Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creating Your Own NYE Party Photo Booth

I love New Years Eve. Truly, I do. I come from the city that prides itself on being the "New Years Capital of the World". The Sydney Fireworks are something else & it's great to be out and about in the middle of all that energy. There is something infectious about thousands of revelers smiling happily and counting down the new year together. So much so, that you are willing to deal with the dreaded trek home in the wee hours of the morning with those thousands of other people that you suddenly want to disappear so you can get home quicker.

This year, I will be celebrating NYE in Los Angeles. A far cry from the summer heat of Sydney, NSW, Australia. Since there are no Harbour Bridge's with sail like Opera Houses in the background, gracing the city skyline... fireworks appear to not be the big thing here. (Putting this out there... Disney Concert Hall??? Marina Del Rey?? Fireworks?? No?? Come on LA!) I will be celebrating NYE at a good friends home in Santa Monica. As my friend is renovating her home in the new year, she is OK with having many people come through her home for this party. What a gem.

My friend, whose name is Cori, is fabulous with party planning and coming up with great ideas. This year for NYE we are throwing a "Lucky 13 and Superstition NYE Party" to ring in 2013. Cori came up with that. Genius. Of course, this leaves me with one suggestion for which I get excited about. Photo booth! Not the hire kind either. The make-our-own-kind to suit our party.

I've made photo booths before for my husbands birthday, friends birthdays and even a Lomography LA trunk show. They can be a lot of fun and keep the party interesting. I will be using all my own gear and I for one have no problem in running it. We can open and close the photo booth throughout the night as we see fit. Running a photo booth is work but it's a great way to actually meet most of the guests (if I haven't already met some of them before) without having to start up a conversation about the weather.

You will need: 

Designated space to run the photo booth. I suggest a place against a wall that is out of the way of traffic even a spare room. 
DSLR Camera. I use my trusty Canon 5DII with 28-70mm lens with CF memory cards, lots of batteries I also bring my battery charger.
2 lights. I use my photoflex starlite kit (these are hot lights, I have both tungsten and fluorescent bulbs, for the party I suggest fluorescents as the tungsten lights can make that room a little hot)
1 Flash. Speedlite
Remote I prefer to not touch the camera as much as possible, once it is set, I leave it so. 
Background/Backdrop I've ordered one before, the rest I have made. I tend to not use stands at parties as they take up room and room is what we need the most. If I can mount the BG onto a wall, I'm laughing.
Laptop to Dump Cards Onto. I don't shoot tethered as we get lots of shots and it keeps the booth moving. 
Memory Card Reader For dumping data
Portable Hard Drive: why use up your laptop space
Software Editing Program: I use Lightroom. I always test my booth first and then through trial and error I will create a preset in lightroom for editing. That way, once I import all my images, I can apply the preset and be done. You don't want to create any additional work for yourself. If you are shooting this for paying client, you may want to review the photos in more detail in case you want to touch up individuals images.
PROPS!!! This not only carries on the theme of your photo booth, it helps people loosen up and have fun with the photo booth. At first some people might be shy, but after a couple of drinks and in round two you'd be surprised at who opens up. 

Creating The Background/ Backdrop

At one party; I had ordered a background wall scene from a party supply store online and it worked perfectly. It fit the theme of our party and it required little effort to set up. Those backgrounds are quite thin, so I suggest adding a backing to it. I have a selection of paper backdrops for portrait sessions so I used a white one and then mounted it to my wall in my home office. Here is an example from this party.
3 light set up. Hot lights on each side with flash in the middle

For another party, the host had a theme called "Digital Dolls" and wanted to have the background designed out like a circuit board. I didn't have much time to prepare for this booth as I had been busy with work, so while the back ground was fun, I know that in future I could do a more realistic looking backdrop and go into true detail of a circuit board.

We used black background paper and fluorescent 1" gaffer tape (yay for my AC kit) to give the idea. We ordered a black light and I used just the black light with the flash, slowed the shutter down & below is what we got.

Having less light meant that the eyes & skin tones look darker.

We slowed down the shutter on the camera to pick up the glow from the black light.

As you can see, the back ground was fun, it did the trick, but we could do much better next time.

Setting Up

Once you have sussed out your booth location, mount the background to the wall. Ensure that your host or home owners are OK with you taping anything to the wall. In my case, I have quite a large selection of camera and gaffer tape on hand so thats what I used. I suggest camera tape if you are worried about marking the wall. 

Mount the camera on the tripod, attach the flash & remote. Check your framing, you want to save yourself editing. Put your two hot lights to either side of the booth (if required) and position according to your set up. Regarding settings, TEST TEST TEST!! Each time I have created a photo booth the settings have been different, so test your set up first a day or two earlier. By doing this you can also run your test images through your editing software, in my case Lightroom and create a pre-set of edits so when you import your images, you can batch edit all the pics and then later go through them all individually to see which ones worked sharing on social media. 

When my memory card would get close to full or max out, I would download the data onto my laptop while shooting new images. If you stick to dumping and shooting only, you can worry about importing to LR at a later time. That way it won't slow you down. If you want to import into LR on the day, I find having dumped the footage already on the hard drive and then importing without moving the images is a much faster process. Run a batch from your preset and your basic edit is done.  

Last but not least. Don't forget to add your props to a box or basket at the floor of your photo booth. May I suggest rummaging through old halloween costumes to find such accessories. Ensure you know where on the ground to tell people to not step beyond (so they remain in the frame) and you're good to go!! 

A note: I use hot lights because that's what I own. You can use any kind of lighting, get creative with it, share it with me. I would love to see how other people approach shooting photo booths. By no means am I telling you that this is the only way to do a photo booth, this is just the way I do mine.

After The Party 

After you're done editing, you can easily share your images online through social media or if you have a website, using that. If you're feeling extra generous, you could set up a small printer to give everyone their image at the end of the night. Although, truthfully, I haven't done this. It is an added expense. There was one photo booth I did for Lomography LA, where we shot the photo booth with the Diana F+ with Fuji Instax, (you could even use Fuji's own instant camera) giving everyone their image immediately and saving you from editing. It just depends on what your budget is too. Instax is fun but it adds up, it retails at $24.90 per 20 shots.

So wish me luck with my NYE photo booth. I did my test today with a friend and we feel that we are heading in the right direction. I'm very excited about ringing in the new year in a new location with my "newer friends" (They are not that new, I've just never celebrated NYE with them), so with or without the fireworks of Sydney Harbour, we will have a RIPPER of a time.

In the mean time. Have a wonderful new year celebration and if you do any photo booth work, share it with me, I would love to see it.