When Michael and I got married, it was at the very beginning of the DIY photo booth trend. I had a DSLR, and a tripod, so I figured what the heck. I could probably make a professional-looking photo booth, right? Except, our venue was dark, and it turns out we had the wrong tripod mount. So what we ended up with was a fancy backdrop that mostly hid boxes at our venue. C’est la vie. In hindsight, I realize now that what we were trying to do was rig a professional-looking photo booth without being… professionals. Which might have been our first mistake.
So, in order to help you avoid my pitfalls, we asked veteran wedding photographer and general badass, Mark of LeahAndMark & Co. for his best tips on DIYing a wedding photo booth. At first I was surprised that his advice wasn’t chock full of fancy equipment and lighting equipment recommendations. But then it dawned on me: I was still thinking like it’s 2009. Technology has changed and digital cameras have improved so much that you don’t even need a “real camera,” as Mark calls it, to get awesome photos from your photo booth. And unless you know someone who owns and understands DSLRs and lighting equipment (or you have a burning desire to learn), trying to figure it out on your own is going to be more trouble than its worth, and renting or buying all that equipment can quickly get close to the cost of a professional photo booth. Plus, with this method, there’s no getting chased down by guests looking for photos that are sitting on a memory card while you’re on your honeymoon. So with that, here is Mark’s guide to an awesome, fool-proof DIY photo booth setup:
The Fool-Proof DIY Photo Booth
1. Make a backdrop. Your backdrop doesn’t have to be fancy. It definitely should not be complicated. Start with a blank solid color wall. White. Black. Blue—whatever. If you want a pattern—have a pattern. If you want a mountain landscape—do it. Make it 6 feet x 4 feet, and it will match the dimensions of most camera formats automatically (which are 3 x 2 horizontally). You can either affix the backdrop to a wall using gaffer’s tape, or you can just purchase affordable backdrop stands such as these.
2. Provide as much light as possible. Instead of fiddling with any kind of camera flash setup, just make sure your photo booth area is very, very, very well lit. I’m talking strangely, glowingly, bright. It can be in a well-lit separate room or just partitioned off—but make sure you provide lots and lots of light. If your reception is during the day, then this won’t be a problem at all. If you need to bring in lamps and plug them in—do it. (For an easy and decent lighting hack, you can use one of those cheap dorm lamps with any bulbs that say “daylight” on the package or have a color temperature of between 5000K and 6500K for a super bright light that mimics daylight. Both are available for cheap at most big box stores.) Oh and the lighting doesn’t have to be boring white light either. You can have colored light—just make sure the area is still very well lit.
3. Get some props. Props. Toys. Costumes. Whatever you think will make it more fun and interesting for your guests. The weirder, the better. Always. Except feather boas. NO FEATHER BOAS. Ever. (They’re just too messy.)
4. Make a hashtag for your wedding. I know. Maybe you don’t want to be those people with a hashtag for their wedding. But it’s okay! You’re only having the hashtag so that you can collect and find ALL of the photos that people took at your wedding. And they’ll probably post their photo booth pics on social media anyway—so you’ll want them to use your hashtag! (Because otherwise there is no way to get your own copy of these photo booth pics.)
5. For printed photos, buy an Instax Share SP-1 photo printer. This printer enables anyone with a smartphone to print their photos right on the spot at your wedding reception. Sure you have to buy the instant film cartridges, but depending the number of your guests, you’ll spend considerably less than you would if you rented a professional photo booth. It’s a super simple process that the majority of your guests won’t have a problem completing. They just need to download the app onto their smartphones. Then, using the app they’ll take a selfie photo (or have another guest take the photo for them) and then upload it to be printed. Boom. Done. Photo booth! Of course, remember to purchase enough film and enough batteries for the printer. Oh and maybe task a person to periodically check up on the setup or post an instructional sign on how to change out the film. Still, all very easy and convenient.
6. Or buy any other Instant Film camera. For an even simpler, more lo-fi options, grab one of these cameras. And since you already setup a great backdrop and lots of light—the photo booth pics are guaranteed badass. Guests can either take photos selfie-style or have the person behind them in line take a quick photo. AND THEN IT PRINTS OUT (I mean develops!). Photo booth DONE!
No matter what camera you have, or how you decide to print or develop the photos, all you really need is a backdrop, and plenty of light. So there you go! Easy, done, fool-proof.
Did you have a DIY photo booth at your wedding? Share your tips and best practices in the comments!