Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Staycation Photography Series: DIY Backyard Photo Booth

Get creative with your background!
Summer vacation! Seems like as soon as summer comes, everyone is busy planning for and talking about their vacation. Going away is wonderful, but a "staycation" can be just as much fun! Explore your hometown, take day trips or just hang out in the backyard. Plus, there's tons of  photography fun to be had on a staycation and in this blog series we're going to give you some tips on enjoying staying home and tell you the right gear for your staycation photography! 

“There’s no place like home.” - Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

Day trips are great, but what if you want to really stay close to home? Your backyard can be the site of great photo ops and if you’re planning a family bbq, sleepover/camp out for your kids and their friends, or just an ordinary summer afternoon, why not set up your own backyard photo booth and let family and friends ham it up? Becoming increasingly popular at weddings with all kinds of set ups from extravagant to shabby chic, making a photo booth in your backyard may take a bit of time to set up properly, but the images you’ll get, not to mention the fun everyone will have mugging for the camera, are well worth your time. If you check the weather forecast and have clear skies for a few days, you may be able to leave the set up in place (sans camera and any other pricey gear, obviously, or anything that could be irrevocably damaged by moisture or easily taken from your yard).

DO NOT set up your photo booth in direct sun! Under a tree (watch out for bird poop on the backdrop!) under the porch roof, or if you’re lucky enough to have it, one of those portable canopies. 

TIP: It’s fun to have props on hand for people to pose with, but don’t go overboard! Have some funny hats or funky sunglasses on hand but most of all let your subjects shine through. 
Have a friend or family member act as a stand in so you can set the focus and light the shot, if any lighting is needed. If it’s daylight you should be good without any additional lighting, but you may want to set up a reflector, if you have one, if not you can use a piece of white cardboard to reflect a bit of light up toward the booth’s subjects. Be sure to mark what area is in the frame so no one gets cut out! Enlist a friend to operate the booth and snap the photos, or better yet, take turns being the photographer, all you have to do is snap away! 

What kind of camera? You can use a simple point and shoot or an SLR, it all depends on what you’re working with and how fancy you want to get. This is one case where a P&S fits the bill, you can even leave a set of instructions on setting the self timer (easy even for older kids and older folks who aren’t tech savvy to operate) if no one is available to take the shots! 

What You’ll Need: 

Backdrop: If you have a backdrop and the equipment to set it up, have at it, but if you’re new to this and trying to stay in a budget, you can use a bedsheet (bonus points if the kids (or you!) paint a scene on it or 3-4 yards of upholstery fabric or plain canvas.  You can fasten it between two trees, use a stepladder or a clothesline or any other sturdy vertical structures in your yard (remember to secure it at the bottom too in case it gets breezy!). You could also pay a visit to your local home improvement store and build an inexpensive and easy frame. Do you need a backdrop? No; some greenery, a big tree or even the side of your house will work great, but having one puts a special stamp on the images you’ll take in your photo booth so do try for a unique set up. Wanna get really creative? Set up the sprinkler and snap people as they dash through!

Lens: If you’re using your SLR, we’d recommend a good general purpose lens like the SIGMA 18-200mm F3.5-6.3.  Nice and sharp in a variety of lighting scenarios, you’ll be able to adapt to changing light without changing lenses. 
The Sigma 18-200mm is a great all around lens

Tripod: Be sure and mark the spot where you set up your test shots so all your shots are uniform. 

We love the lightweight yet sturdy MeFoto tripods!
TIP: No tripod? Use a stool or chair with a bean bag or small bag of rice to stablize the camera (leaving the lens free to focus) and have your subjects sit on a bench or lawn chairs. If the photo booth is for the kids, be sure to adjust for height accordingly! 

What’s most important is that you enjoy your photo booth; get creative with your background and choose your props carefully, have a blast posing, and then share the images so everyone can remember the summer YOU made a backyard photo booth! 

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