1 Suggestion For Do-It-Yourself Photobooths!

Maybe you’re planning your wedding or party and are really excited at the idea of having a photobooth set up for your guests.  BUT, either the costs of hiring pros to do it is a bit out of your budget, OR you’re simply the type that likes to do things yourself! (like us!)  If that’s the case, you might be toying with the idea of putting together your own photobooth setup.  If you’ve read a little about us on our about page, you already know that this is exactly the route that we took for our own wedding back in 2008.  Because Neilsen already had most of the photography equipment, we decided to make our own setup–which we’re basically using an updated version of today!

There are tons of different ways that you can actually set things up for your DIY photobooth and achieve the same results, so we’ll leave that part to you.  But just to help you out a little, we thought we’d give you one, simple suggestion based on all our experience from photobooth’ing at tons of events:

Don’t skimp on  your equipment and materials!

Whatever event you’re planning, it’s probably not repeatable (especially a wedding!), so you don’t want to have something go wrong and simply be stuck.  Below is a list of equipment and materials for you to think about and use as a sort of checklist.  Hopefully it helps you get the most out of your DIY photobooth!

note:  everything below is for an “open, studio-style photobooth” and not a traditional “box” photobooth!

Photobooth Paper Photo Paper – This is one of the easily overlooked ways to make sure that your guests’ photobooth experience is as good as can be.  People will often invest in a nice camera, lighting equipment, and printer, only to waste all that good quality by printing on the cheapest, “best deal” paper they can get their hands on.  Low quality paper can make prints from a great shot + printer look pretty terrible.  Grainy, washed out colors, poor contrast, off coloring.  Don’t make this mistake!  Make sure you pick up paper that has good reviews, especially when paired up with the printer that you use.  We’ve had great experience with the Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl and Premium Pearl series.  (be sure to download the printer profiles for your printer & paper combo for the best results!) 

Update:  they seem to have stopped stocking the Ilford paper, so we’ve switched to the Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II and we love it!

Photobooth Paper Backdrop – This is one of the other areas where many DIY photobooths could be improved.  A little attention to detail goes a long way:  ironing out wrinkles, making sure there are no distracting elements, making sure the backdrop is stretched out properly, etc.  This is all made easier if you pick up a couple good stands and use them properly.  This a good starter set

Update! We’ve made the switch to vinyl backdrops and boy, we love them!  Setup is a breeze and maintenance is as simple as wiping with a damp cloth.  No more ironing!  This set has worked well for us!

Photobooth Camera Camera – Generally speaking, the best camera is the one that you already own.  But, there are some basic features that you’ll want to make sure it has to make your DIY photobooth experience as smooth as can be!  It should have the ability to sync to off camera lighting (see below), whether by hotshoe or sync chord.  It also ought to have some sort of option for remote triggering.  Really any basic digital SLR on the market today will serve you well in both regards, so do your research.  All of our equipment is from Canon and we highly recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T4i (if you’d like to also do some video) or the Canon T3 for an entry-level (but still feature packed!) model.
Photobooth Printer Photo Printer – This element of your DIY photobooth is important but you have plenty of options.  Not all photo printers are made the same, so make sure you read reviews, specifically how the printer handles photo prints (as opposed to normal prints).  The variables you’ll have to look into are price, quality, speed (of print outs), and size & weight (that’s right, of the printer!).  There’s no such thing as a perfect printer, so take into account the needs of your event and purchase accordingly!  The printers we use are the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II.  The quality that you get from them is just amazing!  The downside?  The printer is beefy. (been working out lately?)  If something smaller, lighter, but still high quality fits your bill, check out the Canon Pixma MP560

Update! the Pixma Pro9000 has been replaced by a newer model, the Pixma Pro-100, which you currently get with a $300 rebate if you purchase with other items.

Photobooth Ink Printer Ink – Two things here:  quality & quantity.  Let’s get the easy one out of the way.  Make sure you have enough ink!  The worst thing that could happen is that everything is working out fine and then you run out of photo cyan!  Stock up!  Second, while it’s tempting to save a few bucks here and there, for a photobooth for an event, we highly recommend you stick to the ink made by the manufacturer of your printer (rather than 3rd party or reconditioned ink cartridges).  You’ll save yourself from headaches due to clogging, streaking, & fading later on!  If you have (or get) the Pixma Pro9000, a great option to take advantage of is Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” feature on select inks.  You get an automatic 15% off for signing up to receive regular shipments of the ink, but you can also cancel the subscription immediately after your first shipment if you choose!  For example, here is the ink that we use.  Great deal!  (unfortunately, the MP560 ink isn’t eligible for Subscribe & Save)
Photobooth Lights Studio Lighting – This one is key to your images having that “professional” look. While you can capture plenty of great memories with straight-on, on-camera flash, you can get SO MUCH more 3D quality if you learn to light properly.  This article explains how the lighting is one of the key advantages of the open, studio-style photobooth design.  This is a good starter set.  So is this one.  Regardless, we recommend you head over to Strobist and read up a little on learning how to use your lights!
Photobooth Tripod Tripod – This is a simple one.  Make sure you have a tripod!  Any model really will do, but make sure that it’s rated to handle the weight of whatever equipment you put on top of it.  Get one with strong, sturdy legs so that if its tripped over during your event, you don’t lose the investment you made in your camera.  And really, it doesn’t make sense to put $700 of camera equipment on top of a $20 tripod!  We prefer to stick to Manfrotto tripods like this one, but we’ve had pretty good results with other models too.
Photobooth Memory Memory – Another simple one!  As with ink, make sure that you have sufficient memory to capture all those great memories!  Also, don’t go for the cheapest option you can find!  Make sure to read other users’ experiences to see if there are reports of the card corrupting and (gasp!) losing all of the data on the card!  We stick with Sandisk Extreme cards and have had no problems with them at all.  If you’re planning to shoot tethered, you don’t have to worry about this item obviously.
Photobooth LCD LCD Screen – This one is a little bit more incidental to the actual capturing of images for the photobooth.  At the same time, it’s one of the “extras” that REALLY has the potential to make your guests experience that much more fun!  Rather than having to chimp the shots on a tiny 3″ screen, connect your camera to an external LCD TV/monitor so they can see their craziness blown up immediately!  A 27″ LCD such as this one will more than suffice.
Photobooth Props Props – Don’t forget about these!  You can never have too many of these and your guests will have a crazy time with them!  You’ll be amazed at how creative they can be with them!  Here are a couple good sets to start with:  lips, mustaches, glasses on sticks! Or lots of other cool props on sticks!  And tons of other masks, hats, etc!

For a diagram of our setup, take a look here. And finally, here’s an extra tip/suggestion for you: make sure you have backups! You never know when any one piece of equipment will fail on you and you need to be ready so that the show can go on, so to speak. Good luck in your DIY photoboothing!

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming to you and you realize there are more details going into this DIY project than you originally thought, we’re happy to take care of all this for you so that you can worry about other details of planning your event! Contact us today to let us know about the event you’re planning and to check for availability. We look forward to hearing from you!

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