Inspired by the freestanding photo booths of the film-camera era, a wedding photo booth gives guests and wedding-party members a chance to pose informally for lighthearted pictures that capture the spirit of a wedding and its reception. Setting up your own photo booth instead of hiring a pro may take more work than you expect, but it can produce a set of memories that document the joyful humor of your special celebration.
Simple Camera Setups
Set up your digital camera on a tripod to keep it stable and secure, avoiding high-traffic areas of the reception venue. With autofocus enabled, plug in a USB-based remote shutter release so your guests can take their own pictures. If your camera can link to a smartphone as a remote shutter release, you'll need an assistant to monitor the process. Use an external flash unit that you can bounce off a ceiling or a piece of white card stock to create indirect lighting.
New York City wedding photographer Andrea Fischman of Andrea Fischman Photography recommends, "An amateur photographer should know that it definitely takes some time to set up the booth and that things could go wrong, so always bring backup gear (camera and lighting)." Plan to bring your battery charger and an extra battery, along with multiple memory cards, and follow Fischman's suggestion to "bring a sandbag or two as well to keep everything stationary"—particularly the tripod.
In the Background
A do-it-yourself photo booth can be as elaborate as an enclosure with a curtain or as simple as a camera facing a backdrop. In both cases, you need a background, such as a large piece of textured cloth, to provide the setting for your photos. Photographer Michelle Zeglen, owner of Photo Art & Soul, suggests that you "Buy a thick sheet, shower curtain or tablecloth (or combination of several—layering looks great)" and tie the wedding colors into the background's theme. You can run background materials through your high-efficiency washer and matching dryer to remove fold lines. Even so, Zeglen warns that when you get to the reception venue, ironing or steaming may be necessary to remove distracting wrinkles.
Fischman takes a slightly different approach to backgrounds, recommending that you "get some wallpaper and attach it to a big piece of white board and then prop that up behind the scene. You can also just tack up fabrics. If the wedding is outside in a natural environment, you actually don't need a backdrop; you can use nature as your backdrop."
Props to You
Send out a smartphone request for props to use in your photo booth. You can turn the request into a digital part of your wedding plans, inviting guests to bring their own photo props as part of the reception. Zeglen recommends asking friends and family for props you can borrow. "You'd be surprised how many friends are willing to part with trinkets, Halloween masks and props that don't put the cost on you," she says. "Think about what's popular or trending in the news or entertainment industry that could make the event relevant and fun. From a photographer's perspective, props that break people out of their shells set you up for success, and many of them can be found at thrift stores or discount dollar stores." Fischman adds, "I love to bring a treasure chest with all those props in it so you feel like you're a kid again." Photograph the props by themselves so you can add them to a photo gallery of the event, augmenting the wedding story.
If your camera allows you to take 3D photos, connect it by Wi-Fi® to a 3D-capable HDTV and display the images from your photo booth in real time, giving your guests a look at the action. You also can upload your photos to a social media or photo-sharing site for guests to download. After you back up all the images on your computer, you can load them on your tablet device and use it as a photo frame, paging through your photos and choosing which to share. If you place your images on a publicly accessible website or a private page to which you provide the direct link in a smartphone message, your friends and family can download images for their own collections.
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