11 10, 2016

5 Tips to Begin Attracting Corporate Photo Booth Clients

“How do I get corporate clients?” This is one of the most asked questions in the photo booth industry, and the answers are some of the most guarded secrets amongst those who have moved up the food chain and made a name for themselves in the corporate world. There is no blue print to success, but there are points on a map that will get you closer to where you want to be.

By no means am I the foremost expert on this topic.  But, I’ve been around the block enough times to know what it takes to begin attracting clients that are willing to pay for expert level service. So, really what does it take to break out of the wedding mold and jump into corporate photo booth work? Here are a few things that helped me.

Network, Network, Network. Yeah, we hear people say that all the time, but with whom should you be networking? Million dollar question? No. The answer is simple if you really think about it. Who plans corporate events? Corporate Event Planners, that’s who.  Now ask yourself what groups corporate planners join to network.  Hmm…Bizzabo Blog sites the following in their article: Ten Event Planning Associations Organizers Should Know

  • ILEA: International Live Events Association
  • NACE: National Association For Catering And Events
  • ESPA: Event Services Professional Association
  • MPI: Meetings Professionals International
  • ICCA: International Congress And Convention Association
  • GMIC: Green Meetings Industry Council
  • CEMA: Corporate Event Marketing Association
  • IAVM: International Association Of Venue Managers
  • NCBMP: National Coalition For Black Meeting Planners
  • Eventovation: A Community For Anyone In The Events Industry

Work for Free. What?!?  Yes, work for free, and this might be the only time that I ever suggest this. Once you decide which organizations that you want to start seeking out, offer to showcase your services at one of their membership events. Essentially you will be offering an in-kind sponsorship. Be sure to ask for inclusion in the event program, vendor mentions and sponsor listings. Also do not neglect to put your logo and website details on the final prints.  Utilize social media sharing stations to further increase the reach of your brand message. Do this by making sure that photos are sent in e-mail form and that you have a custom designed HTML email that is mobile friendly and highlights your company and services. When you set up sharing via text message, make sure the event guests are led to your custom microsite to download their images. (Click here to see an example of my own custom microsite that matches my website.)  This will give you the opportunity to share your message with guests that choose to text their photos instead of email.  Do whatever you can to make sure people that are at the event know who you are and what you do.

Offer services that corporate clients are seeking.  Run of the mill photo strips won’t cut it these days (at least not most of the time).  Just like you, corporate event planners want to stand out from their competitors with a unique and memorable experience for event-goers.  They are looking for outside the box solutions while keeping much of the on-screen experience inside the box. So much of the guest experience is lost without seeing on-screen visual cues.  This is precisely why the face of event photography has forever changed and photo booths have wedged their way in. ‘Experiential Photography” and “Photo Marketing” are terms really sum up what brands are after. So what services are corporate clients looking for?

  • GIFs, GIFs and more GIFs. Regular 3 or 4 frame looping GIFs, Green Screen GIFs, Immersive GIFs (GIFs that appear to be placing people into a scene) and Boomerang style Burst GIFs.  These are all options offered with software that is currently available. Photo Booth Upload was the first to offer most of these features, but all three of the other major software developers offer GIF support including Darkroom Booth, Breeze DSLR Remote Pro and Social Booth.
  • Green Screen.  Realistic and immersive green screen capture has been an event staple for decades, and it isn’t going away any time soon.
  • Slow Motion Video. Whether it is slow motion against a blank backdrop or slam dunking a basketball in a real hoop or a green screen one, slow motion video is sought after for corporate activations if it is executed well.
  • Camera Array (also called Bullet Time). Straight up Matrix style camera arrays are a big deal. Smaller arrays with 5-8 cameras are portable enough to take to most events.
  • Light Painting
  • Dubsmash/Karoke Booth
  • Mirror Booths with custom Branding
  • Hashtag Printing
  • ID Card Printing
  • Virtual Reality
  • Air Graffiti Walls
  • Flipbooks
  • 360 Platforms with Video Capture
  • Roaming Photography or Shoot & Share (this one is an outside the booth offering that goes hand in hand with booth offerings)
  • Branded Booths
  • Custom Props
  • Custom Backdrops

