How to Start a Photobooth

Business Tips February 20th 2013 3:38 PM 14 Comments

A couple months ago, we decided to launch a photobooth business in Los Angeles. As a wedding photography studio, we had most of the necessary experience, all of the required technical knowledge, and most importantly, a complementary business with preexisting clientele.

But that didn’t mean that we were going to jump right into it without doing the proper research. In actuality, we probably spent over 40 hours of total time researching, testing, and prepping for our first photobooth event. As always, we’re here to help you guys out and share what we learned about photo booths.

Initial Decisions When Starting a Photobooth

There are dozens of different ways to set up a photobooth but they generally fall under two categories:

  1. Enclosed booths
  2. Open air/Modular booths

We immediately eliminated the enclosed booths for our business because these large structures are inconvenient to transport and are limited in the number of guests you can fit at one time. Moreover, they are expensive, require a power source, and the quality of imagery is limited. The last reason was versatility. In 10 years, technology will undoubtedly be very different. There are already flip-book photobooths and video photobooths, and we didn’t want to get stuck with old, out-dated technology.

Turn Key Photobooths vs. Customized Photo Booths

From there we needed to make the decision between turn key solutions or customized solutions. Turn key solutions offer everything you need to start a photobooth. The popular ones at the time we were researching came with a Canon Rebel, a basic dye sublimation printer, a generic flash and the basic carrying cases.

The main issue for us with Turn-Key Photobooths was image quality. While a Canon Rebel would probably suffice as a camera, the low-quality flash output was our biggest qualm. On top of that, the cost of the bundles were 10% to 15% above their individual costs at retail.

However, if you’re looking to simply get something that works well and looks decent, this is not a bad option. Especially if you don’t have the time to research everything individually.

Custom Photobooth Options

From there, we narrowed it down to either of the following:

  1. Pipe and drape, the light-weight pipes that you would see at a tradeshow with unique drapes that enclose the booth in a square
  2. Completely open, setting up a backdrop and leaving everything else open

Lee Morris of the Fstoppers shows you his wedding photobooth design in his How to Become A Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD. His setup is completely open, with a few absolutely unique characteristics that make that aspect of his business a success. The biggest issue here is that all of your guts are showing, from your lightstands to your printers. However, the tradeoff is hype. With a completely open setup, all of the guests are seeing all of the fun action; and the hype is likely drawing crowds. Again, check out Lee’s section in his DVD to see how he adds his own twist to make his booth unique and memorable.

We decided to go with a Pipe and Drape solution, with black draping and adjustable pipes. Note that amazon.com may or may not currently have the adjustable drapes in stock and you may have to go to a tradeshow specialist website for these materials. For the pipe and drape setup, expect to pay around $500 to $800.

I knew this wasn’t the most attractive method for photobooths in the world, but it was flexible. The pipes expand from 6 to 10 feet and you can switch out the drapes to match your client’s preferences. Here is a selection of attractive backdrops from Amazon.

Photobooth Equipment

- For the printer, we chose an DNP RX-1.
- For our lighting, we chose to use a Dynalite RK4-1100 Kit on a standard lightstand and Westcott Umbrella.(Instead of the dyanlite, we could have used pocket strobes and two umbrellas.)
- For our camera, we used our backup camera body, the 5d Mark II and a wide angle 16-35 Lens. While the Mark II is a little bit of an overkill it does impress clients and guests who know about photography and the use of a full-frame professional camera can be a marketing point in your business.

Photobooth Software

For our Photobooth software, we went with DSLR booth for the following reasons:

Simplicity – The main thing I wanted was simplicity. I was not going to be the actual operator for the booth so we needed to have a simple software that would not present any issues.

Cost – The software is also inexpensive at only $150. As I mentioned, the photobooth industry is rapidly changing and it doesn’t make sense to spend $500 or more on software that may not suit your business in a few years.

Versatility – Lastly, the software was versatile. You can select the layout, add a custom logo with your client’s names on it, and it pretty much automates the rest of the process. Your operator snaps away and the software groups the images and prints them in your selected layout.

Separate Photobooth Business or Under Photography Business

Every business is different, and your decision will vary here depending on where you live, your current market, and your existing clientele. For us, we decided to create a separate website and business for our photobooth business. While keeping it under the same name would help in some ways, we felt like it would hurt in others. It would help in that there would be some brand recognition of our established Los Angeles Photography Studio. It would also benefit from the web marketing already done as well as the search engine optimization already in play. However, we also felt like it would hurt the overall premium brand of the photography studio. As a premium wedding photography service, we didn’t want to dilute our services by being perceived as a “one stop shop.” You will have to weight these factors in making this decision.

The Result and The Future

While it’s still in its infancy, we’ve officially launched Photobooth LA, Los Angeles Photobooth. Our primary marketing strategies are going to include SEO, Social Netowrking, Word-of-Mouth, and Referrals. We’ve completed our first couple gigs with a few more booked in the coming months. Wish us luck! We’re doing the same for you SLR Loungers.

