Amazon Photos: How to make a DIY photo booth

This is the fourth in a series of photography tips for Prime members.


A popular feature at special events is the photo booth. You've probably seen one at a wedding, corporate party, reunion, birthday celebration, conference, fundraiser, race or festival, to name a few. Are you the person who runs straight for it and hams it up for the camera as long as you can before the next people in line start grumbling? Or do you beg off and avoid it until you've relaxed a bit, and then saunter by casually and allow yourself to be pulled in, protesting half-heartedly while making sure it gets your good side? (You could also be the person who genuinely doesn't enjoy photo booths, but if that's true, it's not likely that you are reading this article.)

Well, good news! You don't have to wait for the next event to do a photo booth — you can make your own! Here are some things you'll need:


Backdrop

Your backdrop plays an important part in your photo booth. It's a great way to share a message or branding, and it pulls together your photo so that it looks polished and professional. If you are going for a simple look, you can use a solid color backdrop — light colors will look bright and clean, while darker colors add instant depth and elegance. If you don't have a dedicated backdrop and stand, you can use a plain wall, curtain, or hang a sheet from a curtain or shower rod. For the little ones (kids or pets) you can even use a piece of poster board!

If you want something a bit more festive, dress up your backdrop with foil, streamers, lights or other decorations! One easy option is to tape streamers to the top of your backdrop and let them fall to the floor or twist them and tape the bottoms. You can always add banners, garlands or signs to the backdrop, too — just be sure that the stars of the photo (your guests) won't inadvertently cover up any important parts.


Props

Nothing helps people loosen up in front of a camera like a few well-chosen props. Props on sticks are a nice way to offer a lot of creative options that don't require much work or commitment from your guests, and if you think your guests are willing to commit themselves to the photo ops, that is the time to bring out things like wigs, hats, masks and articles of clothing. Small chalkboards or whiteboards are a great way to let your guests express themselves (just be sure to provide lots of chalk or markers, as well as baby wipes to clean up), or you can provide some pre-made signs and posters to highlight the theme of your event. No matter what you choose for props, be sure to have a mirror ready so that your guests can check themselves out before they get their photos taken!


Gear

To get great photo booth photos, you'll need a camera and good light. In addition, you'll want to be sure you can get everyone into the frame, and you'll need a way to take the photo. The easiest approach for consistent photos is to set your camera or smartphone up on a tripod or other support so that you can frame the pictures to get the same view of the backdrop and your guests. The built-in timer on your camera or phone will give you time to set up the shot and jump in yourself, or you can use a remote shutter (trigger) to take the shot once you are positioned.

Remote shutters can be wired or wireless, and there are even smartphone apps you can use to control your camera. If you're using a remote shutter, think about how or if it will show up in the picture — it's pretty common for people to point the trigger or phone directly at the camera, but that's not necessary and it often results in the trigger having a starring role in your photo. You can hide it in your hand, behind a prop, or behind another person so that it's not so prominent! And if you're using a wired trigger, remember to keep it low so that the wire stays out of the photo.

Of course, you don't need to use a remote shutter or timer — you can always ask someone else to take the photo or you can do a selfie. Smartphone cameras are great for photo booth selfies because they are wide angle and can get everyone in the frame, and with a selfie stick, you can get even more people into the frame! If you're using a dedicated camera, be sure to pick a wider angle — 24mm to 35mm is a good start — so that you can get everyone in the shot.

One of the most important parts of any photo is the light, and that is even more critical for photo booth photos. Photo booth photos tend to be bright and sharp, and to get those you need to make sure that you have LOTS of light and that the light is coming from the same direction as the camera (to avoid shadows). You can do this by setting up off-camera lights (strobes or speed lights on light stands) next to the camera, or you can use other sources of light like desk or floor lamps, flashlights or your camera's flash. You can also use natural light if it's available — just set up your backdrop across from the light source (windows, doorways) if you're inside so that the light floods your backdrop, or set up your backdrop in an outdoor area that offers good light without casting shadows or glare.

Once you've got your backdrop, props and gear, all you need is to add your guests and let them have fun!


Check out the other tips, including how to make your photos shine, day-in-the-life photography and legacy photos to remember taking. Pick your favorites and print them or take advantage of unlimited photo storage with your Prime membership.

Wenmei Hill is editorial manager at Digital Photography Review.