I recently had a conversation with a friend about how to make the booth easier to run and operate, and he insisted that my obsession with the quality of the photo didn't matter, and no one would care enough like I did. (To be fair, that is my very over-simplified view of his side of the conversation, but it works out better for me to remember it like that.) That same week, my next client commented on how good the photographs looked. I also got an email from a gal that had been in the booth at a recent wedding, letting me know how much she liked the booth, and the quality of the photos...
To rewind a bit, that last booth engagement started out in a string of frustrating growing pains. By the end of the night, I was over it, as the booth started running smoothly, and everyone was having a blast! However, as I was talking with my good friend -- who helped me design and build the booth -- about the events that transpired that night, and how I already was thinking of improvements for the next generation booth, he gave me a replay that I should have seen coming: If you just change the light source, we could make the hardware fit much more easily. I know there are easier ways to get the light to the booth, however after seeing all the results, I know I'll never change it.
The idea of a photo booth was born in a place many great ideas are conceived: a bar, with some good blues music playing in the background, and cold drinks on the bar. My buddy had already thought about finding an old, defunct film photo booth and converting it to digital. While he never did, I knew it was something I could do, and I went about trying to put all the right hardware together to make a great booth. While everyone's definition of great images will differ, I've always prided myself on trying to produce the best looking images with my own photography, and I knew I could take some of that knowledge and apply it to the booth.
I describe a bit about what I ended up with on the Photobooth page, but I'll go into a bit more detail so you can understand why it complicates things so much.
To the right above is a sample of the type of image that came from the photo booth we hired for my wedding. We did genuinely love having him there, and we got some awesome photos to help remember our day. However, there are instantly some things I see - being the photographer I am - that I knew I would want to change. This image is possibly the best example of why I wanted to use the light I chose.
The light in this particular booth was from two strips of light down each side of the camera. The light is on an automatic setting, so when the camera sees our hands so close, and receiving so much light, it dials it back, and our faces end up a bit dark. While there are some ways around it with that setup, you're still left with small lights that give harsh, unflattering light. I knew that would need to change.
As I was searching for my light source, I found a studio ring-light strobe, which is a type used often by fashion photographers because the even, nearly shadowless light is flattering to most people. Not only did I find a good ring light, I found a soft box that was specifically made for the strobe. The soft box only enhances the effect of the ring light; in photography, the larger the light source relative to the subject, the softer, more pleasing the light (even though the Sun is huge, because of it's distance it is considered a small light in photography). So I ended up with a good looking light source, that I then accentuated to look even a bit better. So far, so good.
The big drawback to the studio strobe for my light is size. The soft box itself is 32" across at the flats (it's in an octagonal shape around the outside), and the whole unit is about 14" front-to-back. Because of this size, placing the camera was tricky, but it made the printer placement even harder, as the printer, in the end, needed to go above the camera! Although my friend liked the challenge, he was almost immediately questioning if I needed that light at all. Needless to say, I didn't budge. It did cause some headaches in the booth construction, but we pressed on.
As the Launch Party neared, I was apprehensive about how it was all going to work. Even as the party was underway, I was always wondering if I made the right decisions on the light, the camera, the software, the printer, etc., etc., etc. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and I knew I was onto something good. Then I saw the following photograph:
After I saw this on my nice, big computer monitor instead of my smallish laptop screen, I was absolutely convinced that I had made the right decision on the booth hardware! Then the quality just kept coming:
Not only did the light show superb quality, but, because of the size and the manual power setting, the light was loads more even front-to-back than what I got during my wedding day.
Fast forward back to the conversation with my friend: When he told me that no one would care if I changed the light, that it was such a small image on the print that no one would be able to know the difference, I knew he was wrong. I would know the difference. I would know that I'm not doing everything I knew I could to get my clients the best images possible. When you are obsessing over the quality you want to sell, you sell quality you want to see. Even if no one sees it except you, you will know the quality isn't there. If you wouldn't absolutely love the quality of your product, you can't expect anyone else to even start to like your product.
I love my Photobooth's photos!