Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Growing Pains: Preparing for my first photo booth set up

Photo credit: National Geographic

On Saturday, I will be hosting my first photo booth at a local community fair. So this week's blog coverage will be about how to set one up successfully. I've turned to several professional colleagues who regularly run photo booths at various events throughout the Denver metro area, as this state seems to have a festival nearly every weekend in the spring and summer months. I've also found some helpful resources online.

Rachel Hawthorne, one photographer in the Mile High Photographers group, said by printing 4x6s, she was able to generate $100 in two hours with a photo booth at a horse competition:

We do instant photo prints at horse competitions, and our typical setup runs like this:

Shooter swapping out cards (we don't have a tethered or wireless setup yet) as she shoots in Raw
I'm at the table - I dump everything into lightroom, and since she's shooting with a fixed setting, any additional post processing is done based on that setting, so I apply the changes en masse in the library.
I scroll through the pics of each rider, and apple+select the multiple ones that we're going to print, and send them to the printer (Epson PictureMate Dash 260)

While that's printing, I then take the photos and export them to iPhoto and run a slideshow of everything taken so far on another monitor facing the crowd. That keeps them patient while waiting for prints.

We charge $5 a print on site, and each print purchased has a sticker on the back sending them to our website to purchase more from our smugmug account. I'd love to hear what you do choose for your final setup!

Another MHPer, Sarah Cutright, suggested a wireless route to prevent customers from tripping over wires, shoot tethered to a laptop; stick to one background; and bring a stack of model releases. I definitely didn't think of the model releases, and I'm working on going the tethered route. That one will be tricky because one of my assistants shoots with a Nikon (and I a Canon) so all of the software we would be needing for teethered shooting would be different. He also has a PC laptop and I've got a Macbook Pro. Well, the day should be interesting, that's for sure.

Sarah pointed me in the direction of this great blog post at Photocrati.com about photo booths that was helpful as well. I love how Bill Millios, the photographer uses guests during an event to help lure in more victims, er, customers to the booth. And I think having the guests pick items out of a box of goodies glasses, feather boas, and party hats is a great way to get some genuine smiles, laughing, and a crowd gathering around to watch. These practical tips from Bill were great too:

People will want to bring more and more people into the picture – and your backdrop is only 9 feet wide. (Or rather, MY backdrop is only 9 feet wide. A 12 footer won’t fit in the minivan.) At the second event, I taped out a rectangle on the floor using gaffer tape, and said, “You can put all the people you want in the picture, but they have to fit inside the rectangle.” That made it self-regulating.

I recommend using a 50 mm lens or larger – this will prevent problems with the people on the outside getting squished around by the lens distortion. If you don’t have enough depth, then do what you can – but keep in mind not to go too wide, or it will look funny. More depth will also allow more people to fit on a given backdrop (since you are farther back, your angle of view is smaller to include the entire seamless, but the AREA for the subjects is wider.)
Equipment list

backdrop kit – two stands and a crossbar (I have this one)
White seamless
Large softbox
Trigger cable

Make sure to read the comments at the end of the blog post for more ideas. One commenter in particular mentioned something about using a video feed to show customers their photos instantly. I think I'm going to use a second laptop and have a slideshow running the images. More ideas to come!

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