This post was most recently updated on January 17th, 2020
In this article: You’ll learn how to make a photo booth, both easily and affordably! Are you searching for a simple way to create a party photo booth without too much work or cost? Well, today I’m sharing the DIY photo booth I made for my daughter’s birthday party. The set up wasn’t elaborate, but it was perfect for a birthday party, and would work just as great for other kinds of parties too. Read on!
How to Make a Photo Booth for Any Party
It seems that a party photo booth is all the rage these days. But, wow, have you noticed that they cost a lot to rent? And, I find that most How to Make a Photo Booth tutorials out there require more money and effort than I am willing to commit. So, today, I’m going to show you how to make a photo booth for a party, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and is simple to set up!
For my daughter’s Broadway Themed Birthday Party, I was determined to figure out how to make a photo booth without a lot of money or effort. After a little research, I came up with a plan that was easy and affordable, and we were thrilled with how it all turned out! You could use this photo booth hack to create one for any kind of party, be it New Year’s Eve, retirements, anniversaries, a Bachelorette Party, a Halloween party, or more. The sky’s the limit!
How this Tutorial is Organized
There’s a lot to tell you about how to make a photo booth, but I’ll keep things short and simple.
And, to keep us on track, this diy photo booth tutorial is organized as follows:
How to Make a Photo Booth: The Materials
The things you’ll need make your own photo booth:
– Poster board signage
How to Make a Photo Booth: The Process
Step 1: Location selection.
Step 2: Photography – camera, lighting, etc.
Step 3: Photo viewing / sharing.
How to Make a Photo Booth, Part One: The Materials
OK, so let’s start with the stuff you’ll need if you want to learn how to make a photo booth like mine.
Photo Booth Equipment
What you need: A DSLR camera, basic tripod, a shutter release remote, and some ambient light sources (strings of fairy lights, a small lamp, etc.) .
DSLR and Tripod Option
I used a DSLR camera (if you don’t have one, borrow one), a basic tripod, and a remote shutter release. If you don’t know what a remote shutter release is, don’t worry! I didn’t know either. It’s a simple, inexpensive (and truly magical) little gadget, and I’ll tell you all about it shortly! If shooting in low light conditions, you’ll also want some ambient lighting, like strings of fairy lights or a few small lamps.
Another Option: Selfie Stick and iPhone
If you don’t have access to a DSLR and tripod, then you could always use a basic selfie stick with an iphone mounted on it. If this is the route you are planning to take, then the last parts of this tutorial (photo booth equipment) won’t be as relevant to you. However, you’ll still find the sections about materials and location selection to be helpful.
Photo Booth Props
What you need: A basket of fun costumes or cardboard props.
Wondering how to make a photo booth super fun? You will need a basket of awesome photo booth props that party goers can get goofy with! Here’s some items to consider:
- feather boas
- bow ties
- speech bubbles
- funny quotes
- mini chalkboards
Depending on your party, you might also want to have a theme for your props. For example, if you child is having a Pirates and Princesses party, add some fun eye patches and tiaras. If it’s for a New Year’s Eve party, throw in some blowers and speech bubbles or chalk boards for writing resolutions. You get the picture!
If you don’t have a stash of costumes hanging around, no need to worry. There are literally a tonne of places to find printable, free diy photo booth props on the Internet.All you have to do is search Google using “free diy photo booth props” or “free photo booth printable props”. Just to get you started, here are few cute ones…
- Summer photo booth props
- Photo booth props for wedding or party
- Eye glasses photo booth props
- Moustaches photo booth props
Once I collected the props, I organized everything on a little table so that you could find a prop you liked without too much searching.
What you need: Plastic Dollar Store table cloths, painter’s tape.
There are lots of options for how to make a photo booth backdrop, but I was looking for the cheapest one, lol. If I were making this party photo booth for a big event, I probably would have invested in a more expensive option, such as fabric or tri-fold wooden panels.
However, as this was for a child’s party, I simply bought some cute plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Store. (You could also use fabric table cloths you have on hand.) I used 3 large (9ft) plastic table cloths, and they cost a grand total of $6. Gotta love it.
I doubled them over so that you couldn’t see through them, and attached them to the ceiling using painter’s tape to make it easy to take it down without ruining the paint. They worked perfectly fine, however the plastic did cast a bit of glare in the photos, so if you have a bigger budget (say, for a wedding), I’d definitely recommend using fabric table cloths instead.