Sample Photobooth Images

photobooth los angeles

Tags: how to start a photobooth business, starting a photobooth business, how to start a photo booth business

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Christopher

About

Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me travelling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

14 Comments

  1. Zach

    I recently purchased the DSLRBooth software and love it. I’ve used it for one booth so far, and have another one this weekend. I do just the simple open viewable type with a backdrop. I use my D7000 for the camera and 2 Flashpoint studio lights.

    I’m still looking to find some unique aspects to add, but since it’s quite new still I’ve just got a collection of interesting props.

    Reply 0
  2. Brian Orlov

    I really liked your article.  I’ve been doing photobooths for 8 years now and they are a lot of fun and can generate good income for your photography business if done right.  One thing, you show in your photo sample, but don’t write about in your article is the use of props.  Picture frames, chalk boards, hats, mustaches, etc…  These can add a lot to the photobooth experience.  They can also be personalized just for your clients.  Also the use of greenscreen for virtual backgrounds.  The bottom line to all “print on site” photobooths is that the clients and their guests love taking the pictures home with them that night, it adds an extra BUZZ to whatever even is going on at he event!!

    Reply 5
  3. Jackie Spellen

    Thanks for this article indeed… I am a photographer first. I have been using DSLR booth since last year for the community Halloween Party. I have the ABR800 lighting, the Sinfonia CS2 printer, and my D7000 w/35mm. The images are awesome thank God for the big MOON Unit placed on the ABR800. I don’t have the enclosed-old style photo booth (which I love). I rather keep it simple, light, and easy to move. Technology changed so much and some people are running their photo booth with tablets (iPad and the Surface).

    I am now trying to market this photo booth since everyone knows me as the “photo-girl”. I started in Event Photography taking pictures in Club (Lounge), Birthday parties, anniversary, baby showers, bridal showers, and at special events.

    Now it’s time to automate everything I have. Why? Because I love photo booth.
    Sorry for ranting so long!

    Reply 1
  4. Robert Orsa

    Since you decided on keeping your photography business separate from your photo booth business, did you need to get a new business license and DBA?

    Reply 0
    • Jackie S

      Robert I am not sure if you are talking to me. So, I am sorry I didn’t answer you.

      The name of my company or DBA is Jackie Spellen Photography. I am not sure what name I should select for my photo booth business. Once I get a name and hire a few of my friends (so they could run it), I will get the license for that business and keep it separated.

      Here are a few I am thinking about:
      Harlem Photo Booth
      Face Booth
      SMH Booth
      Funny-Face Booth
      Smiling Face Booth

      0
  5. Michael Cook

    where’s the best place to get props? How do you upload the images to guest Facebook accounts? I work for another photographer doing photobooths for him and print onsite, it gets a little chaotic sometimes with just one person.

    Reply 3
  6. Neickkie

    Hello. I recently got married (19days in). In planning process I looked for a p.booth for reception. I eventually found one. But what the experience revealed to me that so many booth companies missed the mark on my needs & desires. So I decided to start my own business, to offer the things I found lacking in my search. So here I am eager to start but dont know where to begin. Whats a good package, good camera, printer etc…. I would appreciate any help & advice that you guys could offer.
    Thanks
    New bride on mission

    Reply 5
    • Jackie's Booth

      What do you mean they didn’t meet your needs? What are you looking for from a Photo booth.

      Well, I guess this message is too late. Whatever your needs are in a photo booth, why not start there.

      Reading the article and searching online will guide you on what to get first and what you should do first. Continue reading everything about photography!

      0
  7. Razel

    Hi I don’t have much background on photography but the biggest and successful project I have done is our elementary yearbook for whole entire school. My Delima is that I would like to start a photo booth to help our school but using a 4×6 picture paper with 3-4 boxes to insert pictures but unfortunately I don’t know what software to used and also where to get the templates I bought an adobe software but seem to not work. So please help me because it will definitely help our school to get more money by using photo booth part of our fundraising during family nights. The camera I have is Canon Rebel T1i. Is there a class for photo booth.

    Reply 1
    • Jackie's Booth

      There are classes but I don’t know exactly where. But if you have at least 3 hours each day to read and research the Internet, it is like sitting in photography / photo booth class.

      Photography 101 is the first place you will want invest in. This will give you the basic in using a camera and what to expect (in different modes).

      Then, read how others use their camera and how they setup their photo booth. See the results (the images online). Check out their reviews online and check out how people react using other photo booths.

      Trust me. It’s hard work but it is so interesting and fun!

      1
  8. Wedding Guests Go Nuts in Slow Motion PhotoBooth

    […] [REWIND: How to Create a Photobooth] […]

    Reply 0
  9. Sandra

    I want to set up an open photo booth just for personal use (family and friends functions), I know what camera etc but what software do I need to get?

    Reply 0
  10. Steven

    I’m a hobbiest and love photography. Why not try to make a few bucks out of a hobby I love. I’m actually In the process of starting a photobooth. I know what I need and have a plan for the booth and hardware it self. But the problem I’m having is I’m a mac user and I can’t seem to find a software for mac that is more than an entry level software. I don’t want to learn windows it’s so confusing. Any suggestions of recommendations ?

    Reply 0

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