How To: DIY Wedding Photobooth

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_189Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_114Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_13Wasn’t our photobooth adorable? And I will say: our guests had a blast using it. I was a little concerned, because we had originally wanted to set the thing up outside, but the weather forecast predicted storms, and we couldn’t chance the camera getting doused. I actually said to The Boy: If we move this thing inside, no one will use it. I really ate my words on that one, but I was glad it got so much use!

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Photobooths are super trendy at weddings right now, but renting one can be expensive. Of course, our photobooth did not give our guests the chance to print and keep their photos right on the spot, but we posted them all to an online gallery, and I don’t think anyone minded. All in all, our photobooth cost under 200$, and you could probably do it for less by borrowing equipment instead of renting. But here’s how we did it…

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_375Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_371You’ll Need

A DSLR camera (someone you know owns one)

A sturdy tripod

A laptop

An extra long USB cord

A ring flash (This isn’t a must, but it’ll make the photos look a lot more professional. There are many kinds of flashes available, we chose the Ring Flash because it was the most efficient in terms of space, cost, and flexibility as far as light power)

A soft box (see above)

You can probably borrow a lot of this equipment. We had some things on hand, and rented the rest from Borrow Lenses.

1) Mount your camera, ring flash, and softbox to the tripod. It’s important to go with a tripod that has a sturdy head, because this equipment combination is a bit heavier than just your average camera. The distance between the camera and the spot where people stand will vary depending on the kind of lens you’re using, so play around with this until you get the framing and focus right. It’s a good idea to mark off the area with tape, so everyone knows when they’re in frame. Pro tip: Have two people of different heights try the booth out when you’re working out the framing. The Boy was the only one who sampled ours, and he’s very tall, so we could only see the tops of our little kid guests’ heads!

2) Set up your ring flash to go off whenever you take a photo. There’s a couple ways you can do this, the easy way and the proper way. First, the easy way: flip up the flash that comes with your camera, when this goes off the ring flash will also go off. There are some problems inherent with this, like weird shadows, so I’ll explain the proper and (slightly) more complicated way. You’ll need a hot shoe sync adapter. Plug it into the hot shoe on your camera (usually located on the top, near the flash). The particular ring flash we rented came with a sync cable, which we connected from the flash to the hot shoe adapter. You’re ready to go! NB: We were using a Nikon camera, so the equipment you use may vary depending on what kind camera you’re using. A little research should clarify what you’ll need.

3) Tether the camera to your laptop with the USB cable. The purpose of tethering camera to computer is twofold: 1) The laptop works as a viewing station, as people take photos, the pictures will appear on the computer’s screen for people to see, and 2) We were using a Mac remote to fire the camera, so the Mac computer was necessary to make that whole thing work. You can actually purchase remotes that will work directly with the camera, but we just happened to have a Mac remote on hand.

3) We used a software called Capture One so that every time the camera took a picture, the picture was automatically saved to the computer and displayed on the laptop screen. Capture One is on the pricey side as far as software goes, but The Boy already owned it. There are lots of less expensive options for tethered shooting software, and many camera companies (like Nikon) actually make their own. The idea behind tethered shooting is that the computer is controlling the camera, so once you have your software you’re going to want to go in and play around until you find the command keys that will trigger the camera to shoot. For Capture One every time you hit the “apple-k” on the keyboard, the camera would take a photo.

4) Download this app. This will allow you to set the Apple remote’s buttons to application-specific commands, which is a fancy way of saying that we programmed the remote to hit “apple-k” for us. The Boy set up the remote so that every single button would trigger the camera, which was useful as the night went on and people got drunker. Nobody was pawing at the buttons wondering which one to use.

5) Type up some brief instructions, basically to the tune of stand in the box and hit the button. It might be a good idea to remind people not to steal the remote!

6) What’s a photobooth without props? Maggie downloaded these free printables, which we had printed at the local copy center. Maggie had the brilliant idea to mount all the props on foam board, which made them extra sturdy. It was a little extra effort, because we had to print the props on paper, then adhere them to the foam, then them out again, then color in the edges of the foam board with sharpie to make them look nice and clean. But it’s your wedding, so a little extra effort can be worth it. We also threw in some fun over-sized sunglasses, and the Mardi-gras beads and leis that Maggie made me wear to my bachelorette party (I am so getting her back for that one when she gets married).

7) That’s it! Shoot away!

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This is just the way that we did it. There are lots of other ways to create a photobooth, many of which are much simpler. For example, you could forgo the laptop and just do this with a camera and camera-specific remote. If you go that route, your guests will not be able to view their photos, unless you hook your camera up to some kind of video output, like a TV. There’s a great post over here that talks through some other alternatives for a DIY photobooth.

And of course, don’t forget to charge your camera battery!

Photo by Katch SilvaA Note on Our Backdrop

Our awesome pinwheel backdrop was created by the ever-rocking Maggie and our incredible friend Serena. Pinwheels are not especially difficult, and there are a billion and one tutorials online, so I won’t bother explaining it. We originally planned to attach ours to The Boy’s tennis court fence with zip ties, but when we had to move the whole thing inside we found that nails worked pretty well for attaching it to the kitchen wall. Something about the way we attached it to the wall, or perhaps all the moving back and forth while we figured out where to put the thing, made some of the pinwheels come apart. Not a single person noticed or cared.

Oh, and guess what? Our wedding is being featured over here today, go check it out!

Bottom photo by Katch Silva. All other photos courtesy of Xander Keeping.

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