Photo Booth

For some reason, there’s nothing funner than cramming into a photo booth and saying "cheese" with someone’s armpit in your face. And there’s no better party favor than photos of your guests that they can take home with them. The only catch? Renting a photo booth can cost — gulp — thousands of dollars.

However, if you have a digital camera and a photo printer (available for as little as $75), you can re-create the photo booth experience at home for the price of a box of photo paper* — and keep copies for yourself.

Read on to find out how to make your own…

  1. Make sure you have enough room on your camera’s memory card for the number of photos you want guests to take. If not, get a memory card with more storage space. While you’re at it, put new batteries in your camera and load your printer with photo paper.

  1. Decide on a corner away from the main party action to set up the photo booth. Use several tacks to hang a sheet from the ceiling a few feet away from one wall and perpendicular to the other. The sheet will define the booth, with the open end becoming the entrance. Make a sign saying "PHOTO BOOTH" with "Entrance" and an arrow under it.

  1. Hang a second sheet against the back wall as a backdrop, pleating it as you tack it up for a curtain-like effect. Put a kitchen chair against that wall.

  1. Move a dresser or table about five feet from the chair, creating the fourth "wall" in the entrance area (just make sure you leave enough room for people to get in and out without pulling on the sheet). Set your camera on the edge of the dresser or table. If necessary, add books or a box under the camera to raise it to the eye level of someone sitting in the chair. If you like, prop a mirror against the wall behind the camera so guests can make sure they’re in the picture, not to mention check their lipstick.

  1. Put props like a feather boa, blond wig, fake moustache, and bowler hat on the dresser or table so guests can glam it up while they ham it up.

  1. For extra photo-booth effect, set your camera to take pix in black-and-white. Then set the timer on the camera and sit down while it snaps the photo. Check the results and readjust the camera’s position if necessary.

  1. Make a sign of instructions for your guests. Here’s what to write:

1. Put on whatever props you like and get ready for your close-up!

2. Without picking up or moving the camera, turn it on and set the timer by [insert instructions for your camera here].

3. You have 10 seconds to take a seat and strike a pose.

4. Photos will be printed for you. Simply return at [specify a time a couple of hours after the party starts] or the end of the party to pick up yours!

  1. Trace the outline of the bottom of the camera on the edge of a piece of paper, write "SET CAMERA HERE" within the outline, and then tape the paper to the edge of the dresser or table; that way, if the camera does get moved, guests will know where to put it back. Next, in small letters, write down the steps for setting your timer, then cut them out and tape them to your camera. (Here are mine: 1. Press here [draw arrow to on/off button] 2. Press [draw timer icon with an arrow pointing to button] 3. Press OK [draw arrow pointing to button] 4. Press here [draw arrow to button to take photo].)

  1. Connect your photo printer to the camera.

  1. Now go enjoy the party! Just come back to print photos in batches at the appointed times.

*For weddings or special events, consider renting a convention-style booth with curtains on a sturdy frame (just $46 from the party rental company I used for my wedding) and putting the camera on an inexpensive tripod (about $15) for a more polished, authentic photo booth feel.