Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Photobooth: the test run

Knowing a DIY photobooth is in our future, it is important (for my sanity) to work out the details of the how as soon as possible. Our annual New Years party presented the perfect opportunity to set up a prototype booth. Of course, Mr. P and I had to get the thing working in a matter of days but those are small details, right? Hah. Once it was up and running, our friends would test it out and find the flaws.


I did some research, finding free and not free programs. Heck, I even have a program on my MacBook that does the hard work for me. But I didn't like any of these options. I wanted more control (and to keep drunk people with liquids away from my laptop).

My requirements for the prototype were:
1. Ease of use
2. Easy set-up
3. Free (or nearly free)
4. Displays images for guests
5. Utilizes what's on hand (see also #3)

Toss out the notion of paying for a professional photobooth right now. Seriously. You'll spend enough money on other things, like those Chiavari chairs. If you're okay not having print-outs for guests, you can duplicate what we did and save even more money.

The success of the photobooth depends on very few pieces.
- a digital camera (we used my dSLR)
- video cable (to run from camera to display)
- display aka tv (anything with video in/out will do)
- wireless remote
- tripod or other level surface to place camera

(wireless remote & tripod)

The technical details weren't difficult. Find the video cable that came with your camera, otherwise purchase a compatible one (same goes for the remote). Connect the video cable to the camera and tv. Yellow into yellow for the tv. Black jack into your camera's "video out." TV set to video mode.


On your camera: remove the auto-off timer, set image display to "hold" or similar, set it to remote shutter, and turn the beep on for your guests. I set my camera to automatic shooting with flash to make it even more fool-proof.

Center the camera on your backdrop.
(Our IKEA tablecloth doubling as a makeshift backdrop.)

Take a few test shots with the remote.

Take 1: See? I got part of the wall.
Reposition or zoom as needed.

Take 2: Much better

The photo appears on the tv, holding until the next shot is taken. You'll have to trust the image is on the screen. (The tv glow was too much for a mere iPhone camera.) What the guests see: instructions taped to tripod, remote nearby.

With any luck (and some tweaks), you'll end up with some great captures by the end of the night. Check back later for funny guest pictures!

Would you attempt a photobooth DIY? If you've gone the DIY route, any recommendations to pass along?

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