A photo booth is a must-have for your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah because when done right, they’re instant crowd pleasers. They give guests all the joy of a good selfie, with the added benefit of perfect lighting, a stylish backdrop, and a free-pass for the person with the longest reach to finally try a pose other than arm-awkwardly-outstretched-in-space. What’s more, photo booths help party-goers connect in fun and spontaneous ways, and send them home with share-worthy party favors they’ll truly want to keep.
But with so many photo booth companies out there, how do you know you’re booking the right one? Websites, Facebook pages, and Instagram feeds are all great, but nothing beats a quick conversation with a potential vendor. These 10 questions will help ensure that you book the very best booth for your event.
1. Is your photo booth closed or open-air?
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of photo booths out there: closed and open-air. The first step on your journey to photo booth perfection is finding a vendor who has the style of booth you’re looking for.
Closed booths are the traditional box-style, with all elements contained within an enclosed compartment. Open-air booths, on the other hand, are made up of free-standing components, generally including a camera, a printer, and a backdrop. Closed booths offer more privacy and a smaller footprint; open-air booths offer versatility. It’s this versatility that’s made open-air booths so popular in recent years.
Open-air booths can be customized to complement any style or theme. Because you’re working outside the box, you can incorporate backdrops that range from a green screen to simple and chic curtains of color or pattern to bespoke three-dimensional installations. The free-form style of open-air booths also means that you can fit far more people in each frame than you can in a closed booth. 10 is easy, 20 isn’t unheard of.
2. What type of images does your photo booth produce?
They may be called photo booths, but booths these days can do far more than just take photos. Select your own backgrounds (a la green screen), GIFs, Boomerangs, videos, and slo-mo videos all are possible depending on the booth you select. If you want to offer one of these features at your event, make sure the booth you choose can deliver, and ask for examples. Nothing tells you about the quality of a booth like samples of previous work.
3. Is your booth Wi-Fi enabled?
Do you want guests to be able to instantly text, email, Facebook or Tweet their photos? If so, make sure you’re choosing a booth that is Wi-Fi enabled. But take caution: a Wi-Fi enabled booth is only one piece of the puzzle. Does your venue have Wi-Fi? If not, or if you don’t know, make sure that the photo booth vendor you choose is able to provide their own.
4. What kind of camera, printer and lighting do you use?
The type of camera, printer, and lighting a booth uses are what will determine the quality of the photos you get. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert or understand all of the whys, you just need to know what to look for.
Below are the answers you want to hear from your photo booth vendor. If a vendor answers “I’m not sure” to the what-kind-of-equipment-do-you-use question, interview over. Don’t hire someone who doesn’t know their booth inside and out.
- Camera: DSLR. Simple as that.
- Printer: Dye-sublimation, not Ink Jet. They’re faster and the prints come out dry to the touch.
- Lighting: Strobe with some kind of modeling light. The strobe will overpower ambient light, freeze action, and (along with the right camera settings) give you the best color. The modeling light will give you and your guests light to see by between photos.
5. Do you provide booth attendants and how many?
“Yes” is the only acceptable answer to this question and 1-2 attendants is standard. From crowd control, to prop management, to troubleshooting, booth attendants are key to photo booth success. Make sure your vendor provides a trained operator who’s there to help guests enjoy their booth experience and handle any hiccups.
6. Do you provide props? What kind?
If you want to include props in your photo booth fun, it’s important to consider a vendor’s approach before you book. Prop selection and quality vary widely, so make sure to ask each vendor you interview about their take.
Some vendors are either prop-less or encourage clients to bring their own. This can be fun or daunting, depending on who you are, and either way, can add considerable cost to your budget. Other vendors lean towards 2D paper props, while still others towards 3D objects. Some provide standard prop selections, some curated, others completely customized. All these variables mean that you can end up with anything from a grab-bag of mustaches and oversized glasses, to a theme-oriented selection that helps tell the unique story of your event. Heck, there are even some photo booths that allow you to add digital props and after effects on a touchscreen after your photo is taken!
7. What does a typical set up look like?
There are times when a picture really is worth a thousand words. This is one of those times. Ask the vendors you interview for a picture of a typical event setup. Words like “professional,” “elegant,” and “modern” mean different things to different people; by checking out a photo of a vendor’s setup, you’ll be able to judge for yourself and decide if their style suits.
