Seeing as we are a photography company it’s no surprise that we love a good photo booth. What better way to create space for having fun with friends or to document the guests at special occasions like weddings, house parties, and everyone’s…er favorite? The sometimes loved and other times dreaded “office holiday party.” We went all out for our company party this year and put together a super fun, super slow-motion holiday video booth. We may be finding glitter around the office for the next 50 years, but it was worth it!

We’ve had so much fun staging several themed photo booths this year that we thought we ought to spread the laughs by sharing our results and our technique. Check out our tips then try setting up your own, and of course make yours unique by shooting with a Lensbaby.

What you’ll need:

1. A DSLR or video camera and a tripod

For the video above we took the Sony FS700 for a test drive and we have to say being able to shoot super slow motion with a Lensbaby is pretty addictive! We’ll never be the same – hopefully we’ll get to shoot with a Lensbaby on this camera a lot more in the future. Special thanks to our friends at the best camera store and our favorite rental house in Portland – Pro Photo Supply for making this one happen!

If video isn’t your thing, don’t worry – the set up can work exactly the same for still photography. 

2. Shooting space

A blank wall, the corner of a room, or a large empty closet will all work. Believe us when we say a lot can be done in small spaces – most of our studio photography and video happens in an empty 11×12 ft storage closet! Aim to have the background be around 7 or 8 feet to cover the Sweet 35 Optic’s 35mm angle-of-view. Depending on how big you want your bokeh you could go wider or shorter than that. Remember, the further away you place your subjects from the backdrop the more out of focus you can make the backdrop appear thus creating bigger bokeh.

3. Shiny backdrop material

We’ve experimented with everything from aluminum foil like in the video above to glittery fringe curtains easily purchased at a party store. (As seen in the images below.) The shinier the better – the highlights created by the material will create brighter more dramatic bokeh. Strings of Christmas lights will also work instead of reflective material.

lensbaby-composer-pro-photo-booth

photos by sika stanton

4. Three or four lights

Strobes will work for photos – or use continuous lighting to shoot both photos and video. We’ve found that using two or three extra lights to evenly light the backdrop separately from the key light, which is used to light your subject, works well. Start by marking the place where you want your photo booth subjects to sit or stand. Then place your key light and even out the lighting on the backdrop using your remaining lights. The key light can pull double duty by partially lighting the backdrop. This is nice because it can reduce the overall number of lights you can get away with. Of course you can always go crazy and totally stylize your look by adding a hair light, edge lights etc. It’s really up to you and what you have available. Using a diffuse source for your key light will make more flattering light on your subjects which is especially nice in situations when you have a variety of different people to light…as in for example a photo booth! For our booth we used a medium soft box placed above and slightly to the left or right of the camera.

5. Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic or Composer Pro with Double Glass Optic

This is where the magic happens! Throw your Lensbaby on your camera and see how your shiny backdrop is transformed from everyday materials into gorgeous bokeh that draws your attention to the Lensbaby’s sweet spot of focus. The sweet spot is of course where you’ll place your fabulous subjects. Center the lens, or use the rule of thirds to skew it to the left or right to create a more dynamic shot. Try an aperture setting of f4 or f5.6 to balance big eye pleasing bokeh with a large enough sweet spot to get a person’s whole head in focus.

foil-before-after

Tin foil backdrop photographed with a straight lens (on left) and with a Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic (on right).

The Composer Pro’s design really shines here because you can leave the ball in “free mode” while you dial in your shot and make small tweaks to the tilt of the lens. When you’re happy with the setup you can lock down the position of the lens by rotating the tension ring until it’s locked – allowing you to get a similar look across all your shots.

We’ve found that nailing the focus in the sweet spot is easiest by having people sit on a stool, eliminating the need to readjust the tilt on your Composer Pro as much. 

Now you know all our secrets so you can set up your own photo booth – shoot away and make sure to share your results over on our Facebook page.