Introduction: DIY Portable Wedding Photo Booth

While planning for our wedding we decided that it would be great to use a photo booth as our guest book.  After looking at rental costs I decided to take it upon myself to build my own, and since I like projects like this I thought it sounded like a lot of fun!

Since our wedding was taking place several states away it had to be easily portable.  And since it was our wedding it had to look as professional as possible, and be fully automated.  With those basic requirements and a lot of work I ended up with something that everyone was happy with, including my wife!

1) Photo Booth Software
2) Equipment
3) Start Button
4) Booth Frame
5) Booth Panels
6) Conclusion

If you enjoy this instructable please check out some of my other projects at

Step 1: DSLR Remote Pro

The first item that I solved was what photo booth software to use.  I wanted something that automated the entire process, you click a button and eventually your photos get printed out.  That is the limit to the user interaction that I wanted.

Since I was attempting to make due with many of the resources I had around the house I was limited to a windows operating system, and all of the apple solutions were no longer an option.  I couldn't justify a new computer for this project!  

After looking at the price and features I settled on DSLR Remote Pro.  This has a photo booth mode that looked perfect, with just enough customization to get what I wanted.  There were versions of the software for both Canon & Nikon cameras, and the price was very reasonable when compared to the cost of the commercial photo booth software I found.

Display Screens

The software allows you to design custom display screens with operating instructions to the people in the booth.  These custom screens allowed me to reuse some graphics from our wedding website, and although I'm sure no one noticed I thought that this was a nice touch.

I created 4 screens that the user would see with different static text. 
1) Start Screen
     Displays a quick instruction on how to start the photo booth.
2) Count Down Screen
     The screen image does not contain any text, but the software will display a countdown timer and show what picture it is currently taking.
3) Smile Screen
     Displayed before the camera snaps the picture for ~ 1 sec.
4) Processing screen
     Displayed after all the pictures have been taken, a progress will show as the final photo strip image is created and sent to the printer. 

Print Options

There print options provided by the software were overkill for what I needed, and it really only took a few test prints to get exactly what I wanted.  Four photos per page, with the set of four duplicated on one 4x6 print.  The idea here was that after the photos have printed our guests could cut the photo in half with a pair of scissors, taking one copy of the print with them and dropping the other copy in a box for us.

We'll take all of the copies and eventually frame them into what will be our guest book.  I did get away from one of my requirements here by forcing our guests to cut the print in half.  That is more interaction than I originally wanted, but really couldn't figure an easy way around it.  In the end it worked out just fine, and no one seemed to mind.

Step 2: Equipment

To complete the project there were several pieces of equipment that I would need to put together to complete the photo booth.

1) Laptop 
     I have an older windows XP laptop I use for arduino coding that I thought would serve well
2) Camera
     The whole reason for building my own photo booth was so that I could finally have a reason to purchase a new dslr camera!  I rationalized it as for the rental cost of the booth I could build it myself and keep the camera.  While it didn't exactly work out that way, it was close enough.  :)
     I settled on the Canon 2Ti.  While it is way overkill for this project it's a camera that should last me a decade, and it certainly took great photos on our honeymoon.  The camera was mounted on top of the monitor using a gorrillapod dslr flexible tripod.  It isn't shown in the photos since a camera was needed for the photos.
3) Printer
    I was able to purchase a discontinued Epson PictureMate new off of ebay for ~$50.  The reviews on it I read were correct, 4x6 prints really do look like they came from the photo lab.  One ink cartridge lasted for all of my test prints, and all of the wedding photos.  I clearly underestimated how long these would last, as I have 2 unused cartridges left over.
4) Monitor
    I had an old dell 17" widescreen monitor I wanted to use as the video display inside of the photo booth.  This would allow those inside to see the live video feed, and adjust their faces accordingly.  

By placing the laptop outside of the photo booth it allowed people standing near it to see the live feed of the camera inside.  This lead to a few funny moments when people in the booth didn't realize they could be seen outside, I would highly recommend this!

Step 3: Start Button

Inside of the photo booth I wanted the user to press a button to kick off the entire process.  I didn't want people fiddling with keyboards and mice though.  The software I was using allowed for the use of an external button as the trigger.  Now I could have gone and purchased the Stealth Switch they recommend on the website, but what fun is there in that!

Instead I found the largest illuminated button that I could on ebay, and a week later I had a 4" diameter glowing red start button.   Link to instructions for DSLR Pro Software:

To interface that to the laptop I hacked an old serial cable, and soldered pins 1 & 4 to the contacts of the button.  I had a 12 volt power supply for another upcoming project I temporarily requisitioned, and used to provide the illumination power.  A quick test with a multimeter showed that it worked as expected.

