Can't afford a party photobooth? Do it yourself.

So, you want a photobooth at your party.

So, you're broke.

What to do? You probably have at least one friend with a nice camera. With a little creativity and a few dollars, you can create your own photobooth that might even be cooler than the rentals. When my boyfriend turned 30 last year, we enlisted friends to rig one in the dining room. It was a huge hit and kept people hanging around the party for a long time. Here's how we did it.

Set up a backdrop

Remember those elementary school jewel-tone photo backdrops with laser light motifs? Yeah, most people don't have those. Make your own backdrop with a sheet. We used a black one so our faces would pop, hanging it over a curtain rod. Make sure the wrinkles are pressed and the camera is positioned so no ends are visible. You don't want to see your ceiling fan or dining room table in all the shots.

Score a good camera

My boyfriend's brother-in-law, Pete, is a talented amateur photographer who has a nice digital SLR camera. We had him set up the photo booth using his gear. He placed his camera on a tripod facing the backdrop and rigged a remote control clicker. That way, he didn't have to stand there all night. People could just walk up and use the remote whenever they wanted.

Hide the remote

Speaking of the remote, be sure to have guests hide it behind their backs or out of frame. For our first batch of pictures, everyone kept holding the clicker near their faces out of habit. We stopped that quickly when we realized how dumb it looked.

Get the props ready

A photobooth is no fun without wacky props. We found most, including top hats, dinosaur helmets and oversized plastic glasses, at the dollar store. Our friends made mustaches by gluing construction paper cutouts to wooden craft store sticks. We had a small dry-erase board for people to write messages. The more props, the better. It'll encourage your guests to come back to the booth again and again.

Take some test shots

Make sure the area is well-lit and there aren't too many strange shadows. Leave enough room so spectators aren't cramped. This isn't professional so your situation isn't going to be perfect, but you can add or subtract lamps as needed. Natural light is great if you have it, but since your party is probably at night, make do with desk, table and overhead lights.

Go print or digital

Pete set up his laptop near the booth to show off pictures immediately, then he put them on discs for whoever wanted them. If you want to take it a step further, set up a digital photo printer with some glossy paper by the laptop and let guests print out photos. If you're tech savvy, sync the laptop to the television. That way, everyone can see your roommate in a pink mustache and feather boa on the big screen. Your party will be the stuff of legends.

Can't afford a party photobooth? Do it yourself. 06/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 7, 2012 5:44pm]

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