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Easy Holiday Photo Booth

Gear Talk Tips & Tricks

Holiday events have a way of filling a room. Being tasked with running a party photo booth for friends and family can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t big and your space isn’t, either.

We put together a simple, fun photo booth using portable items that you can rent from BorrowLenses.com. There are various ways to make a booth–some even more simple than this, many more complex. This is just how we did it and you can improve/build upon it. If you do create a booth, feel free to share links to your fun party pictures in the comments below and tell us how you made it!

Our Backdrop:

We purchased a lightweight wood dowel and stapled garland to it. It is light enough to still be able to hang with gaffer’s tape and not ruin your hosts’ walls. Of course, we have backdrops and backdrop stands for rent. But they take up quite a bit of space.

Equipment Used:

Additional Resources:

Set Up: The Lights

The following Nikon cameras can fire the following Nikon flashes via the pop-up flash on the camera:

D800 & D800ED700D600D300, D200, D90, D80, D70D7000 with SB-910SB-900SB-800SB-700SB-600.

All other cameras must use an SU-Commander (or another flash set as a master) that connects to the hotshoe to fire the flashes.

The following Canon cameras can fire the following Canon flashes via the pop-up flash on the camera: Canon 7DCanon 60DCanon Rebel T4iCanon Rebel T3i with 430 EX II580 EX II600 EX-RT.

All other cameras must use an ST-E2 or ST-E3-RT (or another flash set as a master) that connects to the hotshoe to fire the flashes.

The Pentax K-5 and K-7 will also fire the Pentax AF-540 flash via their onboard popup flashes. The Sony A77A35, and A55 will fire Sony flashes using their popup as well.

For other models/brands, you will need to use a set of triggers, such as our Pocket Wizard Plus IIs.

  • 1 flash in the OctoDome on a lightstand, behind the camera and pointing down onto the subject. This will produce “butterfly lighting” on the subject’s face (a little shadow under the nose and chin). The more intense the downward angle, the longer these shadows get.

  • 1 flash on a Justin Clamp attached to the same lightstand the OctoDome is on. Flash is pointed down onto a white reflector that is merely leaning against our stand on the ground at a angle so that this light bounces up into the underside of our subject’s face and softens those butterfly shadows a bit.

  • 1 flash pointed on the AlienBees stand pointed straight up into the garland behind where the subjects will be standing. This is to give the backdrop a little bit of glow and to prevent the entire scene from looking too flat.

[learn_more caption="Other Flash-Powering Options"] Unlike traditional strobes, flashes eat up batteries. You can rent a battery pack for each flash, such as the Quantum Turbo. These do add weight to your setup but they also nicely double as sandbags for your stands. Another option is a to use a compact battery pack that can be filled with AAs to keep your flashes going longer, like the Nikon SD-9 or the Canon CP-E4. [/learn_more]

Set Up: The Camera

Additional Resources: Other Shutter-Triggering Options

There are several ways you can trigger your camera’s shutter for a photobooth. One option would be to get a remote (like this one from Canon). Another option is to rent a couple of Pocket Wizards and a remote camera cable. Connect the remote camera cable between your camera and 1 Pocket Wizard. The other Pocket Wizard can be set to “remote” and be held by your guests to fire the camera whenever they are ready! You can do this with a Pocket Wizard TT5 on the camera and a Plus II as the remote or just two Plus II’s.

Set Up: Firing the Flashes Wirelessly

  • Pop your camera’s onboard flash.
  • Set your camera’s menu settings for flash to “commander” mode (details HERE).
  • Set your flash dial to “Remote”.

Every time the camera fires via either remote, timer, or the Pocket Wizard, the popup flash will send a split-second signal to the other flashes to fire. Easy strobe-like lighting for a small space! Here is another view of this setup:


This sounds like a lot of items but they are all actually quite compact and light. And, of course, there are a million ways to vary this setup to your personal tastes and needs. This is just what we did and we hope it gave you a few ideas for creating your own photo booth this holiday season. If you do create a booth, feel free to share links to your fun party pictures in the comments below and tell us how you made it!

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Alexandria Huff is a portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Her tutorials can be found here on the BorrowLenses Blog, 500px, Shutterfly, Snapknot, and SmugMug. She specializes in studio lighting. Follow her work on 500px.

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