How To Set Up A Photo Booth In Your Home

Or, How To Set Up A Photography Studio In A Small Space

This tutorial is for those of you who would like to go a step further in polishing your photography skills.

In this tutorial, I will give you a list of all the items you will need to set up a small, functional photo booth in your home.  What is a photo booth?

A picture is worth a thousand words.

How to Set up a Photo Booth in Your Home

Behold the photo booth:

How to Set up a Photo Booth in Your Home

As you can see, it is nothing more than a background stand and seamless paper.  That, and a few more pieces of equipment, which I will outline below.  I have also provided links so you can see the items I am discussing.  You will be able to set this up in any extra room in your home, then take it down and store it when you’re finished.  This equipment is also highly portable, so you can set it up on location as well.  There is, of course, an upfront cost to getting the equipment, but everything other than the paper is a one time cost.

List of essential components:

1 Camera
1 Light
1 Slave (optional)
1 Stand for light
1 Reflector (optional)
1 background stand
1 roll 5 ft background paper
1 soft box or shoot through umbrella

The Camera—You don’t need an ultra advanced camera.  In fact, you could even do this with a really good point and shoot with a zoom/telephoto lens and a built in flash.

The Light—This could be the dedicated flash for your camera, a non-dedicated flash unit or a strobe.

  • If you use your camera’s dedicated flash unit, read your user guide for instructions on how to fire it off camera.
  • If you use a strobe, you can either trigger it with your on-camera flash or the sync cord that should come with the unit.  If you have a prosumer DSLR without a sync port, you will need a hot shoe adapter.

I have been using Paul C. Buff’s White Lighting line in my studio for literally decades.  I can’t say enough good things about this product line.  FYI–I do not get a single cent from them.  I just happen to be a very happy Paul C. Buff customer and know firsthand how well-made their products are and how top-notch their customer service is.  I recently had an opportunity to use their Alien Bees B800 units during a private consulting session, and was just FLOORED by the power output from these EXTREMELY economical units.  These fantastic units cost no more than a Nikon or Canon dedicated flash unit.  One of my major purposes, aside from teaching and mentoring, is to provide real value to my readers.  Paul C. Buff is REAL value.

The Stand—Although you don’t have to have an extremely sturdy stand, I advise buying the best you can possibly afford.  Like a Chinese chef once told me years ago, you can cook small in a big wok, but you can’t cook big in a small wok.  In other words, a sturdy stand can hold a small light head, but a lightweight stand cannot hold a big light head.  I personally prefer Bogen, but Photoflex is a very good and economical choice as well.

The Reflector—The reflector is optional.  They are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the price of most flash units and strobes, yet they can act very effectively as another ‘light’.  Of course, having a stand and arm to support them is very helpful, but once again, this is all optional.

The Background Stand—Same advice as for the light stand.  Get the best background stand you can afford.  It’s a one time purchase and you can take it with you.  Plan on needing it for the bigger rolls of paper, but you can use it for the smaller rolls in the interim.

The Background Paper—This comes in several different widths.  For the purposes of this tutorial I am referring to either the 5 ft or the 9 ft width.  The 5 ft is useful for table top, babies and non-hyper children.  You can get a gazillion different colors, so if you’re fickle, background paper is the place to ‘pig out’.  You just trim it and roll a little more down as needed. It can last quite a long time, and depending on the angle at which you’re shooting, dirt and grime won’t necessarily show.  Much.

The Soft Box or Umbrella—Once again, there are many different manufacturers of these products.  I’ve owned many of each. Photoflex is the economical choice and they make very nice light modifiers.  I also own two medium sized Chimera soft boxes.  They are PRICEY, but oh so nice, because they are shallow and take up that much less space.  But the truth is, I’ve used Photoflex for years with great results.

As I’ve already mentioned, my personal preference is a soft box for this application.  They give more directional lighting with more contrast, which makes for a sharper, crisper image.  However, if you don’t like soft boxes or already own an umbrella that can be converted to a shoot-through, then by all means, use it.  You’ll just have to keep a closer eye for lens flare and light spread.  I would also stick with a small to medium sized umbrella.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your light source is a dedicated or non-dedicated camera flash unit, you will want to make sure you purchase a soft box designed to fit this type of light.

And there you have it.  Your very own photo booth.  Now get shootin’ people!

For more information on positioning you lights or reflectors, see my high key and low key tutorials. Here is another post full of tips and techniques about what to do with those babies once you’ve got them on that background paper.

If you would like to read more, check out these articles:

High Key Studio Lighting – Tutorial

Low Key Studio Lighting – Tutorial

Photographing Young Children With Low Key Lighting

Using Bold Color in Portraiture – Tips and Techniques

How to Photograph Large Groups in the Studio

Make a Beauty Dish for Studio Lighting

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2 comments

  1. Amy Michelle says:

    I am looking at getting another lense for mainly portrait work. I have a couple of kit zooms, the 50mm 1.4 and am looking at the 105mm micro by Nikon. Do you think that would be a bad choice for the studio? Should I go to a 30 mm prime? What is your opinion? I like to shoot both in and outdoors, but with rain here the majority of the year, we are often forced inside. Thanks!

  2. deborahwolfe says:

    Gosh Amy, we’ve got to stop meeting like this : ) I addressed your question about a ‘portrait’ lens per your comment on On Location Children’s Photography Shoot. As to the 30mm prime, I am a total sucker for wide and wider angle lens. Mosey on over to Wide Angle Lens Are For Portraits Too and check out my take on this subject.

    That said, both of those lens (the 105mm f/2.8 and the 30mm prime) are VERY different. The 105mm is a more ‘traditional’ portrait lens and it’s macro/micro capabilities make it difficult to resist. It will give you beautiful ‘compression’ aka foreshortening of your perspective, lovely bokeh and no discernible distortion. The 30mm is just such a fun lens. Light, fast and just wide enough to let you get some interesting effects. The 105mm will set you back more, money wise.

    I gotta say this is a tough call. I think only YOU can decide which would suit your purposes better. But gosh, I’m more tempted by that 105mm. Caveat: I’m a Gemini….ooooh decisions decisions….