All Photo Booths Are NOT Equal

I met someone today who told me they had a photo booth at a wedding they had been to. I asked if I could see the pictures – and she showed me a CD!

It was a photographer with a picture frame and a few props. NO BOOTH, NO PRINT OUTS. But the guests had great fun.  They didn’t know any different.

As a professional photographer and a photo booth operator I knew they had got a duff deal. However there are so many pitfalls out there I thought I would put together a guide on what to look out for, and what questions to ask if you were unsure.

So 8 Questions to ask:-

Q1         What type of booth is it – can you describe it?
             So that you know your getting on the night.
             (Ours is a solid party booth)

Q2          Do you have a gallery of images for me to look at?
              IMPORTANT – quality of images is how you tell a good booth from a bad booth
              Look for picture quality as good as ours

Q3          What size are the images?
              6x4” is the norm, 6x2” smaller photo strips
​              (our standard is 6x4" 6x2 for school proms where everyone gets an image)

Q4          How long does it take to print a 6x4” print?
              (Our printer prints in 15 seconds – home printers about 90 seconds)

Q5          Is there a Guest book with extra prints included in the price?
              (Should be included for weddings and birthdays)

Q6          Do you pay extra for the props box?
              A sly way of appearing good value – but works out expensive

              (always included in our packages)

Q7          How many people can you fit in?
              Best between 4 and 8. This tells you if it’s a party booth a passport booth – or a huge tent
              (We get 8+ people in the booth, or 3 sat down on the seat with room to spare)

Q8          How long has the business been going?
              If it’s less than a year book with caution
              (we ok there)

So why ask these questions?

MAKE SURE YOU GET THE BOOTH YOU WANT. If you want a photo booth – make sure you get a photo booth, and not just a man with a camera and a box of props.

There are several types of “booths” available to hire across the UK. Some are home made, some are professionally designed and manufactured. So there are points you have to research before booking your photo booth. After all you have to ask yourself – has it got the wow factor or is it a bargain bucket?

Most booths physical appearance fall into 6 categories :-

1st a background with a photographer, and a hand full of props. Often advertised as a Booth, where in fact they are not. Just a cheap wannabe, some print on the night and some don't. The public are starting to cotton on to this and there have been cases of brides taking photographers to court for misrepresentation.  If it involves a photographer its not really a photo booth, no matter what they try and tell you.
2nd Open Photo Pod. A stand alone automated camera and screen. These also can offer be marketed as Video pods. You just stand in front of them and pose. Ideal for venues with low space availability.

3rd The photo booth tent. A lightweight tent or inflatable structure that covers a small photo pod. Usually the sort of booth you stand up in. The smallest of the booths to transport so easy for awkward venues with tight access.  

4th The portable photo booth, a lightweight frame, oval or square and wrapped with a cover or panels, giving the appearance of a real photo booth. Seated or as a stand up booth. The most common of the party booths. Looks great but should have at least 2 attendants on hand, as the light weight structure can be wobbly if overloaded.

5th A solid photo booth. (LIKE OURS) In my opinion the best looking. With a metal frame with a real floor and a ceiling, making it a totally enclosed photo booth. Solid and sturdy and the ideal booth for parties or large groups. Some dismantle where others don’t. Which makes it not always the best for awkward venues with awkward access.

But no matter what type of booth the outer appearance the fun should be the same – if they are run correctly.

This sounds easy right? WRONG. These booths use manual camera settings, which have to be balanced to studio flash. Unfortunately each time they dismantle and set up the booth it has to be re-set re-focused re-balanced, colour temperature (white balanced) printer set up, with all sorts of technical issues that can go wrong on the day, that’s a lot for the unqualified assistant to mess up. 

So how do you know if your getting a good photo booth or a bunch of weekend warriors? Check out there web site – not the main web page but their galleries of the jobs they have done. Or better still there Facebook page. (Ours is wicked)

Picture quality is the biggest stumbling block for photo booths. The main issue is dark dull images (camera not set, or not using a studio flash) – AVOID.

Look for blurred images – AVOID – in the photo booth people always mess around and move, its just poor set up and not acceptable.

Red eye – AVOID – the only reason for red eye is not having a studio light. Just a flash on the camera.

