Category Archives: Cranky Photography

Scenes from a July Header Photo Shoot

Posted by: Maggie

Scenes from a June Header Shoot

Posted by: Maggie

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!

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