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How to Choose a Photo Booth

We have complied a short (and interesting, but you may disagree) article about the history of photo booths and at the end of the article we have included a few top tips on what to look out for when you hire a photo booth for your party or event.

Photo booths are incredibly popular for parties, weddings and events and have enjoyed a renaissance over the last few years as people look for interesting and varied ways to make their wedding, party or product launch different and engaging. Photo booths have been around for a long time, with the first patent originating in the United States of America in the late 19th century.

Traditional photo booths can still be found in shopping centres and railway stations but technology has transformed them over the last 100 years. The early photo booth models were not that successful and could not be left unattended but a German Inventor, Conrad Bernitt of Hamburg, was soon to build a commercially successful photo booth that used ferrotype. Ferrotype is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion! Modern day photo booths use digital technology and dye sublimation printers and can produce colour prints in less than 10 seconds – the 1925 coin operated booth, positioned on Broadway in New York City, took roughly ten minutes to develop and print a strip of 8 black and white photos.

Photo booth rental companies have sprung up all over the UK and Europe and allow customers to rent a photo booth for a short period of time (for a fee) for a wedding party or event – it wasn’t that long ago traditional disposable film cameras were hugely popular, positioned at the centre of a table at a wedding, for guests to take candid photographs of the wedding from their perspective.

Modern day photo booths have taken the same concept and moved it firmly into the 21 century by giving instant prints – gone is the day when you had to gather the cameras together, take them or post them off for the film to be processed and developed and the prints returned to you with no guarantee of the final results. Photo booths arrive at venues across the UK in a number of different shapes and sizes normally with a booth attendant and a selection of props for guests to use.

Video booths are also popular and the surge in popularity of social media means than images can be uploaded direct to Facebook or Twitter straight from a photo booth. Some photo booths use web cams to capture an image, which can give poor quality results, and many photo booths use a digital (normally Canon or Nikon) camera to take a photograph. Modern digital cameras support Live View mode which allows guests to view a scene in real time on the camera’s LCD screen, or a display screen before a photograph is taken.

There are a variety of off-the-shelf software solutions that will sit on a laptop and talk to the camera, display screen and printer to make the photo booth experience work seamlessly. Photo booths designs vary, some photo booths are the type guests have to stand or sit inside and draw a curtain before a photograph is taken, whilst the open style photo booth concept is growing in popularity – the open style booth concept allows you to stand in front of the photo booth to have your photograph taken with a curtain or green screen backdrop – the open style booth concept is considered more flexible and is also good for people with limited mobility as there are no small booth entrances to negotiate. Corporate clients choose photo booths not just for their ability to take great photos but also because the outer skin of the photo booth can be branded with logos and designs to help support the launch of a new product or brand. The introduction of green screen chroma key technology allows you to place your guests in the middle of London, Paris or the surface of the moon adding a new dimension to the photo booth experience. What sort of things should you think about before you hire a photo booth? We have put together a short summary of what we think are the top five things you should consider. Research and word of mouth are often the key to getting the right photo booth for your event.

Make sure you ask a few questions before you commit to ordering a photo booth.

1. Price. Prices range greatly and you can hire a photo booth for as little as £200 with some booths costing £1200 depending on the amount of time you need the photo booth and the final package you have selected. Some companies increase hire costs as soon as they hear mention of the word ‘Wedding’ which can be disheartening. Geographic location is also an important factor when considering the final price as you will probably pay more to hire a photo booth in central London than you will in York for example.

2. Who is really running your photo booth? Some photo booth companies are run by owners in their spare time at weekends and prices can often be cheaper than people who run photo booths for a living. Be sure to check out what you are getting for your money, who is really supplying the photo booth, and what experience they have to make sure you get the best possible photo booth and photos for your event. Poor levels of communication can sometimes indicate that a ‘photo booth company’ are busy doing their day job rather than looking after you, their photo booth customer.

3. A smartly dressed booth operator. You really want a photo booth operator who is smartly dressed, friendly and helpful. It’s always tricky to establish if a booth operator is really going to be friendly and helpful as website will always claim this. Word of mouth is important and you can ask your friends and people you know if they have experience of the company, alternatively you could look on websites for testimonials and customers past experiences of using the company.

4. Photo Booth quality. A cheaply constructed photo booth may be indicate that there are poor quality components inside the booth. Some companies use webcams, rather than a good quality DSLR camera inside their booth. The final quality of a print from a webcam can sometimes be inferior to a DSLR camera but this is not always the case. A good quality Dye sublimation printer is not cheap and you do not want your guests having to wait ages for their prints to be handed over because the photo booth has a printer designed for use at home rather than a commercial environment. A good dye sublimation printer will produce a 6×4 inch colour print in less than 15 seconds. Look at the quality of images fom past events on the photo booth companies website to get an idea what you can expect and see if they cover print speeds in the frequently asked questions (faq) section of their website.

5. Insurance and PAT testing. A photo booth company must have public liability insurance. Check to see if your photo booth company has public liability insurance and their equipment has been PAT tested. Certificates would be available on request from a photo booth company. Remember to ask lots of questions and check the photo booth companies terms and conditions. There are lots of really good photo booth companies in the UK and our guide should help give you a few pointers how to choose the right photo booth for your party, wedding or event.

The main thing is to have fun and enjoy your photo booth experience!

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