Photo Booths

By Tom Roebuck

October 29, 2010 5 min read

There are certainly exceptions, but a traditional wedding ceremony is a formal affair in front of family and friends peacefully listening as vows are exchanged. It's the beginning of a new phase of life for the happy couple, and the long-held traditions convey the majesty of the moment.

After the big kiss, the bride and groom march back down the aisle, this time together, arm in arm. Everybody files out and heads for the reception hall for the elegant yet lively party, where food and drink can be found in abundance. Whereas the ceremony is a time for guests to quietly reflect while the clergyman addresses the flock, the reception is when everyone can relax and get a little festive.

Bring together old friends and family; hire a DJ or a band; and let loose free food and drink. Nothing short of a tornado ripping through the room should keep everyone from having a good time. But that doesn't stop wedding planners from coming up with new tricks for a memorable reception. One of the latest and unexpected trends is to rent a photo booth that everyone can pile into and have snapshots taken.

Once a regular sight in shopping centers, photo booths were like little studios. People would take a seat, draw the curtain and pose while a camera took a series of shots at regular intervals, usually about 10 seconds. Though more mature patrons would smile nicely for the camera, it was a treasured tradition among preteens (and others) to jam four bodies in there and fight it out for camera time. After the shots were snapped, a strip would emerge from the booth with the photos lined up, ready for a scrapbook.

The age of the shopping center photo booth came and went, but digital photography has allowed them to make a comeback, this time at wedding receptions and other private parties. At first glance, many wedding guests are puzzled to see a photo booth next to the bar.

"Most people think, 'Wow, a photo booth at a wedding?' It doesn't make sense to them," says Donald Bakewell, owner of Party Booths. "But when they see it in action, they're like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is the best idea ever for a wedding reception."

The booths that were made in the 1950s were big, heavy machines that looked like huge video games. Now they're likelier to be light and portable with smooth, elegant surfaces and full-length curtains, appropriate for receptions in swanky country clubs or hotel ballrooms and even outdoors. Digital equipment is far less bulky than the old film cameras, and the quality is much higher, as well. A printer outside the booth spits out one group's photos while another group enters the booth and begins a session.

"You can get a lot of sessions done in an hour. It's just a blast," Bakewell says. "Once those original photos start floating around the room, it draws people to the photo booth like a magnet."

When shopping for a rental company, it's wise to determine beforehand who owns the copyrights to the photos. Some companies will make prints at the receptions, but any prints that may be wanted later will have to be bought from them. Other companies release the rights to the customers and supply them with DVDs containing high-resolution files of all the photos taken. Brides and grooms are free to make prints, send as e-mail attachments, assemble online scrapbooks or do whatever else they like.

"We use digital SLR cameras and studio lighting," Bakewell says. "Our clients can actually enlarge the photos to 20-inch wall posters. Not that they ever would, but they can."

Party Booths offers two-hour, four-hour and six-hour sessions. An attendant arrives two hours before the session begins to set up and handle any unforeseen problems. The attendant monitors the booth during the session and helps promote it at the beginning. Word of mouth soon results in a line of guests waiting their turn.

"After the first hour of an event, we're just swamped for the rest of the night," Bakewell says.

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