Become a Social Sharing Expert.  Learn the ins and outs of using Social Sharing Software like Photo Party Upload or PicPic Social EC. Offer completely custom sharing packages for your corporate clients.  Above, I mentioned custom email and microsites.  This is an area where you can really make your clients shine. Customize the email that event-goers receive when they send their photos to themselves. Make it match the client’s brand. Do the same with the microsite.  With a little bit of HTML & CSS coding, you can do wonders that wow corporate clients and their guests.

If you are going to do photo sharing for corporate clients, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with Internet & Computer networking best practices because this is the number one worst headache that you will come up against when you are on-site at a highly attended event. Signal jams, weak wifi and firewalls are real issues, and they will bring a real pro to his knees if he can’t work through jammed up signals problems. Seye Omisore of PicPic Social wrote this article that can be of assistance with this particular topic.

Show off your work and get found. So you know how to do all the cool stuff.  That’s great. Now post it on your website and social media pages. Give these things searchable names on your website. Tag them on social media with terms that corporate planners are looking for. Beyond showing off the finished work, show examples of your branded booths & custom backdrops. Give people a glimpse of what your custom prop packages look like. Blog your events. Take photos of your set-ups. Capture video of people using your booth. Grab a snap of the mile long line waiting for a chance to get a photo at your booth. Use these to make a promo video. If there is anything that I can do better, this is at the top of my list. We are often so busy prepping and working our events that we forget to take photos of the action. Yet, it is probably the most power visual representation of the experience that comes with your photos, so don’t neglect it.

Bonus Tip: Professional presentation is the real key to making this happen. Without a professionally designed finished product, it’s quite likely that all of your other efforts could be overlooked. You can have all of the technical elements dialed in perfectly, but companies won’t pay top dollar for amateur looking stuff. If you aren’t skilled in design, hire people that can make you look good. Having a good designer in your back pocket can do more for your business than you could ever imagine. (FYI – I am not available for hire, so this is not a sales pitch. I, too, hire out the design for some of my more complex jobs, like immersive GIF because I’m not highly skilled in this genre.)

My best piece of advice is that if you are new to this industry or if you are not skilled with social sharing software, start there. Learn to walk before you run. Start introducing these features with your social clients. Get really good at setting up various sorts of Internet configurations and troubleshooting. Once you have that down, learn the advanced features of your software.  Then start marketing for small corporate jobs when you know your software inside out and know how to handle the myriad of issues that can come up at an event. Master those events, and keep working your way up the ladder.

11 08, 2016

Stand out from the Photo Booth Crowd – Your Website

Websites

It is safe to say the Event Photo Booth industry is well over a decade old now.  When I opened up shop in 2007, there were just two photo booth companies in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  They were pioneers of the photo booth movement, and those two companies essentially got all the business.  They were the go-to referral choices of all of the wedding and meeting planners in the area, and there weren’t any other options.  I think both got their start in 2002 – yes, 14 years ago!

Fast forward to 2016 – I stopped counting my local competitors when I got to 50, and there were dozens more left uncounted.  In my search, I discovered that many of these companies are just offering run of the mill services that were being offered in 2007 when I started boothing. Many of their websites are basic DIY template sites, and I couldn’t find anything worth writing home about.

With the seemingly endless number of photo booth companies to choose from, how does one get noticed? It must be absolutely daunting to the consumer to narrow down the company that they want to work with. Almost every website that I looked at is filled with similar images that convey the same look and feel as almost all of the competitor sites that I viewed.

The first thing this tells me is that if you want people to look at your company differently, you have to look different from your competitors.  What does your website say about your company and what does it say about you?

Does your website say that you do the exact same thing as every other photo booth company in your area? Do your images look similar? How about your booths, do they look just like the other guys’? Do you have the exact same styles of backdrops as you competitor? What are you offering that will stand out to a prospective client and spur them to pick up the phone and call you? When they call, are they going to expect your prices to match your super budget friendly competitor because your website failed to demonstrate that you offer something different and of greater value?

