Sunday, September 1, 2013

Things I learned from attempting a birthday party photobooth

My son Tristan just turned 4.  We had a Superhero themed birthday party for him.  I have a Nikon D5100, which has a view screen that flips out and rotates.  This means you can flip it out and see it when you're standing in front of the camera.  My son *loves* using the remote and taking a bazillion pictures of himself this way.  I figured, if he likes it, other kids his age probably will too!  Hey, brilliant idea!  Let's set up a photobooth at his birthday party!  Pinterest had some great examples.  They inspired me and fueled my enthusiasm.  So my mom and I built our set, I hooked my camera up to the TV, and BAM!!  Or, so I thought...

First issue: Not enough light to be flash-free.  And we set up in a den with a lot of windows.  I rigged up a diffuser for my pop-up flash out of wax paper.  This is the test shot I took seeing if it'd work.  It's still more direct light than I would have liked, but it did manage to keep most hard shadow outlines off the backdrop.

Second issue: Kids are not remote-friendly.  I was standing by the camera trying to secure my wax paper creation before all the kids showed up and my son hurled the remote at me.  Apparently he pushed the button as he was launching it, though, because BAM - I've got a picture of the remote flying toward the camera.  I ended up tying a ribbon to the remote and securing it to the phone booth.  It kept the remote from getting lost, but the ribbon is visible in all the pictures.

I like this shot because my son looks like he's about to take off any second (so very Superman of him!) AND it looks like he's looking directly at the camera.  In truth, he is looking directly at ME because I'm about to yell at him for throwing the remote.  That also explains why he looks like he's about to bolt.  That brings me to the third issue: Kids don't look at the camera.  They look at the TV.  In my setup, the TV was mounted on the wall about 2 feet higher than the camera.  This can be seen in the NAILED IT! image I used up top.  You can also see examples of issues 4 and 5 in that image.

Fourth issue:  Kids suck at posing.  They stand too close to the camera.  They don't appreciate all the hard work that went in to the awesome backdrop.  They have no imaginative superhero poses.  At least not the kids at our party.  Of course, he just turned 4, so the kids are all about the same age.  Older kids might "get it" a bit more.

Fifth issue: Kids are like little tweakers with the remote control button.  They just push it.  They're all BUTTONBUTTONBUTTONBUTTON!!!  It doesn't matter what's going on.  Most of the images look like out takes.  They are definitely funny and I think they'll make an awesome memory for my son, though!

So what did I learn?  When it comes to birthday party photobooths, if you want really cute shots there is one critical element needed that I underestimated: adult guidance.  "Here kids, push the button when you're ready to take a picture" didn't cut it.  There needs to be an adult to tell them where to stand, where to look, give posing ideas, and to take the picture when there is a picture worth taking.  If you want comical out takes, you can do as I did :)