Tag Archives: party

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!

Eleanor’s Birthday Part Two: The Party!

Posted by: Maggie

Last Saturday was the party! Eleanor’s big Second Birthday party! Well, it was actually a very small second birthday party. I’m usually a big party planner, that actually would be my dream job, but I’m just not feeling it lately. Life is just a little too stressful and hectic lately to deal with big party preparations. Although, actually throwing her party gave me a little taste for it and now I really want to throw some fabulous parties, but it probably won’t happen.

We kept it small, just our immediate family and a couple friends. And just a few appetizers and dessert. And very simple decorations, some balloons and streamers. And that was it! Super simple, super easy, no stress.

We had it at my mom’s house (even less stress for me). Here is Eleanor waiting for her guests to arrive:

We had a hard time deciding on a theme for her party. When I plan parties I usually have a feeling or a mood that I use and then use colors and decorations to convey that mood. But, like I said, I have just not been feeling it lately, so I just thought we’d pick a character she liked and make it easy on me. I also thought that we could let her choose. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out.

I offered a number of suggestions, “Do you want an Elmo party or a Handy Manny party or what about a Curious George party?” Her reply, “Andrew party!!” (In case you’re new here, Andrew is one of my two very best friends, we’ve been friends since high school).

Have I mentioned how Eleanor is obsessed with guys in their 20s? I assume it’s because she’s so crazy about her Daddy, but she cannot get enough of my brothers (who act pretty aloof around her, they don’t even try to entertain her) or of Brian (she asked for him for days after he left) or Andrew (who she is always looking out the window for, assuming he is coming to visit her).

So I asked Andrew what he thought an Andrew party would consist of. His answer was tacos and margaritas. I just didn’t think that would be appropriate for a two year old’s birthday. So I just went ahead and chose a theme that I thought Eleanor would like based on her current obsession.

Unfortunately, I could not find any Blue’s Clues decorations at the local party stores, but I did find some puppy party stuff that had paw prints, so that worked out nicely. But I did want Blue to make an appearance at the party. Lucky for me, my husband is an artist, so I had him free hand Blue on some posterboard for me.  He insisted on having Eleanor color it in. I insisted on doing her spots, nose and paw myself. I think it turned out pretty good.

Eleanor had a great time, as she usually does when family and friends are around. She ran around like a crazy person shoving food into her mouth and generally causing trouble. We decided to let her have a cupcake, despite our no sweets policy. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen. She decided to go face first into the cupcake, but only lick the frosting. The she carefully picked it up and picked off pieces of frosting and licked at it, until we unwrapped it and told her just to eat the thing. This is not at all what we were expecting. Last year, we gave her a cupcake during her One Year portrait session. She first smashed it flat, and then smeared it all over her stomach and face. I guess a lot has changed in a year.

After cupcakes we watched the sugar-high baby open presents. It was pretty ridiculous. She wasn’t really able to focus on the task. And she loved each present so much that she just wanted to stop and play with each one rather than unwrapping the next. She got a bunch of great gifts, which I’m planning to post about later, as soon as I take some photos of them. Because, this is pretty much all of the pictures I took.

Whenever I host a party I end up setting my camera down as soon as guests arrive and usually forget to pick it up again. Lucky for me our friend Amy, Andrew’s wife, is a photographer and as usual was there to capture the moments I did not. I cannot say thank you enough to you Amy. We are so grateful to you for always being there with camera in hand! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Amy just posted about the party, so you can see all of her beautiful pictures here! Please check them out! And while you’re there take a look at all of the posts of their recent trip to Italy! Gorgeous!

Eleanor’s Birthday Part One: Preparations

Posted by: Maggie

Sorry that I was missing last week. I was busy with new clients at work, a bunch of other events, and was exhausted from the prior week’s excitement.

Here’s what you missed: Eleanor turned two last Monday! Yay! We had a small party at my mom’s house for her on the Saturday before her birthday. The night before, Josh and I prepped. Josh baked the cupcakes and I built Eleanor’s birthday present. In case you were wondering, that’s how things work in our house. I’m the handy one, Josh is more of the cook, neither of us is great with the cleaning (but I’m definitely better).

These are funfetti cupcakes. Josh made them from “scratch.”

By the way, I decided that I’m going to start saying that I made everything from “scratch.” And in my head that will mean from a box, or pre-made frozen, or whatever, as long as I have to do any prep work at all before serving I’m calling it from “scratch.” Now, if my definition of “scratch” differs from yours that is not my problem.

So I thought that I would get this tricycle and it would pretty much be put together and I would just have to put the seat and handlebars on or something. But no, it came in all sorts of pieces. No problem, though. I like building stuff. I really like working with my hands. I kinda always wanted to be a carpenter, but I just don’t have the physical strength or stamina to have a job where I have to be on my feet all day.

So I got the thing built, and I’m all proud of myself, but then when I wheel it out at her party the handlebars are loose! Arrgh! I thought I had tightened it enough. It seemed really tight when I tried it. So we bring it back home and it sits in the living room for a day waiting to be fixed and when I go to fix it, wouldn’t you know, but it is perfectly tight. As it turns out, it was super cold at my mom’s house in the room where it sat all day waiting to be revealed. We suspect that the metal just contracted in the cold and that’s what made it loose. It sat in a warm room and like magic it expanded again and was tight enough. I think we’ll be keeping it outside on the patio though, so I guess we need to let it get cold again and then tighten it then so that it stays nice and tight no matter the weather.

Wow, was that story as boring as I think? Oh well, I’m done with this post! Tomorrow: the party!

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