Basic camera settings for the photo booth

If you’ve gotten into the photo booth business without spending too much time as an old-school photographer, you might find this basic guide to exposure handy.

There are 4 variables:

One is the amount of continuous light. If you don’t use a flash unit, this is the only light that makes an exposure. If you do use a flash (sometimes called a strobe) you’ll want some continuous light so the camera can see to focus and so the guests can see what they’re going to look like.

However, the other three variables are under your control. In most cases the photo booth software overrides the physical buttons and dials on your camera.

ISO – the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor or film to light. Years ago it was called ASA. In the film era, 400 was very fast.

100      200      400      800      1,600      3,200        6,400
Lower numbers give sharper photos with better color. Higher numbers look grainier or noisier, but you don’t need as much light.

Shutter Speed – how long does light get into the camera during the shot?

1 sec   1/2   1/4   1/8   1/15   1/30   1/60   1/125   1/250   1/500   1/1,000   1/2000   1/4000th second
Longer exposure let in more light                                            Shorter exposure lets in less light
Longer exposure means more motion blur                           Shorter exposure gives less blur, stops action

Lens opening/aperture/f-stop (these numbers are the bottom half of a fraction)

f1.4                 f2             f2.8             f4           f5.6            f8                 f11           f16           f22           f32
Large f-stop lets in more light                                                                                      Small  f-stop lets in less light
Large f-stop gives less depth of field                                                                           Small  f-stop gives more depth of field

You can’t always get what you want (Mick Jagger said that). Sometimes you have to trade off one setting for another.

If you use a flash (strobe), changing the shutter speed won’t change brightness. Why? Because the flash itself has a very short duration. It’s brilliant for about 1/500th of a second or less.  So whether you set a shutter speed of 1/30th or 1/200th of a second, the “brilliance” arrives on target for only that 1/500th. The short exposure effectively freezes action.

Most cameras can’t use flash at shutter speeds higher than 1/200th of a second. If your photos are partially black, try lowering the shutter speed (going from 1/500th to 1/125th, for example).

If you see something like the photo below, try setting your flash speed to a slower setting.


Blog contributor Chris Lydle is the author of The Photo Booth Book: a business guide to photo booth operations. Learn more




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Red Carpet January Photo Booth Templates for VIPs

Roll out the Red Carpet!  Our January Photo Booth Templates are now available for VIP Club Members to download for FREE!  If you aren’t yet a VIP Club member, check out the benefits of joining here.

Red Carpet Photo Booth Templates

VIP’s we’re also taking requests for February.  If you are looking for a specific theme, post in the VIP Club section of the forum.  We’re keeping a list of popular requests, so if we don’t get to your design request right away, we will keep it in mind for future releases.

alex lugo - it awesome

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$3.75 Branded USB Flash Drives – Limited Time

Now through Tuesday, January 12 take advantage of our supplier’s special Trade Show pricing and pick up some USB Flash Drives to distribute photos to your customers.  They are currently priced at $3.75 each, with single color logo printing on one side and free shipping within the 48 Contiguous United States.  50 piece minimum order.  Flash drives are available in 34 housing colors, with eight clip color options, allowing for up to 272 different color combinations.  Order at

VIP Club Exclusives

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Aspect Ratios and Why They Matter:

aspectRatiosThe camera you choose and the printer you choose almost lock you into certain design elements.

Most point-and-shoot cameras like the Canon Power Shots have an aspect ratio – the relationship of photo height to width – of 4:3. That means the photographs are 1.33 times as wide as they are high when you are taking a horizontal (landscape) photograph.

Most DSLR cameras (the ones with removable lenses) have an aspect ratio of 1.5:1. That means the photographs are 1.5 times as wide as they are high when you are taking a horizontal (landscape) photograph. You could also express this as 2:3

If you want each photograph to be 2 inches wide – the most popular width for a photo booth strip – a P&S camera will make an image 1.5 inches tall. Four images stacked on top of each other, with no space between them, would be 6 inches tall. That would make an image 2” wide and 6” tall, the most popular strip size for a photo booth. There would be no space between them and no room to add artistic elements, and you would have absolutely the largest size for the faces of the subject possible.