What you’ll need: Fun decorations for your photo booth space.
Optionally, you might also want to add some decor to make the photo booth space an inspiring spot for fun photos. You can find decorations at party stores based on the theme of your party. For example, because my daughter was having a Broadway party, I strung some lights and added Broadway musical posters to the walls.
‘The Rules’ Signage
What you’ll need: Poster board for the ‘Photo Booth Rules’
I wanted the photo booth to be fun. But let’s face it, even more importably, I wanted my camera equipment in one piece after the party! As well, I didn’t want any of the girls at the party to feel left out.
So I put together a few photo booth rules for the ‘rule-follower’-types, and hoped they’d help sheriff the others, lol. I’d highly recommend doing the same thing, even if it’s for adults. (We all know how rowdy adults can get after a glass or wine or two, haha!) You can make a homemade sign on poster board, or use a stylish letter board for some extra cuteness.
What you’ll need: A long bench or 2-4 chairs.
If you want to know how to make a photo booth that can fit a crowd, you’ll want ample seating! You will need a spot for a few people to sit together (in front of the backdrop) while they take a photo. I used a long bench, but you could just as easily use a few chairs in a row.
How to Make a Photo Booth, Part Two: The Process
.With all your materials in hand, you’re now ready to set up the photo booth for your party. This is where the magic happens!
Step 1: Location Selection
What to do: Choose a location in your home or party venue for your diy photo booth that has great natural lighting.
OK, so now that you have everything you need, it’s time to pick a location for your party photo booth. At this step, a lot of tutorials out there show you how to actually build a physical photo booth. (Like, from lumber and with power tools!) But, hello, since this busy mama ain’t got no time for that, I decided that taping a backdrop to the wall would have to do! (And, guess what? It was perfect!)
Consider Natural Lighting
Lighting is absolutely the most important consideration when picking a spot for your party photo booth. If your party is during the day, you’ll want to take advantage of a natural light source, like a nearby window. Lighting was by far the biggest disadvantage in our location. We used a small area in our developed basement simply because that’s where the birthday party was held.. But if I were to do this again, I would absolutely chose a better lit spot.
Consider the Food & Drink Location
Another consideration is to place your party photo booth near the party action! There’s nothing worse than trying to corral a bunch of party goers to an area of the house that doesn’t have food. Or, in the case of us adults, wine, lol! So, if your goal is lots of photos, then place your photo booth near the food and drink table. (But, not so near that it’s at risk of a collision.)
Add your backdrop, seating, decorations + props.
Once you have a well-lit location, it’s time to add your backdrop to the wall with painter’s tape. I taped ours as close to the ceiling as possible and let it drape to the floor. Next, add your seating in front of the backdrop, place your themed decorations, and add a basket of props nearby. You may need to do some maneuvering once you set up the photo equipment to assure everything is in the viewfinder.
Step 2: Set Up Photo Booth Equipment
OK, so now your diy photo booth space is simply gorgeous, it’s time to set up the photo booth equipment. You’ll need to make a couple of choices about your diy photo booth equipment. (Note: As mentioned above, this section assumes you are using DSLR camera.)
Manned or Un-manned Photo Booth?
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want the booth to be ‘manned’ (or wo-manned, lol) by a photographer. If you have somebody who is a decent photographer, and who is willing to take the photos, that might be a good choice. The photographer can choose to use a tripod or not use one. However, I always recommend using one, simply because the photos will be sharper and better lit. And, it adds consistency to the framing of the photos.
The other option, which is the one I used, is to mount the DSLR camera on a tripod so participants can to take their own photos. I went this route because I think participants let their guard down when there’s no photographer yelling “say cheese!”. And, that means you’ll get goofier photos.
Where to place the tripod?
Before you decide on the final spot for the tripod, have somebody be your test participant. Ask them to sit on the bench in front of the backdrop, and have fun with the props while you look through the view finder.
To find the perfect height and position for the tripod, you’ll want to:
- be sure you are at face level of the seated test participant (because I can’t imagine the disappointment of reviewing your party photo booth pics later, only to find that you’ve over-shot everybody’s faces!)