If you don’t want to compete on price, here’s a piece of advice – use your website to help the consumer see that you have something more valuable to offer that is worth more than what your competitors offer. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, so heavy use of imagery is very important. Showing your best photos helps put your best foot forward. Provide lots of examples. Show off your equipment. Give people a visual of what they get when they hire you.

Here are some websites that do an outstanding job of this:

The Photo Booth Guys in Australia & UK – http://photobooth.co

MDRN Photo Booth in Ottawa & Toronto, Canada – http://mdrnphotoboothcompany.com

OMG Booth in Atlanta, GA – https://www.omgbooth.com

Studio Z Photo Booths in NYC – http://www.studiozphotobooths.com

It would be easy to list dozens more, but these sites sends a clear and concise message that these companies are different and worth reaching out to. They are worth paying more for their services. Their websites convey that they pay attention to details in their marketing, and they will pay attention to the details for their clients. So how do you get from a “stuck in 2001 website” to a modern website?

If you aren’t skilled at building websites and lack the creativity to make yours look different from everyone else’s site, I highly encourage you to begin seeking out the help of a professional website designer/developer. Hiring someone does two things: 1) it puts a finite date on finishing the project; and 2) it frees you up to work on growing your business. Website building is not for the faint of heart, and it can drive you mad if you don’t have the skills and willpower to do the job that you envision and complete it.

If you are a creative person and aren’t one to back away from a challenge, you might try building your own site. If you decide to go this route, check out WordPress if you haven’t already. WordPress themes come in abundance and with most modern hosts, you can install and set up WordPress yourself with a few clicks of a button. If you tried it years ago and gave up, try again because with every new WordPress update, it becomes simpler and simpler to work with.

My all time favorite WordPress theme is ProPhoto because it is so easy to work with and is incredibly customizable. This theme was designed for DIY’er.  The developer recently released a responsive mobile friendly updated version (don’t purchase any versions or designs that are for ProPhoto 5 or less). Don’t let the $199 price tag scare you. It’s completely worth it for an easy to use modern interface with loads of setup tutorials and support videos. ProPhoto also offers expert install options if you aren’t comfortable installing the theme on your own (but hey you run a photo booth, you should be able to click a few buttons and make this happen).  The second favorite on my list is Divi by Elegant Themes because it is extremely customizable and provides in-theme tools to create a one of a kind site.  Another list topper is Avada, the best selling theme on ThemeForest. The customization options are nearly endless with Avada, and their support is top notch. If none of these theme options appeal to you, you can search through thousands of WordPress themes on ThemeForest.net to find something that is perfect for the brand message you want to convey. Just make sure you choose something that is responsive and mobile friendly and has a good rating. Lots of sales means lots of documentation and customer support, so keep that in mind when making your choice.

But, if you aren’t comfortable with that, freelance work sites like Upwork.com are filled web developers looking to take your money. Again, just make sure your message and goals are clear.  Provide lots of examples and check their past work.

Other popular DIY website platforms that are responsive/mobile friendly include Wix, Weebly and Big Black Bag.  Each one takes some creativity to customize, and your strategic use of images will be very important as with any website platform.

 

10 07, 2016

Creating or modifying photo strip templates: Part 1

Photo booth strips can be more than just a piece of paper with some photos - graphic elements add to the fun!

A booth strip with a small amount of artwork on the top layer, as it was delivered to the guest.

While many variations of photo booths create different end results, such as images distributed on social media or videos saved for the benefit of the sponsor, the primary output of your photo booth is still a printed strip. That’s a big part of the photo booth experience – the anticipation. The waiting for those pictures to slide down a chute and into your hands. The close inspection, the showing to your friends, the laughter.

Warning: Photoshop talk ahead

There’s no getting around it. If you want to design graphics, you need to have some skill as a graphic designer and that means the ability to work with Photoshop or one of its clones.

