Monday, 24 October 2011

DIY Photo Booth - Fun and Failure

As you know, I was a bridesmaid recently for one of my friends. One of the additional duties I took on for the role was running a DIY photo booth during the reception. It seemed like something fun to do. So, armed with about a hundred dollars, no DIY experience at all, and some Photo Booth Ideas inspired by Pinterest, I set about making my own DIY photo booth.

I started by heading over to Home Depot and buying some plywood (smooth on one side), PVC pipe and a can of chalkboard paint. If you're going to try this yourself, make sure you buy long pipe and ask the "skilled" worker at your local home improvement store to cut it down. It's cheaper that way. (They don't need to be all that skilled. The guy helping us was just slightly more intelligent than the pipe he was cutting.) I bought four 7' 1 1/4" pipes and asked them to be cut down to seven 3 1/2' and four 2 1/2'. It was more than enough.

It also helps to have a saw at home in case anything isn't quite right. When we (my mom and I) finished making the frame, we decided it was a bit too tall. So we cut down the top bars by a foot or so. Looking back, we had to ask the taller people (over six foot) to hunker down a bit so I would have left the extra height if I had to do it again.

Stupidly, no one thought to take a photo of the frame once it was all set up. All I can say is that it was based on this one and this one.

Using PVC pipe for the frame was an excellent idea because, with some elbows and t-shaped pieces (I don't know what the technical terms are), the pieces just slot together. Easy to put together, easy to take apart.

Next, we (my brother and I) made some speech bubbles. (Based on these ones) My brother cut them out using a jigsaw and I painted them with several coats of chalkboard paint. (SEVERAL. I got carried away - but still had half a can left. And it was a small can.)

In hindsight, they were too big. To fit two or more people, plus the silly props I bought (Hell, Dollar Store!) and the speech bubbles, the speech bubbles should have been half the size they were. But you live and learn, right?

Finally, all we needed was a backdrop. I took the bride to the middle of HobbyLobby's fabric section and made her pick one that she liked. Add a string of borrowed Christmas lights from a friend and we were ready to go:

We did a test run on the day of the bridal shower/bachelorette party (more to come on that later) to see how it worked out and we had a lot of fun.

See what I mean about the speech bubbles being to big? Anyway... The one thing we didn't test was actually printing them out to see how quickly that went. And we should have.

I'll just point out again that I don't actually live in the country that the wedding was held in so if I couldn't buy it, I had to borrow it - and since buying a printer was way out of my budget, I had to borrow my mom's ancient all-in-one. It worked okay, I guess but all the prints had to be cut down to size and that's just an awkward process. Also, there was a hiccup because I was using a brand new laptop that I wasn't all that familiar with as well as a version of Photoshop I had never used before - no biggie if you're just at home playing around and can't find the "reduce red eye" function but if you've got people hanging around, waiting for their pictures, the pressure's on.

If I could do it again, there would be several improvements. First, I would make the frame both higher and wider. (And give myself more room - we were using a cloak room which got pretty cramped.) I would also make the speech bubbles smaller. And I would definitely, definitely, use a specialized printer.

There's one more thing that I would have done. I would have asked my team of dedicated (people can be very dedicated when there's a promise of booze after lol) helpers to start the booth during the part of the reception where they were waiting for the bridal party to arrive. That would have bought us more time and, if it had been a bit more spread out, there wouldn't have been so much pressure to get everything done in such a small amount of time.

A photo taken by a friend of our photo booth sign.

One of my goals to have fun doing it. Did I? Making/planning/setting up the photobooth and the test run? Yeah. I'd say it was about 90/100. There was a small problem with the speech bubbles when I was painting them. For some reason after one of the coats, they developed bubbles (Ha.) and had to be sanded a bit. Aside from that, it was a lot of fun to make.

The actual photo booth at the wedding? Not as much. Maybe a 30/100. I was pretty stressed out and wouldn't have made it without my helpers. Plus, the bride never actually told me whether it was a success or not so I there's some latent stress still lingering from that.

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