8. How much space do you need?
Different booths, different setups, different space requirements. Will the booth you’re considering fit in your venue and in the location you envisioned? It’s important to find out the setup dimensions for each booth you vet, including height.
If you’re planning an outdoor event, make sure to ask about any special requirements a vendor may have. As with other types of electronic equipment, photo booths need to remain within a specific temperature range to work properly and must be protected from the elements. Many booth operators require some form of overhead covering and a solid backing behind backdrops since direct sunlight is not great for photos and backdrops can become giant sails in the wind.
9. Are you insured?
Here’s another question where “yes” is the only answer you want to hear. Some venues require that all vendors are insured, but even if yours doesn’t, it’s best for everyone if they are. Unlikely as it may seem, accidents happen, and life is a whole lot easier when people are covered.
10. What’s included in your packages?
In the land of photo booths, it’s impossible to judge value on price alone. Make sure to find out what services are included in the price of the package you’re considering, and what additional services you’re able to add on. Here are a couple of key categories to check.
- Time: How many hours of booth time are included? How much does it cost to add additional hours? If your event is running long, can you add time on the day of the event?
- Delivery and Set Up: Delivery and set up are usually included, but different vendors offer different travel and set up windows that may impact logistical planning. What service area is included? What’s the cost for additional mileage? Is there a fee for early setup?
- Idle Time: Depending on the flow of your event, you may have a situation where your event start time and booth start time differ. Let’s say you’re hosting an event that kicks off with dinner and speeches, followed by mingling and dancing, all in the same space. You want the photo booth to run for the three hours of mingling and dancing, but need everything set up before guests arrive for dinner. The time between set up completion and booth start time is usually referred to as idle time, and is charged at a lower rate than booth time. If you’re going to have idle time during your event, make sure you understand the vendor’s rates and policies.
- Prints: Is on-site printing included? How many prints per session are included with your package? Note that unlimited photos and unlimited prints usually aren’t the same thing: unlimited photos means that there’s no cap on the total number of photos you can take during your event time, whereas unlimited prints mean that each person in a given frame is entitled to a printed copy.
- Digital Files: What type of digital file delivery is included–a thumb drive at the event, an online gallery…? Will your guests be able to download their photos after the event free of charge? What’s the turnaround time? Whether or not you choose a package that includes on-site printing, you and your guests will want the digital files, too. Watching your event’s photos take over social media is the icing on the cake of photo booth fun.
- GIFs, Videos, Boomerang, and Filters: Different booths offer different options when it comes to the images they produce. If you’d like to have a GIF, video, Boomerang, or filter for your event, find out what’s possible and what’s included. As always, ask to see some examples to make sure the quality meets your expectations.
- Props: Props are a big part of what spark the photo booth fun. Are props included? What type? How big of a selection? Are custom props available? These are the questions you’ll want to ask.
- Backdrops As with props, backdrop qualities vary greatly. What kind of backdrops are included? What are the upgrade options? If you’re looking for a custom backdrop, make sure to discuss your vision with the vendor and get a quote.
- Green screens: How many backgrounds can your guests select from? Can you see some options in advance?
- Wi-Fi and Sharing: Not all booths are Wi-Fi enabled, and those that are tend to package these services differently. If you want guests to have instant digital access, get the ins and outs of what the vendor offers.
- Custom Photo Templates: Many photo booth vendors offer custom template designs to match the style of an event. Find out if this service is included. People love taking home their photo booth prints, especially when they show off a custom design rather than a vendor’s logo. Or can you add your event’s logo?
- Upgrades: From custom screens to custom step and repeat backgrounds to photo guestbooks, photo booth companies offer all types of upgrades to help their clients build the perfect package. If you have a special request, make sure to get a quote up front.
With these 10 questions, you’re well on your way to picking the perfect booth for your next event. Your guests will thank you. The Internet will likely thank you, too. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back and get ready to have some fun!
SNAPBASH is a made-to-measure photobooth company serving the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Every event tells a story and there’s nothing we love more than bringing those stories to life. We offer event-centered props, custom designed photo templates, branded screens, dreamy backdrops, snazzy takeaways, instant sharing, and the prettiest open-air booths around. No two events are exactly alike, and that’s just the way we like it.