Two variations of the design: the 4-up version uses 2:3 aspect ratio images, the 3-up uses 4:3 aspect ratio

Two variations of the design: the 4-up version uses 2:3 aspect ratio images, the 3-up uses 4:3 aspect ratio

Using a DSLR camera (or any other camera with a 1.5:1 aspect ratio) for the same exercise each photo would be 1.33 inches tall and 2 inches wide. Stacked four high, your images would total 2” x 5.33” – leaving .67” of white space on a 2” x 6” photo strip.

If you use only 3 images, with a maximum width of 2” per image, the 4:3 aspect ratio of a point and shoot camera will leave you 1.5” for your graphics at top, bottom and between shots.

3 images taken with a DSLR camera will leave you 2” for graphics.

Usually you’ll end up making your individual shots narrower than the full width of the paper, which means they’ll also be shorter from top to bottom. More room for graphics.

Cameras with the 4:3 aspect ratio give you a little taller image space, which can be handy when you’ve got short guests standing on tip-toe to get their heads in the photo.

Most commercial templates are designed for photos taken with the 1.5:1 aspect ratio, and if you use a Power Shot you’ll lose a little from the top and bottom of each photo. That can lead to guest complaints.

The most recent version of Breeze Systems’ PSRemote software offers a handy new option. You can select DSLR emulation and the software will automatically crop your individual pics to the 1.5:1 aspect ratio. It will also mask the live preview on your computer monitor so your guests won’t see areas that won’t make it into the final print.

How you set software to crop point and shoot images to the same aspect ratio as DSLRs

How you set software to crop point and shoot images to the same aspect ratio as DSLRs

So you can safely buy Cherie’s templates, for example, and know that you won’t need to redesign them.

Most of the templates in the site’s marketplace actually come as sets of templates: 1 for 3-photo 2x6s, 1 for 4-photo 2x6s, and one for 4×6″ prints. The 3-up versions have openings for images in the 4:3 aspect ratio while the 4-up versions have openings for images in the 1:1.5 aspect ratio.


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5 Weeks of Giveaways – Week 5

Week 5

Thanks to our friends at Imaging Spectrum, we are giving away the awesome new Brava 21 Photo and Sticker dye-sub printer, valued at $699.

Imagine being able to print photos or photo quality stickers from the same printer. Now you can. Available now from Imaging Spectrum, the Brava 21 utilizes standard and proven dye-sub printer technology that can print on regular dye-sub photo quality paper or print on photo quality sticker media. Some of our key accounts have been asking for just such a printer for over a year now and we finally found a printer that meets our demands for high quality at a reasonable price. Photo stickers have been wildly popular in Japan for several years – now that popularity is starting to catch on in the US market. Visit the photo booth of your local mall or amusement park and you are likely to find photo stickers as an option.

For any photography business, whether event photography, wedding and party photo booths, photo marketing, or senior portraits, the flexibility and creativity of stickers can set your business apart and help you sell more. For example:

  • 2×6 photo booth strips, one strip for guest, one strip to stick to photo album for bride and groom.
  • Create custom shaped photo stickers for parties and events with hand held die cutters.
  • Mix photos, marketing messages and branding with stickers – we’ve had requests for ski helmets, skate boards, back of cell phones, running events, school lockers, bumper stickers; the list goes on.
  • No longer a lab-only product, you can now offer seniors or children photo stickers on the spot.
  • Click here to read more about the Brava 21 on our blog.



josef Pichler - would be cool to win this printer.

Steve LeBlanc - Pick Me!

Jamie - ok it’s time for us Canadians to win woo hoo

orlando photo booth rental - The sticker option on this would really be great, entered, hope we win!

Douglas Wydler - Thanks

Murray Englander - Would be a nice addition to the fleet!

dean - i have a good home for this printer. pick me pick me pls

steve marshall - I would love to have one

Eric Nauert - This would be an awesome addition to my business!!!

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