24 02, 2016

(almost) Everything You Wanted To Know About Photo Booth Lighting – Part 1

Let’s start by agreeing on some terms:

Ambient light: What’s already there at the venue. It could almost none, could be some ugly fluorescents or PAR flood bulbs in the ceiling, could be the sunshine. It might stay the same or it might keep changing, as the sun often does.

Continuous light: a light that is on all the time, one that you bring with you to the event.

    1. Incandescent or tungsten lighting: “old fashioned” light bulbs like the ones that Thomas Edison made practical. They’re cheap but they waste much of the energy that goes into them to create heat.
    2. CFL light bulb

      Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL)

      CFL – Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. Most fit the same household socket as a tungsten bulb. They burn much cooler than incandescent bulbs. When they break, they pose an environmental hazard.

    3. LED bulbs – Light Emitting Diode. These burn cool and are available in many styles. When you get enough of the tiny diodes they can add up to a lot of light! They can come in the form of “ropes” or shaped like convention incandescent bulbs, and also as large arrays.
    4. Halogen bulbs. Bright but hot and pricey. When I say hot I mean HOT – they’ll burn you badly.

Electronic Flash (often referred to as “strobe”). A system that stores power in a capacitor and then dumps it into a flash tube very quickly, making great intensity for a very short time. Think of it as “lightning in a glass tube.” That means you can use a high shutter speed on your camera – up to 1/160 or 1/200 on most cameras, and the ambient lighting stops having much affect on your photos.

You still need some continuous lighting coming from approximately the same area as the flash so your subjects can see to pose and so the camera can autofocus. Most studio strobes have a modeling light to fill this function.

Advantages of continuous light:

  • You can use it with any kind of a camera – it doesn’t need to be connected to either the camera or the computer.
  • It’s relatively cheap
  • There are no questions about it: it’s either on or it’s off.

Disadvantages of continuous light:

  • You can’t use high shutter speeds to freeze subject motion unless the light is extremely bright or you set your ISO (film speed) really high. So some of the photos of your subjects will probably be blurry, particularly if they’re active
  • It doesn’t overpower the ambient light, so you might get shadows or bright areas from a bulb right over your booth or from the sunshine.
  • Your guests won’t really know when the photo is taken

Almost all cameras have a built-in, pop-up flash

Using the camera’s built-in flash, the advantages

  • Almost all point and shoot or DSLR cameras have a built-in flash
  • The connections are built-in so you need no cords
  • The high effective shutter speed freezes action so your subjects aren’t blurred.

Worries about the built-in flash

  • It’s small and close to the lens, so the lighting is kind of harsh
  • The recycling time for the flash sets an absolute minimum for the time between shots.
  • If you’re shooting on battery power that recycle time gets longer and longer until you run out of juice.
  • I suspect (don’t have any reliable statistics) that built-in flash units won’t last long in the intensive use they get in a photo booth.
  • Built-in flash units are not very powerful.
  • You’ll still need a separate modeling light.
Alien Bee monolight studio strobe

Alien Bee monolight studio strobe

Advantages of a separate flash (strobe):

  • It’s really bright for a short period of time – usually less than 1/500th of a second.
  • Its light is about the same color as daylight, and it’s consistent.
  • If your camera is set to a high shutter speed the flash will overpower ambient light, so you get fewer shadows and hot spots.
  • The short duration of the flash has the effect of a very high shutter speed – it freezes action so your subjects aren’t blurred.
  • You and your subjects can tell each time the camera fires.

Disadvantages of separate flash:

  • It’s a pain in the neck to hook it up to a camera.
  • Some cameras (webcams) don’t have a way to connect a flash at all.
  • Good flash guns are bulky.
  • Flash units need power, and AC power is best if the flash is going to be used a lot (such as in a photo booth.)

(This is part 1 of 3 segments on lighting for the photo booth)

Blog contributor Chris Lydle is author of The Photobooth Book

17 02, 2016

Here’s my card – oops, I don’t have any…

The prospect has just gone through your booth and she’s really excited. Getting married in 6 weeks and she’d like some more information.

You dig through all your pockets and come up empty. Not a business card in sight.

BizCardWhatHappensAnd yet you’re standing right next to a high quality printer that can spit out full color prints on thick paper in just seconds. Here’s a simple way to be prepared:

Create a 2″ x 6″ design that you can save on the desktop of each and every computer in your vast empire. I did this one in Photoshop but you can use your favorite graphics program or even hire it done.

