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!
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.
- 3 Nikon SB-910s: 1 main, 1 fill, 1 back light.
- 3 SD-9 Compact Battery Packs for Nikon: extra battery power for the flashes.
- D800, using the popup flash as a commander (info box below for other flash-triggering options)
- Photoflex OctoDome Extra Small Kit: comes with a speedring, flash mount, and multiclamp.
- Manfrotto lightstand for the Photoflex OctoDome.
- AlienBees LS1100 backlight stand and multiclamp for the back light.
- Justin Clamp for the fill light (bouncing off a reflector).
- Pocket Wizard Plus II and TT5 (info box below for other shutter-triggering options).
- Pocket Wizard motor cord for Nikon.
- Tripod and ballhead for camera.
- 35mm lens or something with a range like 24-120mm, allowing for close-quarter shooting.
- Using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System with the onboard flash.
- Another Creative Lighting System quick how-to.
- Canon wireless flash firing quick how-to.
- Pocket Wizard tips and tricks.
Set Up: The Lights
The following Nikon cameras can fire the following Nikon flashes via the pop-up flash on the camera:
All other cameras must use an SU-Commander (or another flash set as a master) that connects to the hotshoe to fire the flashes.
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.
Other Flash-Powering Options
Set Up: The Camera
- D800 on Induro with a medium-wide lens.
- Pocket Wizard motor cord for Nikon. 1 end connected to the camera, the other connected to a Pocket Wizard TT5.
- Pocket Wizard Plus II in the hands of the model for easy firing of the camera (and so that you don’t have to man the photobooth all night).
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!