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.

 

12 07, 2016

What if…?

Watch for a big announcement in the coming weeks from the founders of Photo Booth Talk and Photo Booth Network (on Facebook).

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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: Photo Shop 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 Photo Shop 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 Photo Shop computer 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 04, 2016

Photo Booth Expo Special Extended – Join VIP Platinum Today

Photo Booth Expo Special extended for the next 10 new memberships. Join the Photo Booth Talk Platinum VIP Club for $50 off the regular price, plus get a flash drive pre-loaded with all 186 templates in our marketplace for just $249.  Offer expires on April 30, 2016 or when supplies run out, whichever comes first.

For more info, go to https://www.photoboothtalk.com/the-vip-club/

To all those who came to visit me at my booth, thank you. I appreciate all of you so much. xoxo

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