- be sure you have a wide enough shot to include you whole seating area (otherwise, some people will be cut out of view)
- be sure you are close enough to the seating area that you only get backdrop and decorations (not extraneous walls), unless you plan on cropping each photo manually after the party (which sounds like a total bummer, lol)
I highly recommend taping down your tripod to the floor, especially if you are dealing with excited kids. That’s a whole lotta camera sitting atop your tripod, so you’ll want to protect your diy photo booth equipment!
Whatever route you choose, the next decision you need to make about your diy photo booth equipment is lighting. This is especially important if your photo booth doesn’t get much natural light, or if your party is at night.
As mentioned, my daughter’s birthday party was in the evening and in our basement which gets little natural light at the best of times. Still, I was reluctant to use a flash because I don’t like the harsh shadows that a flash can cause. So I added as much ambient lighting to the area as possible, with a little lamp on the prop table, and the string of mini lights on the backdrop. That was actually enough, and I didn’t need to add my flash or spot lighting.
But, because every space has it’s own variables, I’d recommend testing out different lighting scenarios in advance of your actual event. If you do need to use a flash, I’d definitely use a flash diffuser to soften up the shadows.
Remote Shutter Release
OK, friends, whew. So we’ve gotten this far: a location, the photo booth set up, and your equipment is in place. So, at this point, if you aren’t using a photographer, bet you are wondering: “how in the heck do the photos get taken?” Great question!
If you opt to go the tripod route which is what I did, this is the best tip EVER for your self-manned party photo booth. Are you ready? There is a magical little gadget that is less than $25 that releases the shutter on your camera, called a remote shutter release. I kid you not!
Basically, it’s a wireless remote control for your DSLR. And, it works works up to 16 feet from the camera. I mean seriously, I take a gazillion photos. How did I not know about something so utterly fantastical? I am a Nikon user, so I purchased the Nikon ML-L3 remote. There are compatible versions for the other camera brands.
When photo booth subjects came into our photo booth, they grabbed the remote, got situated on the bench with props, made silly faces, and clicked when they were ready to take the pic! It seriously was as easy as that.
To get the remote shutter release to work, you’ll need to change your DSLR’s settings to remote shooting mode. You’re thinking, “Say wha?”, aren’t ya? I thought the same thing when I read about it, but honestly, it was SO freaking simple.
As I’m a Nikon user, I can show you how to change your Nikon settings. But, if you are a Canon or Sony user, it’s best to google the exact settings for your brand’s particular remote shutter release model. Also, even if you own a Nikon, your camera settings might be a little different. I recommend using You Tube as there are some great videos on how to set up the ML-L3 remote.
On my Nikon:
- First, I clicked ‘Menu’.
- Next, I selected the camera icon (‘Shooting Menu’).
- Then, I scrolled down, and selected Remote Control Mode (ML-L3).
- I clicked on that, and once in the Remote Control Mode menu, I selected Quick-Response Remote.
- Now, my camera was set up so that a a photo would be captured as soon as the photo booth participant clicked the remote.
I should mention that this thing is smaller than an Apple TV remote, if that’s even possible. So, if you don’t want to lose it in the midst of all the photo booth fun, I’d recommend taping it to a larger piece of cardboard like I did. It worked like a charm.
Step 3: Photo Viewing & Sharing
When it came to viewing the photos, wondered how I might display or print the photos during the party so that the girls could see them before they went home. There were certainly a few feasible options, like tethering my laptop to the camera.
But ultimately, I decided that I’d have to be superwoman to make that happen with everything else I had on my plate at the party (food, games, etc.). So instead, I opted for a less stressful alternative.
I reviewed the photos over the following few days, used a collage maker to create photo strips, and e-mailed them out to the girls. Let’s face it, printing the photos isn’t as big a deal as it once was! These days, everybody wants the digital photos to share on their socials.
Here are a few other options for photo viewing and sharing:
- Upload the photos to Dropbox or Google and send everybody a link.
- Create a private Facebook group for party attendees, and upload the photos there.
- If your DSLR has a wireless feature, upload them directly to your iPhone and Airdrop them to party attendees, and/or display them in a slide show mode on your ipad or TV .
Now You Know How to Make a Photo Booth!
So there you have it: everything you need to know about how to make a photo booth! This is such a fun idea for any occasion – birthdays, weddings, family reunions, and more. There’s nothing better than truly memorable photos!
Did I leave anything out? If you have questions, I’ll try my very best to answer them. Just shoot me a line in the comments section!
Until next time,