DIY Photo Booths… Way DIYable

The Beard sent me this photo from a wedding photo booth, and I absolutely love it.

Image: Cosentino

If I could go back and re-plan my wedding, I’d definitely set up a makeshift photo booth. Sure, I could rent one, but that can get expensive when you factor in delivery and pick-up of the photo booth itself, the insurance, and the fact that some photo booth rental companies put limits on the number of photos wedding guests can take. Limits? The whole point of having a photo booth at the reception is that it gives guests, the wedding party, and the bride and groom a chance to cut loose in front of the camera after everyone is thoroughly boozicated. How loose can you get when you’re worried about running out of photo paper?

Knowing zip about photography in general, I went looking for a makeshift photo booth tutorial and, zowie, did I ever find one. The lovely people at the things we think but do not say have created an amazing DIY photo booth tutorial for weddings that is about a gazillion words long and uses words like “sync cables.” That said, it’s easy to understand and looks doable for the non-photog, provided you can borrow or buy or jury-rig the equipment.

I summarize the instructions under the cut, but I definitely recommend checking out the full tutorial.


Note: When you rent a traditional photo booth for your wedding, you’re potentially giving guests a keepsake to take home. When you set up a DIY photo booth, the photos are saved to your memory card or hard drive, so unless you decide to share, the keepsake is for your and your new spouse. And with a home grown wedding photo booth, you’re not going to get the same strip sequence look unless you finagle it that way or ‘shop it later.

First, you will need:

  • A big ol’ sheet for a backdrop.
  • A digital camera or a digital SLR that lets you fire the camera remotely and that has software available that let’s you record your images directly to a laptop.
  • A strobe/flash or two.
  • A way for the camera to trigger the strobes/flashes. (This is where the sync cable comes in.)
  • The actual remote that fires the camera.

Then it’s time to:

  • Hang up the sheet.
  • Download or install the software that lets you record your images directly to your laptop.
  • Connect the USB cable to the laptop and to the camera.
  • Mount the camera onto a tripod and frame the shot with a test subject (or use yourself if you’ve already got the remote working).
  • Activate the strobes and test fire your flashes.
  • Attach a Pocket Wizard to your camera’s hot shoe mount.
  • Set up your laptop on to another tripod and sit it on the laptop plate.
  • Test your set-up!

Yeah, I don’t know what a lot of that means, either, but the post I linked to earlier does a fine job of explaining the confusing bits and defining the various pieces of equipment. What I do know is that when you’re planning a wedding, there is a lot to think about without having to deal with a lot of unfamiliar technical stuff. So if you’re not a techie by nature or trade, there is an easy way to get around that.

When friends and family (and maybe even your fiancé(e)) ask how they can help you, keep an eye out for the amateur photographers or photography enthusiasts in the bunch. They’ll know their way around an SLR, and seeing as that they’ve already offered to help, they will no doubt be more than happy to take charge of your DIY wedding photo booth.

Image: Cosentino

(Edit: This is the sort of thing Toni is talking about in the comments, though you’ll have to buy whatever remote works with your particular camera. Anyone else have any tips to make DIY photo booths less complicated?)

7 Responses to “DIY Photo Booths… Way DIYable”

  1. Toni December 16, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    I appreciate their willingness to do this thing up right, but you could easily go with a similar idea for much less fuss. The “feedback” laptop is a cool idea, but seems to be a lot of the complication. Set up a camera on a tripod, put up a backdrop so people know where to stand, invest in a $15 camera remote, and there you go! You could probably pay a friend $50 to hover near the camera and help people out if you think it’s necessary. You could also buy or borrow one of those little portable 4″x6″ printers which can print directly from the memory card if you want people to be able to take prints home.

    (My mom brings one to our family reunions, and sends prints home with people.)

  2. Never teh Bride December 16, 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    Thanks for the addendum, Toni! Like I said, I’m not particularly well-versed in the world of photography, DIY or otherwise.

  3. Twistie December 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm #

    The darn thing is, if I had thought of this, I had at least half a dozen people involved who could have set this up!

    And considering that in a recent episode of Bridezillas I was treated to a scene of a bride calling to rent a photo booth and she was told it would be something like a couple grand for a four-hour rental…this sounds like a great way to get similar results with less layout and more control. That’s what I call a win/win situation.

  4. Never teh Bride December 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    Ditto, Twistie! Is it weird that I want to have a party JUST so I can set up a photo booth?

  5. 2dBride June 14, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    We are having a much less complicated version of this, that will still allow guests to see their photos (and indeed, take home favors with their photos in them). Details can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/2dbride/photography/diy-photobooth

  6. John December 22, 2009 at 2:32 am #

    I wrote a photo booth software called Party Booth that we used at our wedding reception. It runs on most computers with a webcam, and was designed for unattended operation. Our reception guests loved it. You can download a copy at http://www.partyboothapp.com

  7. Never teh Bride December 22, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    @John That looks like an awesome alternative to hiring an expensive wedding photo booth. Thanks for sharing it (and creating it)!