Can you skip this? Yes. Software such as the Breeze family and Darkroom Booth have the ability to do some designs entirely within the program, but you are limited in how creative you can be.

When you buy a template from the Photo Booth Talk store or almost anybody else, what you’re going to receive is a Photoshop computer file, otherwise known as a PSD file. So you really have to understand this kind of program.

If you aren’t familiar with such a program, go find someone to help you.

Still here? Good.

Graphic images can be created and saved as several types of computer files, but we’ll be working with only three.

PSD (Photo Shop Document) files are the editable files in which we will actually design our layouts. You can change them as much as you want, add text and layers and special effects, and they remain editable. If you use the right tools and work flow, your images will not lose detail over many iterations.  PSD files are regarded as non-lossy. They will have names like “Chicago.psd” where the file name extension is “.psd”.

They can be saved with multiple layers, allowing subsequent editing of specific elements only. That means when you create a great layout your can add it to your library of stock designs. Offer it to your clients and all you’ll need to do is change the names and the dates.

PSD files can only be seen and used by editing software such as (surprise!) Adobe Photo Shop. Less expensive programs like Adobe Photo Shop Elements and freeware/shareware programs such as GIMP can also handle PSD files.

JPG (Joint Photographic Expert Group), pronounced “jay-peg” files, are a universally-recognized form of compressed image files. They can be seen by just about all computer programs and can easily be printed. They’re a flat file – only one layer – and can not have transparent portions. They will have names like “background.jpg” where the file name extension is “.jpg”.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) are a more recent file type. Like a .jpg file, they are flat. Like a .jpg file, they can be printed and seen by most computer programs. But unlike a .jpg file they allow transparency. So they are the best type of file for an overlay, for design elements that go in front of the photos of your guests. They will have names like “overlay.png” where the file name extension is “.png”.

The most popular type of design for booth strips can be reduced to 3 layers:

photo booth strip as it's being assembled, with an overlay layer about to be dropped onto the pictures.

The photos have been placed by the booth software, and now we’re ready to stack the overlay.png on top.

  • The bottom layer, often named “background.jpg”. If you are going to have all your custom details on an overlay, you don’t need a background layer.
  • The photo layer, which is created by placing the photographs taken during each booth session
  • The top layer, which generally has all the fun design elements – frames, logos, medallions, and possibly the names of the clients or sponsors. Usually named “overlay.png”.

On top of these layers, some software allows you to create easily edited “captions.” These captions might be details that change from one event to another, such as the name of the bridge and groom or the date.

One big advantage of using captions for the changeable data is that this process is done within the booth software rather than being done in a separate program such as Photo Shop. So if you’re at an event and suddenly realized the groom’s name is Kevin, not Kerwin, you can easily change it on the spot.

A disadvantage of captions is that they can’t have special effects such as beveling, following paths, metallic effects or other techniques possible with Photo Shop.

Each brand of photo booth software has its own way of handling your designs, and in the next chapter of this discussion we’ll go into that.

22 05, 2016

Reflectors, umbrellas and soft boxes

OK, I’m still talking about lighting. But that’s because really good lighting does more to improve your photos than buying a new camera or lens will ever do.

No matter what your source of light – continuous bulbs, LEDs, electronic flash – the light becomes better when it’s diffused, soft and big.

Umbrellas are highly portable but can’t be mounted inside a booth cabinet. Many boothers mount the flash and umbrella above the cabinet of a lolly-pop style booth.

UmbrellaIf the flash is facing toward the subject you’ll want a “shoot-through” umbrella. If the flash is facing away from the subject you want a reflective umbrella, where all the light bounces back toward the subjects.

And push the umbrella on its shaft as far back from the flash as you can. That lets the light spread out more, diffusing it and making it softer.

