Can a photobooth without a photobooth be successful? I certainly wasn’t sure when I was asked to help out with an event night a few years back. As well as taking general event reportage and informal portraits we were also setting up what was essentially a mobile studio – a large white paper backdrop with three off camera flash lights fired in sync with the camera’s flash. Normally this would be used for portrait photography, or maybe commercial products. Well, we were doing portrait photography of a kind, though it was fun, informal and plenty of props were thrown in. We went down an absolute storm, with everyone enjoying themselves in front of the lens.
It’s something that I’ve carried on doing, and I’m not the only photographer to offer this open style of booth, though I have refined what I do and how I offer it.
Firstly it didn’t take long for it to become clear that the role of the photographer expands to become a real entertainer in the middle of the party. I really enjoy knowing that a big part of what I’m doing with the Party Studio helps the evening go with a bang. It’s up to me to engage with the guests, crack some jokes, suggest some props and poses, and when it’s too loud make faces while waving my hands around like a maniac. The clients get back what I put in.
I’ve also realised that not everyone wants a full on fun sized photo. There are many who just enjoy having a well lit image of themselves. In these days of smartphone snaps it can be quite a novelty to look as though you’ve been to the studio. I leave it up to the subjects to decide how they would like to pose. Sometimes it’s individually, sometimes in couples or groups big or small. If they want to big it up with the props then I’m there to encourage, or to help them strike the most flattering pose for a portrait.
I’ve also refined the technical side. To avoid power cables trailing along the floor I use flashguns on stands rather than plugged in studio lights. I have variable use flash umbrellas to give me the right lighting setup while remaining flexible and lightweight. In fact the entire operation is designed to be as flexible as possible so it can be used in as many places and situations as possible. As well as a wide, 10 foot white paper rolls I also use narrower backdrops and have adapted to fit in around existing structures at the venue. I’ve shot in front of the venue’s starcloth or used part of the decorations such as a Christmas sleigh. The important thing is that I fit in at the event and everyone has a good time.
I didn’t want to call it a photobooth though. After all this is a real alternative to a photobooth. So, as it’s very studio like and everyone is having a party it became the Party Studio. It’s an ideal fun package for birthday parties, other occasions such as anniversaries & bar mitzvahs, corporate events and wedding receptions.