Since my laptop did not have a serial port I dug out a usb-serial conversion cable and plugged in my new arcade button.  The software has a separate button software application that will monitor a serial port for button presses.  I configured it to listen to the correct serial port and to provide the correct button press to the photo booth software to start the sequence.  A quick test proved that the button was ready for use, and it was time to start the building the enclose.

Step 4: Frame

Now that I had the internal electronics functioning it was time to start working on the frame of the photo booth.  I had originally considered making the frame out of wood, but quickly realized that it would not be possible to pack up the end product in my car and drive it across three states.  I ended up settling on a PVC plastic frame.  It is light enough for transport, easily breaks down, quick to cut, and pretty inexpensive. 

Unfortunately the local home depot does not sell the necessary corner joints to build structures out of PVC.  I found a small online vendor that sold furniture grade PVC , and offered the 3 & 4 way joints I was looking for.  I opted to go with 3/4" PVC pipe that offered the best price/weight/strength combination of the available sizes.  Link to PVC joint supplier:

Once I had collected all of the PVC parts I started to experiment and determine the proper dimensions.  The height of the booth should be ~ 6', and the width should be 40".  This width  would allow two chairs placed next to each other to fit easily, and that height would allow some privacy for the people in the booth.

I first built the frame that would enclose the electronics.  This would be 18" in length, and provide a shelf at waist height to hold the camera & monitor in place.  I found that the weight of the monitor was too much without some additional support, and I came up with the two PVC support legs you can see in the picture below. 

The second part of the frame would be where the two chairs are placed.  This mirrors the electronics enclosure in size (6'x40"x18"), but is left open on one.  The two large frame structures are then connected by two additional pieces of PVC that were 30" in length to tie everything together and complete the structure.

The shelf was made from scrap pieces of an old Ikea headboard, and contains a small support for the red start button.  You may notice some pipe pieces are black. These were spray painted since some portions of these pipe may be visible once fully assembled.

Parts Breakdown
10 3/4" PVC Pipes
10 3/4" T Joints
2 3/4" Elbow Joints
10 3/4" 3-Way Joints
12 3/4" 4-Way Joints
Scrap wood for shelf

Step 5: Fabric Curtains

To cover the PVC frame I thought the easiest thing would be to make fabric panels that would go over the top of the frame.  To fasten the panels to the PVC I chose to use Velcro.  I found 15 foot rolls of velcro at Jo Ann's fabric for a reasonable price.

The one problem with my method of covering the frame is that I do not know how to sew, nor do any of my friends.  Nor do any of us own a sewing machine.  I probably should have thought this through more!  Purchasing a sewing machine was more than I wanted to do for this project, but I did remember about fabric tape.  Fabric tape can be used for hemming items without actually sewing anything.  When heated by an iron it basically melts, forming a bond with the two pieces of fabric as it cools.

As a heads up to anyone thinking about something similar, this took a lot of fabric.  It was ~$120 worth of fabric to cover the entire booth.  And making fabric panels with the use of fabric tape takes a long time.  It certainly works and will get the job done, it just took me twice as long for this portion of the project as I thought it would.  I think the sewing machine is definitely the way to go, but fabric tape will work.

For the electronics enclosure I used 6' pieces of fabric with velcro strips on the top and bottom of the panels.  It took 3 panels total to completely enclose the frame.  The PVC frame for this part had matching velcro attached all the way around the top and bottom.  When the panel is connected to the velcro you can then tighten the panel by turning one of the pvc pipes. 

Once the electronic panels were completed I cut out a square area in the front panel large enough to display the monitor and the camera.  An 11x17" picture frame just happened to fit perfectly over the cut fabric edges, and I was able to hold the frame in place with thumb tacks.  This left it easy to assemble/disassemble.

The other half of the photo booth frame would require a two 12' long fabric panels.  These were made to drape over the top of the frame, and attach both sides to the bottom pvc pipe along the floor with velcro.  One side of each panel was sealed using the tape so that it presented a smooth finished look when people walked into the booth.

Once all of the fabric panels were completed I made two door panels and one photo backdrop panel to match the color of our wedding.

Step 6: Conclusion

In all I would call my photo booth a great success.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy it throughout the night, and we got some great pictures.  It was nice to be able to contribute something to the wedding that shows what I like to do in my spare time.  Once it was completed I was shocked to find that I could fit the entire booth (including 11x17 frame & shelf) into a large black duffel bag.  That certainly met my largest requirement of being able to transport it.

Two things I would do different:
1) Get a sewing machine.  The velcro did not like to be attached with fabric tape, but I did find the extra strength type held well enough to setup the booth a few times.  I also think I would have saved a few hours making panels.
2) Purchase the dc adapter for your camera.  I used 3 batteries throughout the night, and had to reposition the camera each time as a result of changing one out. 

Since it stores so nicely we will definitely keep the booth parts in the attic, and I'm positive it will make an appearance at some party in the future.  I hope this inspires you to use a photo booth at your next event!
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