Colour looking unnatural – AVOID – set up not done correctly

Overall picture quality poor? Probably a cheap web cam rather than a quality camera. – AVOID.

(We have a pro SLR camera at the heart of the Photo Booth along with a studio flash and a defuser for the soft lighting used by many top professional photographers.) 

So they have got good well exposed images but are they having fun?

Again there are two types of booth operators. Ones that are usually manned and the ones that are left to run themselves. Don’t confuse the advertising of a booth attendant to stay with the booth, as this just means they are on site if anything goes wrong (nothing worse than an the operator playing candy crush whilst your guest help themselves to pictures)

Again there are several things to look for here. The main give away is people looking down on all of the pictures. This means that they are not being instructed to look at the camera, sounds simple but is so often overlooked. Its natural to look at the view screen and look at themselves instead. – AVOID.

Another giveaway is a set of three pictures, where the first image has people in it, the second image is of people leaving the booth and the last one are of a blank background. This just means they didn’t know they had multiple pictures. Again no guidance – AVOID.

A booth attendant should be there to instruct your guests, getting them in position, looking there best, changing there pose throwing in random props, but most importantly – GETTING THEM TO LOOK AT THE CAMERA.

Lastly just check the quality of the props. Are they tasteful? Do they look cheap? Do people look like they are having fun with them? (We even sell a range of quality props to to other booth companies around the country)

So what do you expect to pay for a photo booth? Unfortunately there is no set price as it does vary from area to area.  However one thing to keep an eye out for is the cheaper operators who advertise at a fraction of the other operators in your area. Sounds great, but these usually come with basics priced as extras like guest books an extra £50 or an extra set of prints for the guest book £40. I have even seen operators even charging for use of the prop box £35. These are all part of the service and in my opinion should be included in the price.

The hire package is usually 3 to 4 hours, with 2 sets of prints (one for your guests, one for your guest book). The guest book should be included.

Unlimited prints are often advertised. If you do get one that advertises this, just ask them to print off multiple copies of every image so everyone has a set to go home with. Usually they mean unlimited visits to the booth. Misleading from the inexperienced operators. It does make me laugh when you see unlimited prints - and then want to charge you extra for a second set of prints for your guest book. 

However many real extras can bump up the price, like extra hours, video, green screen set up, key rings or just extra guest book.

Just be careful on the bargain booths, ask yourself why are they so cheap? Photo booths are not that cheap to run, so the cheaper services often go out of business, fast – maybe good for a short term bookings but if your booking for a wedding in two years time – make sure you pay by credit card so at least you can get your money back if they go out of business.  We always get brides calling us up from June to September asking for late availability, as they have been let down. Sometimes there booth company went out of business, other times a more expensive job came in so they ditch the cheap job, usually saying they didn’t realize they were double booked. NOT GOOD

As for the discount sites like the Wowcher and Groupon types of sites. They have the same problems here too. Companies offer these just for exposure and after the voucher companies take there own 50% commission they run the booth at a loss. So maybe good for a short term booking but be careful with booking long term.  

What printers the booth is using is another thing. The Pro printers are dye sublimation printers that produce excellent lab quality images in under 30 seconds (some as fast as 9 seconds). They don’t use conventional inks so the images come out dry and ready to take away. There are a few operators out there who just use home budget printer – not the fastest way to operate as they usually take around 90 seconds to complete a print cycle. Not to mention needing the paper or ink changing after 20 prints or so. This really reduces the amount of sessions you can have in the booth. 2 prints per session and then waiting 3 minutes for the prints to finish before the next person can start their photo booth sitting is not good. They should virtually be ready as they come out of the booth.  

How many people can fit into the image?
This is an odd one. You don’t want to few but also don’t want to many. About 4 to 8 is the norm. Avoid the 2 people max ones, as they are usually ex passport booths with a single stool to sit on. But also avoid the fit between 15 and 20 (usually means it’s the size of a room and not a photo booth)

This really sounds tricky doesn't it. If you are shopping around be very careful you are getting what you want to get. So if we can not be the photo booth at your party, just ask if we could recommend a reputable booth operator. We are part of the Photo Booth Network so we are well connected within the photo booth circles. you never know we still might be able to help, even if fully booked.

Just avoid people like this - The Facebook page Bad Photo Booths

What to look for when hiring a photo booth

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