 

Colors:

  • White: A white umbrella gives an even diffused lighting effect with soft shadow definition. The closer to the subject the umbrella is placed, the softer the shadow will be. Thin fabric is also great for a “shoot-through” umbrella.
  • White/Silver: This umbrella softens and broadens the light output from any flash or monolight. It differs from a white umbrella in that it adds a specular highlight to subjects and slightly intensifies the light output. This is NOT a shoot-through umbrella.
  • Black/Silver: The black/silver umbrella provides focused lighting, along with soft shadow definition. It is especially suitable for bringing out structural details in materials. The black backing helps to keep stray light from escaping.
  • Black/Gold: The black/gold umbrella is an all gold reflective umbrella that produces a warm soft, wrap around style lighting perfect for single light portraits. effect.

There’s a big advantage in having the umbrella farther away from the subjects. For example, in having the flash pointing behind the booth and bouncing off an umbrella.

You’re less likely to have the people in the back too dark and the people in the front too light. That’s because the difference in their relative distance from the flash is less if the flash is farther back.

SoftBox

This ProMaster soft box folds into a small storage case about 10″ x 16″ x 3″

A soft box is an alternative to the umbrella. It mounts on the front of the flash (or the flash mounts on the back of it). None of the light is lost, it bounces around the inside of the box and comes out through the diffuser panel in front. It won’t waste light trying to fill up the entire room.

Disadvantage: you’ve got to mount the soft box fairly far back. If you’ve got an open booth at a decent distance from the background that’s OK, but these generally won’t fit in a closed booth configuration. There are soft boxes to fit both studio-type strobes and also shoe-mount flashguns.

If you mount your flash and its modifiers on top of the photo booth, it may get so high that you’re seeing major shadows when the guests wear hats.

 

 

16 03, 2016

(almost) All you wanted to know about photo booth lighting – Part 3

Electronic flash is the king of photo booth lighting

Why?

  • It overpowers ambient light, so it doesn’t matter (much) if stray light is streaming in from the sun or another light source at the venue.
  • It freezes action, because it lasts for such a short time that it mimics a very high shutter speed.
  • Your subjects will definitely know when the photo is taken.
  • The color of the light is about the same color as daylight.
  • Except for the fraction of a second when it actually flashes, it’s not objectionably bright.
  • It doesn’t have to be bulky.

That’s when flash is done right.

Photo of inside of photo booth with Canon G-9 Powershot camera, Alien Bee B-400 strobe, CFL modeling light and power strip.

Inside a home built booth with Canon G-9 Powershot camera, Alien Bee B-400 strobe, CFL modeling light and power strip.

Electronic flash is not always easy to do right

  • You will need more cords: a power cord from AC source to the flash, and a synchronization (sync) cord from the flash to the camera
  • Not all cameras can be used with flash. Only cameras that have either a PC terminal or a “hot shoe” can tell the flash when you want it to go off.
  • You’ll need some kind of modeling light – a continuous light that stays on so the camera can see to focus and the subjects can see what they will look like.
  • The inside of your booth gets even more crowded.
  • You might have to think, and as a fifth-grader once said to my wife “it hurts when I think.”

What’s the difference between a speed light, an electronic flash, and a strobe?

In everyday usage, the terms are interchangeable. Technically a strobe flashes continuously like stage lighting, but photographers tend to use whichever term they want to.

How does an electronic flash work?

The power supply boosts your incoming voltage – whether it comes from batteries or house current – to a higher voltage. Usually about 330 to 500 volts.

The flash charges up a capacitor, a device that holds a lot of “juice” and can dump it very fast. It takes a few seconds to fully charge a capacitor, and the time you wait for this to happen is the recycle time.

The capacitor dumps its charge into the flash tube, which converts the electrical charge into light. Think of it as “lightning in a tube” because that’s exactly what it is.

And just like lightning this high voltage can kill you. Even the tiny flash guns in disposable cameras have enough power to stop your heart. Don’t try taking flash guns apart.

 

Shoe mount speedlights fit directly on top of your camera. That’s got its good points and bad points.

Good points:

  • They are small
  • They hook directly to the camera with no cords
  • They will set the camera’s lens opening and shutter speed automatically

Bad points:

  • Because the flash tube is small, the light is harsh and falls off dramatically.
  • They run on batteries. Good for portability, not for long session.
  • The good ones are not cheap. The cheap ones are not good.
  • They will set the shutter speed for you and that’s not always good. (see below)

Shutter speeds: When you are setting your camera’s lens opening and shutter speed, you should know that changing the shutter speed has no effect on the brightness of the picture if the flash is the only source of light.

