Introduction: Photo Booth
I am a high school engineering and physics teacher who also became the sponsor of the Junior class this year. As Junior class sponsor I am in charge of a number of events that are intended to raise money for Prom. The first of these events was the annual Homecoming dance. As I began looking through the records from past years I noticed that for each dance we were paying anywhere from $650 to $800 to rent a photo booth. I was astounded at the cost and immediately had a whirlwind of ideas floating around in my brain. Was it possible to make a photo booth? If so, we could not only save ourselves the cost of renting the booth for the dances, but could also use it at additional events throughout the year to make even more money for Prom!
I excitedly started Google searching and reading through several peoples attempts at making photo booths for parties and weddings. My problem with what was already out there was that these were intended to be used for personal events, most were a one-time use, and therefore were not as sturdy nor as aesthetically pleasing as I would like for my own photo booth. If I was going to charge people money to use it, this thing needed to look and work like the photo booths you rented from the professionals! For the time I switched my focus over to the wiring and electronic components that would be necessary and began creating a list of materials and their associated costs. That evening my husband and I sat down at our favorite Mexican restaurant and did what all good engineers do: We drew pictures on napkins and argued until we had an amazing idea that we both agreed on (well, MOSTLY agreed upon). The idea for the MCHS Photo Booth was born!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Computer - I use a MacBook Pro that is running Mac OS X 10.7.5. If you want to use the professional dslrBooth software you will need a PC running Windows 7 or 8.
- DSLR Camera - Canon EOS Rebel t3i is my favorite, but any DSLR camera will work!
- Dye Sublimation Photo Printer - The DNP DSRX1 is worth the money ($735+$179 for the 4x6 print kit) if you want it to look professional. It prints a double strip of the photos on 4x6 paper and then cuts it into the two 2x6 strips. If you aren't as concerned about getting a professional looking print, I have heard that the Canon Selphy does a decent job, and it is much cheaper (around $100)
- dslrBooth Software - downloadable from store.dslrbooth.com for $50-$150. A free trial is also available from their website, but the pictures it produces have a watermark.
- USB button - I use the Griffin PowerMate, which can be bought on Amazon for around $30.
- USB hub with 4 ports - this can be picked up at Walmart, Staples, or any other store that sells computers for less than $10. I personally use the USB Hubman.
- 6-Outlet Surge Protector - this can also be picked up at Walmart for less than $10.
- Tripod - I use the Polaroid 57" Tripod, which can be picked up at Walmart for less than $15. Any tripod that fits your camera will do!
- 14 - 2x4x8 boards cut to the following lengths:
- 2' - 12
- 3' - 12
- 6' - 8
- 3' 3" x 6' - 2
- 2' 3" x 6' - 4
- 2' 3.5" x 3' 3.5" - 2
- 3' 3" x 3' - 2
Step 2: Building the Structure
We purchased the wood at Lowes, so to save time we had them cut the pieces to the lengths that we needed right in the store. As you can see in the pictures, we created the photo booth in two parts that could easily go through a door and were manageable for one person to roll and two people to lift.
To make the frames for the photo booth, create 6 boxes by nailing the 2' boards to the interior of the 3' boards. Then nail the 6' boards to the exterior of the boxes you created (on the short sides). For the bench side of the booth one box should be at the top, one box at the bottom, and one box should have its top 17" off the floor. For the electronics side of the booth one box should be at the top, one box should be at the bottom, and one box should have its top 3' off the floor.
Affix four locking casters to the bottom of each unit if desired. These make the photo booth much easier to move into position for events!
The bench is made of four 1x6x8 boards, cut into seven 3' 3" long pieces and nailed to the box that is 17" off the floor.
Step 3: Exterior Covering and Future Plans
We chose to cover the entire exterior and interior surfaces of our booth in black fabric. At the time we thought this was a good decision, as the fabric was cheap and it would allow the booth to be very light. We were concerned that using plywood would make it too heavy for two people to lift. Now that we have used the booth several times, I am not as happy with the decision to use fabric. It gets dirty very easily and at the last dance it was at I had issues with the piece underneath the bench falling off repeatedly. I also have to sew in the monitor and camera every time we set it up, which is an unnecessary waste of time. Next year we will be upgrading the booth to have a plywood exterior, as you can see in the pictures of the plans I created using SketchUp Make. We will paint the front side of the booth with chalkboard paint so that we can write messages for events and all of the other sides will be painted a matte black.
Whether you go with plywood or fabric you need a changeable back drop so that you can update it based upon the season/event. For now we are just using a staple gun to mount the back drops, but once we upgrade to the plywood exterior we will also change this to a curtain rod.
The two structures that make up the photo booth are currently connected with black curtains on each side that I just use the staple gun to mount once we have them in place at events. In the future the back side will be changed to a 4' x 6' piece of painted plywood that will lock into place using heavy duty sliding locks.
Step 4: Electronic Components
How expensive the electronics that you use are really depends on the quality picture that you want to get. We wanted a high quality print that was fully automated so that we didn't have to have someone with knowledge of the inner workings running the thing, and we could charge a decent fee while the customers still feel like they got a good product for the price. There are many photo booth softwares on the market, however after researching A LOT of them I decided to use dslrBooth because it was easy to use, didn't break the bank, had all of the features I was looking for, and was compatible with a dslr camera. Many other softwares use webcams, so if that is more your price range then look for a different software! We also splurged on the DNP DSRX1 dye sub color printer because we were looking for a high quality, quick print that would also cut the 4 x 6 sheets into 2 - 2 x 6 photo strips. The final main components were a USB button to get the whole thing started and a couple clamp lights! We went with the Griffin Powermate and two cheap clamp lights from Lowes.
I already had the camera, monitor, laptop, tripod, usb man, power strip, and all of the accompanying cords. I hooked the powermate and the printer into the usb man, and plugged the usb man into one of the usb ports on my laptop. The camera gets plugged directly into the other usb port on my laptop. The external monitor was plugged into the mini display port on my laptop and I mirrored my screen so that what they see in the photo booth is exactly what is set up on my screen. The lights, printer, laptop, and monitor power cords are plugged into the power strip, which is plugged into the wall.
For directions on how to set up the Griffin Powermate, visit their support website at http://griffintechnology.com/support/powermate or watch the "Getting Started with PowerMate" YouTube video above. To set up the dslrBooth software visit their instruction page at http://www.dslrbooth.com/howto/photo-booth-instructions/. Their support is EXCELLENT, so contact them if you need any help setting it up!
Step 5: Props, Decorations, and Money Making
No photo booth is complete without awesome props and decorations! For each event I do I search on Pinterest for free photo booth printable props and find a plethora of props and signs. We print, color, laminate, and mount them on dowels, pencils, or sticks. Borrow or buy silly hats and boas! Grab an old photo frame and paint it to match the color theme of the event. Leftover chalkboard paint can also be used to create small chalkboard signs for use in the booth.
Depending on the event we charge $1-$2 per trip into the booth. Since the only cost after it is all built is the print kits ($179 for 1400 prints), we can make anywhere from $1200 to $2600 per print kit that we buy. A great, easy fundraiser!! Since the booth cost us around $1200 to make, including purchasing the needed electronics, and we were planning on spending $1600 this year to rent photo booths, we consider our costs recovered already.
Hope you have gotten some good ideas from this Instructable. I will post updates as we make changes to the design!