want a photobooth at your party, but think this sounds too tricky to set up yourself? You can hire me for your next event, check me out over at MKGP!


  1. Kendra 

    Thank you SO much!!!! That seems simple enough that even I can do it. My party is in two weeks. That should give me plenty of time to get what I need for the photo booth.

    Thanks again!


  2. This is AWESOME. I am totally going to show my brides!

  3. So glad I could help Kendra! Let me know how yours turns out!

  4. Awesome! Thanks for sharing this info!

  5. Adriana 

    Thank you for being so detailed in your explanation. I will be using it for my parents anniversary party

  6. Did just this for my sister’s baby shower, what a great time! Thanks so much for this, will def do again.

  7. Ted 

    great advice, I appreciate you sharing some useful info…I never thought about using the remote so they could be silly without hesitation due to the camera operator.

  8. Molly 

    Hi I’m having a city wedding and would love to set up photbooth at night with city backdrop at reception roofdeck. What do you think about problems with exposure? There will be tons of close light from skyline, but would we need to bring in extra lighting?

  9. Love this idea, def. going to give it a go!

  10. @Molly I would definitely suggest using extra lighting (I’d recommend two medium sized softboxes on either side of your photobooth area). Without it you may have trouble having both your guests as well as the skyline properly exposed. While the light from the skyline might be enough, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can rent lights at camera shops or online through borrow lenses!

    Good luck! And congrats on your engagement! Hope the wedding is amazing!

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  12. I love your thinggies that you do with your fotobooth it
    Is really nice

  13. Afrohprincess 

    Hello Maggie, thank you so much for your tips. I have a college graduation party coming up in December,and one of my friends suggested I do a photo booth. Do you know how I could shoot tethered to a computer? How does that work?


  14. Amelia 

    How would you set up a instant print printer to this?? I really like the idea of instantly printing after you take the pictures!

  15. Erin 

    I just hosted a bridal shower this past weekend and had a photobooth set up. It was a huge success – the guests had a lot of fun, and dozens of truly stunning pictures were taken. My biggest tip to others who are thinking of doing this – my camera can’t take pictures if it’s connected via cable to a computer – and it doesn’t have built in wifi. So I bought an EyeFi card (picked up at WalMart for ~$30) and worked off a wifi network via that card. Warnings with this method: 1) make sure your camera is compatible using EyeFi (you can do that from the company website) and 2) make sure you have wifi wherever you’re setting the photobooth up. If you need to set up your own wifi hotspot, that’s a different blog / help site altogether.

  16. Erin 

    Oh! And if no one will be manning the camera, I highly recommend using masking tape or something similar to mark where people should stand/sit – I used my niece to help gauge the center and placed an X there. Then I defined the borders of where people could stand before they’d be cropped out of the picture.

  17. Jaran Aguon 


    I really love how simple you made it to put up a booth.

    However, I was wondering…..

    What photobooth software are you using?
    What kind of printer are you using for the printer?

    PLease advise. Thankyou. Again, Great Job!

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  20. Renald 


    How did you set up the camera to focus? Don’t you have to press the button twice (one to focus half way and then fully to shot?


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