That’s because the length of time that the flash is on is the effective shutter speed. If the flash only lasts 1/2000th of a second, the effective shutter speed is only 1/2000th of a second no matter what the shutter is set to. That’s why strobes are so good at freezing action. When your guests get crazy in the booth the flash freezes them in their tracks.

However cameras with a focal plane shutter – such as a DSLR camera – can’t use flash at all shutter speeds. That’s because focal plane shutters use two curtains, which move top to bottom on modern cameras – the ones that can be used photo booths. Cameras like the Canon and Nikon slrs with live view.

These sample photos were taken with a Canon T5. Your camera may give different results.

at 1/30th of a second

at 1/30th of a second

60th

At a 1/60th of second

125th

at a 125th of second

250th

at a 250th of a second (on some cameras, this would be too fast for flash use)

500th

At a 1/500th second part of the image will be blacked out, because there is no one moment when the shutter curtains are completely open.

1000th

It’s even worse at 1/1000th.

Speedlight mounted directly on camera. Runs on batteries, sets the shutter speed automatically, doesn't have a modeling light.

Speedlight mounted directly on camera. Runs on batteries, sets the shutter speed automatically, doesn’t have a modeling light.

Incidentally, cameras like the Canon Powershot series do not have a focal plane shutter and can synchronize with higher shutter speeds. I’ve taken photos at 1/2500th of a second using flash and flash totally overpowers ambient light at those high speed.

Flash units that mount on the accessory shoe of your camera, such as the one shown here, are usually “dedicated”. That means that the extra contacts on the bottom of the flash exchange data with the camera’s computer, and will automatically set the shutter speed of the camera to a low number such as 1/60th of a second. That gives you safety but also means that your photos may be affected by the existing light. I like to use high shutter speeds.

For photo booth use a studio strobe usually makes more sense. The monolight style has a combined head and power pack, reducing the number of cords and the amount of clutter.

Alien Bee monolight studio strobe

Alien Bee monolight studio strobe

This Alien Bee B400 from the Paul C. Buff company is probably the most popular model for photo booth DIY types. Certainly not the only one on the market, but it’s got a reputation for reliability and plenty of power.

There are less expensive flash units out there, but this is a bad area in which to economize.

 

 

Advantages of a monolight:

  • Runs on AC – no batteries needed
  • Recycles very quickly
  • Has a modeling light to show where the shadows will fall and also lets the guests see what they look like. (suggestion – replace the one that comes with your flash with a cool LED bulb if you can)
  • Many have a cooling fan, really valuable in an enclose tower or shell

Disadvantages:

  • You need both an AC cord for the power and a PC sync cord to connect it to the camera.
  • Somewhat bulky.
  • Like any other major component of your flash, you need a back-up “just in case”

The trigger mechanism tells the flash when to perform its magic. Usually a cord does the work, but many flash units also have an optical slave trigger, which triggers the flash when it sees another flash. (turn off or cover the optical trigger so other photographers don’t trip your flash at random.)

More about flash cords and hot shoe adapters.

Baby Pin Plates are a rugged and easy way to mount a studio light with a 5/8" fitting

Baby Pin Plates are a rugged and easy way to mount a studio light with a 5/8″ fitting

Most small studio strobes are designed to mount directly on top of a light stand with a 5/8″ diameter stud. One of the easiest ways to mount them to a cabinet is by using a “baby pin plate,” a steel plate with a stud fastened to it. You can screw, bolt or rivet it to your shell.

 

Pin plates are available with different lengths.

I thought these ramblings about lighting would be over after 3 sections. I was wrong.

Next: reflectors, umbrellas and soft boxes.

In the interests of full disclosure: I’m a member store of the Photographic Research Organization, the company that make ProMaster products. So I’m a little biased in favor of those products.

Blog contributor Chris Lydle