How I Set Up A Photobooth For My Daughter’s 21st Birthday

As promised in my last post, this update is about a Photobooth that I set up for my daughter’s 21st Party, which worked really well and everyone had fun with.

So what do you need to run the Photobooth?

The basic items that you need are obviously a camera plus a remote trigger (so people can operate the booth themselves) and a laptop with software that the camera connects to, to show them the photo after it’s taken.

For this, I used the Canon EOS utility that automatically downloads the photo from camera to laptop when the camera is tethered, and displays it on screen. So far, so good.

As I didn’t know the place where we were having the party, I took along a couple of backdrops that I bought cheaply on eBay. They came from China and were folded but I stretched them over a background stand for a week with some clamps and that seemed to get rid of the creases quite well.

The theme for the party was Superheroes, so I bought a cartoon picture frame from eBay which worked really well. Here, I taped some long wooden kebab sticks to the back to make it more rigid, then taped it to a background stand a couple of feet in front of the wall.

Now the neat stuff . . .

We borrowed a digital projector which enabled us to project a slideshow onto the wall.

At the start of the night it was showing pictures of Vicky when she was younger that we’d collected and scanned – it’s the duty of all parents to embarrass their children at events like this!

What I really wanted to do was have a slideshow of the photos that were being taken in the Photobooth, but the slideshow programs that I had would only show photos that were in a folder when the slideshow was started – so they wouldn’t update with new photos as they were being taken.

After some Googling, I found and installed a piece of software called FastStone Image Viewer that would continually update a slideshow with new photos, it also has loads of cool transition effects.

Obviously only JPEG files can be displayed (this software isn’t designed to work with Raw files) so I had to shoot in JPEG only (normally I shoot in Raw+JPEG) but that was the only drawback, and since these were fun photos not artistic masterpieces it was OK. It was then a case of simply setting up the camera in the right place with a 50mm lens on my full-frame 5D mk2.

I chose to leave the camera in autofocus mode, with a single centre autofocus point. In hindsight this was a mistake as some shots where there were two people and a gap between them had a sharp background but the people were soft.

Here are a couple of BTS shots of the set up before the party started (click the photo to enlarge);

What I could have done was get the focus right and then switched to manual mode so it didn’t change or select multi-point focus and let the camera find the people in the scene.


At the start of the evening it was quite bright but as it got darker I had to decide between switching on some lights in the hall – which wasn’t good for the disco – or setting up some of my lights. I decided to set up one of my continuous LED light panels on a stand with a shoot through umbrella to diffuse the light and soften the shadows.

I could have gone with flash and triggers but that was getting quite complex and recycle times might have become an issue – people seemed to love taking lots of shots one after another. Since I have 3 LED panels and 4 charged batteries I knew I’d have enough power to last, and using continuous lights meant not missing any shots.

Again, with hindsight, I could have made the lights slightly brighter or put two LED panels together for extra brightness. But all in all I was quite happy with how it turned out and everyone seemed to love taking their own pictures and seeing the results up on the wall a few seconds later.



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