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:
- Enclosed booths
- 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:
- Pipe and drape, the light-weight pipes that you would see at a tradeshow with unique drapes that enclose the booth in a square
- 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.
– 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.
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 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.