At any moment between sessions you can minimize your photo booth software, right-click on the card file and select “print.” Be sure that the 2″ cut is still enabled in your printer.

Since so many of our prospects are using phones I added a QR code that takes them right to the website.

Cost: about 8 cents a card, depending on your media cost. Results: priceless

For most printers, you’ll want the overall image size 1240 x 1844 pixels at 300 dpi.

Like any other procedure, you should try this out before you really need it. You do not want to do this for the first time at a wedding and find out you’ve inadvertently reset the printing preferences of your printer!

Blog contributor Chris Lydle is the author of The Photo Booth Book.

Some good feedback on this topic:

Mark Reed We also have a digital copy of our card on our phones where we can say – “certainly, how about I text or email you our card?” that also gets you their contact info on the spot without really pushing for it.

Neb Milbourn I also have it set as profile 9 in My booth software. I set it to take only one picture that doesn’t actually print on the strip. That way I don’t have to exit the software. (Neb uses Breeze software)

Ninos Evripidou What I do is that I have printed pockets to put the photos in, so anyone who has his pic taken in my booth automatically has my card as well.

Mike Griffin That’s cool. Something I do is take their phone number and text them my website and include the date they inquired about. This allows me to follow up. Gotten many bookings this way as opposed to giving them a card.
9 02, 2016

Your printer shouldn’t ever let you down

On all the photo booth forums you’ll  see desperate pleas that read something like “I’m at an event and my printer won’t print. HELP”

The best time to address these problems is before they crop up. Here are a baker’s dozen “rules” that can help:

USB cords from the printer should always go into the same port of the computer

A label to make sure the USB cord always goes into the same port

Rule #1 – Always plug the USB cord for the printer into the same USB port on your computer.

Why?   Because often, if you plug it into a different port the computer will install it as a new printer, probably make it the new default, and your booth software may not want to send files to the new location. I always plug my printer into a USB port on the left of any computer, and put a label on the computers so my attendants will use the correct port.

Rule #2 – Turn on the printer before you turn on the computer. This reduces the chance that your computer will try to install the printer a second time.

Make sure the 2" cut is enabled and that you've chosen the correct print size to match your photo booth printer's paper size.

Set printing preferences in Windows as well as in your photo booth software

Rule #3 – Make sure your printer’s default settings are set correctly in the computer’s device and printer setting. Set them in Windows, not your booth software. That means making sure that your printer is set to:

  • The right paper size (4”x6”, for example)
  • The right orientation portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal). This isn’t intuitive.
  • Advanced settings: if you want 2”x6” prints, you’ll need to make sure that the 2” cut is enabled.

Rule #4 – Most photo booth software also has a place to set the printer defaults. You want to make sure that the booth software and the Windows setting are the same. When you save a profile in Breeze, for example, be sure to save the printer settings along with each profile.

Rule #5 – Take the ribbon and the paper out of the printer before you transport it. You may have a streak of 50 loaded transports where nothing went wrong, do you want to take a chance? Every printer manufacturer and every paper vendor strongly advises this simple procedure.

Rule #6 – Empty out the printer’s scrap tray. Dye sub printers leave a short strip from cutting prints apart. They can jam if not removed from the catch tray before moving the printer.

Rule #7 – Extreme temperature changes can cause media to “sweat” and possible stick. Be sure to let your paper and ribbon warm to room temperature before use if they’ve been stored or transported in the cold.

Carry your media outside the printer

Carrying paper and ribbon in the printer during transport can lead to tears and jams.

Rule #8 – You’re going to have left-over paper when the ribbon runs out. That’s normal and the left-over paper has no real value. The ribbons will make exactly the number of prints you paid for.

Rule #9 – When you put your ribbon back into the printer after transport, it will usually automatically find the next usable portion. Print at least one test print after switching media.

Rule #10 – A few printers have a backwind feature so that you can make 4×6 and 6×8 prints on the same media. If you have one of these and don’t activate the backwind feature in the advanced settings, you’ll waste half of your expensive ribbon.

Rule #11 – Carry some extra cables. USB cables for the printer have a tendency to get lost or defective at the worst possible time.

Rule #12 – A good dye sublimation printer is possibly the most expensive and important component of your photo booth. Modern printers are made to precise specifications and are extremely reliable. But they will go “whacko” at the worst possible time, so carry an extra printer. That’s what distinguishes the professional from the amateurs.

