This past week I was asked to setup a photobooth for our Teacher Leader Academy Awards. I want to share my lessons learned and give you some ideas if you ever want to setup a photobooth for yourself. First, I want to preface with some limitations I had: Members of my team had already purchased a vinyl backdrop which, though affordable, was very shiny and produced some unwanted reflection. Also, I did not have a photo strobe/flash kit so I instead used our video lighting kit.
The basic setup
Hanging the backdrop-in my test situation I used 2 lighting stands and attached the backdrop to it with masking tape. At the event they supplied what is called “pipe and drape” so I taped the backdrop to those poles and was happy about the drape covering the bottom area since the backdrop was only 4 feet high. I assembled our three-point lighting kit. This meant a backlight, a spotlight and a fill light (with reflective umbrella as a diffuser). The lights served 3 purposes: providing even coverage, adequate lighting (in a darker ballroom) and defining the photobooth space. And speaking of the space, after power cords were taped down and improvised sandbags added to the bottom of the light stands, I marked a target area on the floor to show where people should stand to be in the frame.
My team members also bought some props to go along with the superhero theme of the event.
We encouraged attendees to get a free photo and strike a pose with a prop and co-workers.
Some people brought their children and so I improvised extra height with them standing on the lighting case. After the photos were taken, we collected the props and gave out slips with link to google drive folder with photos, using a tiny url.
The camera and settings
For this job, I used my Nikon D5200 SLR camera with tripod. I set it for shutter preference (1/250) and an ISO of 400-figuring that the lights would give me plenty of illumination. Even so, I wasn’t worried about underexposure, since I could always lighten them later and I did indeed lighten them before sharing in case folks wanted to print them. (something to watch out for-the exposures were problematic due to the light reflections off the props). Initially I tried to have participants trigger the camera shutter with a remote control, but since it required holding the button for a while and having to explain this to everyone, I abandoned the remote control for this shoot and just stood behind the camera. Folks could see themselves as they struck poses because I activated “live view” on the camera and flipped the monitor screen toward the booth. I tried to snap at least two shots of each group. Of course I loaded my largest and fasted SD card into the camera and brought along an extra camera battery and the charger since I knew the monitor screen was going to consume a lot of power.
In conclusion, I want to share the best practices for you to consider in setting up your own photobooth:
Get or make a non-reflective backdrop.
Use a good camera with a tiltable monitor screen.
Try to get or make some props.
Give out a link to where the photos will be posted.
Keep it fun, encourage posing and group interaction shots.
Add some lighting if you can.
Mark an area on the floor for people to stand.
Have a big, fast memory card and extra batteries.
Have two people staff the booth if you can-one to run the camera and one to hand out props, collect props and give out photo link.
Wishing you many smiles along the way!