This past weekend I had the fun task of putting together a photo booth for a fundraiser hosted by my sister-in-law. I had never done this before and did a little research, but was mostly just trying things out with what I had. We thought it would be a great element to add the party and were definitely right.
Here’s a list of the equipment I used to make this happen:
- Wide Angle Lens
- 2 Speedlights
- 2 Flash stands
- 2 Reflective Umbrellas
- Backdrop Support System
- Mini HDMI to Full HDMI
- LCD Display
- Remote Flash Triggers
- Photo Props
The Camera: Tripod is definitely a must here so you can set the focus once and shoot. I had to place the camera a little farther away than I would have liked, but given the 35mm lens and the APS-C sized sensor it was where it needed to be. This could have certainly been fixed by using my full frame D700 or using a wider angle lens. I used a wired remote trigger so I could interact with everyone while taking the shots, but it’s not necessary.
The Flashes: I have a Pocketwizard for each flash mounted on tripods, facing away from the scene into reflective umbrellas. You could certainly use dedicated strobes, but since I already had the equipment this was great. It was light-weight and the results were great.
The Backdrop: On the left you’ll see the backdrop support system and the backdrop we used. The key was getting this setup wide enough so a fairly large group could stand in the space.
The Monitor: Definitely want to show people their pictures. I brought my Dell U2410, but found even at 24″ it was pretty small for the application. Luckily the venue had a massive TV. I hooked up the HDMI cable up and were all set. Only issue was that the playback time was very short once a picture was taken. I often had to hit play on my camera to show the last picture to everyone, but it worked ok.
Props: My wife was awesome and made tons of props for people to hold up. I highly recommend you have props for your photo booth as people loved using them. Check out her blog Little Luvins (http://littleluvins.com/) to see her infinitely creative ways.
What I Learned
Check your focus: Once I thought the camera was in focus I set the lens on manual focus. This ensures that the camera would not need to focus for every shot. Today I found out that the focus was slightly off. By no means did it ruin the results, but I’ll definitely double check for sharpness.
Always Shoot RAW: I always shoot RAW. It allows me to adjust white balance and recover over and underexposed shots. I ran into these two problems once I got these shots into my computer. Only problem is that I shot JPEG last night. Never again. I’m not a big fan of spending a bunch of time prior to shooting so RAW for me.
Backdrop: I like that the black brings out the subject, but the velvet brought out some strange light effects. I’ll look for something that is less reflective in the future.
Pocketwizard Sleep Time: There was significant time between shots so there were numerous times the flashes didn’t fire due to the Pocketwizards sleeping. I’ll definitely be adjusting the sleep time using the Pocketwizard utility next time around.
People don’t look at the camera: I found that everyone was looking at the TV before I even took the picture. Definitely need to make a sign so people know where to look as saying this to them wasn’t really working; no matter how many times I said it or pointed at the lens.
I definitely want to fine tune this for next time. I want people to take their own pictures without me having to be there so I need to build a button for people to press that triggers the shutter (on a timer). I need to work on the flashes so I don’t have so many shots where the Pocketwizards have gone to sleep. I’d love for people to be able to walk away with a printed picture so I’ll need to work on getting the best results without post processing. Also, I want to try and move the monitor to below the camera. Saw the Vu Booth setup and really like it; maybe for next time.
I had a blast putting this together and the results speak for themselves. This added a whole new dimension to the party and everyone now has something to remember the party with. I hope you are able to put together your own photo booth and let me know how it goes.
Here’s the actual equipment I used and links to the equipment. This is by no means what you need to make this happen so feel free to substitute as necessary
PBL 12ft Backdrop Background Support System
CowboyStudio Double Off-Camera Flash Shoe Mount
PocketWizard Mini TT1 & Flex TT5 Bundle
Sigma 35mm F/1.4