Rule #13 – Use layouts that match your printer. Most current printers print 300 dots per inch (DPI) but for a 4″ x 6″ print they expect a file that’s about 1240 x 1840 pixels. That’s because they need a little waste area around the edges so that color goes all the way to the trimmed sides. The older Sony UP-DR200 worked at 334 DPI and expects a image file 1382 x 2048 pixels. One reason why strip designs have to be made with the specific printer in mind. If your backup printer uses a different size layout than your primary, practice before you’re put under pressure.

Blog contributor Chris Lydle is the author of The Photo Booth Book.

9 02, 2016

Make Events More Social with an Instagram Printer

Today we have a guest blogger – Chris Johnson from HootBooth Photo Booth – to explain more about that ever elusive question everyone has about hashtag & Instagram printing.


What is Instagram?

Instagram is a mobile photo sharing social media site that enables people to take pictures and share them on the Instagram mobile app. Most Instagram posts are ‘tagged’ with a hashtag which allows an image to be searched for, and easily found, by other Instagram users.

To put into context just how popular Instagram is here are some eye-popping stats:
– There are 75 million active users per day on Instagram!*
– Daily Instagram image posts now outpace Facebook image posts!
– 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35; 51% are males and 49% are females.*

What Is A Hashtag?

Hashtags are keywords attached to a post on Instagram that are used to organizes and locate images on Instagram. A hashtag keyword is always preceded by the pound sign (#). For example, a hashtag could be a bride and groom’s wedding hashtag (#sueandtedgotwed) or a company’s brand name (#nikon).

It is now very popular at weddings and corporate events for a unique hashtag to be printed on cocktail napkins and custom signage to encourage guests to take photos at the event with their iPhones and other mobile devices, tag the photo with the event hashtag, then post these images to Instagram. By doing this, all the event guests can quickly view the images via the Instagram social media app.

A Photo Booth For The Instagram Generation!

Hoot-Hashtag-Instagram-PrinterWhile traditional photo booths are here to stay, there is a new type of the photo booth experience that taps into the growing popularity of Instagram. Meet the Hoot #Hashtag Instagram Printer kiosk, a self-contained kiosk with an integrated dye-sublimation printer and a beautiful tablet-based touchscreen display with smart software that continuously scans the Instagram social media site for the unique event hashtag and creates a photo gallery of all the images on the kiosk’s touchscreen display. The kiosk has two printing modes and can be set to auto-print each image or can print each image on-demand; for the latter mode, the user simply locates the image on the kiosk’s photo gallery and selects the image to print. The images are printed on 4×6 print media and the print template can be customized to include the event hashtag, the Instagram post comments and custom artwork, such as corporate branding, on the print template.

An Instagram Printer is a great service to add to an existing photo booth rental business. However, we are also seeing event rental businesses that are focusing exclusively on Instagram Printing, especially those that cater to corporate clients who use Instagram Printing at brand activations and trade shows to promote their brand.

Adding Instagram Printing service to your rental business is as simple as purchasing an Instagram Printer and adding this new service to your website. It is optimal to have a dedicated webpage for this new service. We find that corporate and event clients aged 35 and younger immediately understand the Instagram Printer service and the benefits (and fun!) it provides. Most rental companies will price the Instagram Printing service at the same price or about 20% more per hour as a traditional photo booth.

As noted above, when the Instagram Printing kiosk is set to ‘print-on-demand’ mode, the kiosk can be left unattended and guests can locate their image in the kiosk’s photo gallery and then select the image to print it. If a company or rental business utilizes an attendant for the Instagram Printer, we recommend the use of a ‘Hashtag Wall’ where prints are auto-printed and an attendant pins them to a wall for guests to pick up during the event. Also, a roving ‘Instagram Photographer’ is a great add-on service. This person can take photos with their mobile device, post them on Instagram for the party goer and add these prints to the ‘Hashtag Wall’.


If you are considering adding an Instagram Printer to your rental lineup, contact us at HootBooth Photo Booth. Our Hoot #Hashtag Instagram Printer is so innovative that it was named one of the ‘Best New Photo Industry Products in 2015’ by Rangefinder Magazine. We offer both a fully assembled Instagram Printer and an Instagram Printer ‘enclosure only‘ option.

We are happy to answer your questions about Instagram Printing and our full lineup of photo booth kiosks!

*Source: http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/

This post has been sponsored by HootBooth Photo Booth.