Wireless Flash Firing for a DIY Photobooth
Being tasked with running a party photo booth for friends and family can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t big and your space isn’t either. I put together a photo booth using portable items that you can rent from BorrowLenses.com. There are various ways to make a booth – some even more simple than this, many more complex. This is just how I did it and you can improve/build upon it.
I purchased a lightweight wood dowel and stapled garland to it. It is light enough to still be able to hang with gaffer’s tape and not ruin any walls. This will take up less space than a formal backdrop and backdrop stand.
- 3 Nikon SB-910s: 1 main, 1 fill, 1 back light. You can get away with much less using 1 flash with a reflector.
- 3 SD-9 Compact Battery Packs for Nikon: extra battery power for the flashes, totally optional.
- D800, using the popup flash as a commander for the SB-910s.
- Photoflex OctoDome Extra Small Kit: comes with a speedring, flash mount, and multiclamp.
- Manfrotto lightstand for the Photoflex OctoDome.
- AlienBees LS1100 backlight stand and multiclamp for the back light.
- Justin Clamp for the fill light (bouncing off a reflector).
- Pocket Wizard Plus II and FlexTT5 (this is for creating a remote trigger for guests, not for firing the lights since those are fired optically from the DSLR pop-up flash).
- Pocket Wizard motor cord for Nikon. This is for turning a Pocket Wizard into a shutter trigger for the photobooth remote.
- Tripod and ballhead for camera.
- 35mm lens or something with a range like 24-120mm, allowing for flexibility in a tight space.
Set Up: The Lights
The following Nikon cameras (as of this writing) can fire the following Nikon flashes via the pop-up flash on the camera: D800/D800E, D700, D600, D300, D200, D90, D80, D70, D7000 with SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600.
All other cameras (at the time of this writing) must use an SU-Commander (or another flash set as a master) that connects to the hotshoe to fire the flashes.
The following Canon cameras (as of this writing) can fire the following Canon flashes via the pop-up flash on the camera: Canon 7D, Canon 60D, Canon Rebel T4i, Canon Rebel T3i with 430 EX II, 580 EX II, 600 EX-RT.
All other cameras (at the time of this writing) must use an ST-E2 or ST-E3-RT (or another flash set as a master) that connects to the hotshoe to fire the flashes. The Pentax K-5 and K-7 will also fire the Pentax AF-540 flash via their onboard popup flashes. The Sony A77, A35, and A55 will fire Sony flashes using their popup as well. For other models/brands, you will probably need to use a set of triggers, such a Pocket Wizard. See Making Sense of Pocket Wizards for more info.
- 1 flash in the OctoDome on a lightstand, behind the camera and pointing down onto the subject. This will produce “butterfly lighting” on the subject’s face (a little shadow under the nose and chin). The more intense the downward angle, the longer these shadows get. Learn more in 8 Portrait Lighting Setups Every Photographer Should Know.
- 1 flash on a Justin Clamp attached to the same lightstand the OctoDome is on. Flash is pointed down onto a white reflector that is merely leaning against our stand on the ground at a angle so that this light bounces up into the underside of our subject’s face and softens those butterfly shadows a bit.
- 1 flash pointed on the AlienBees stand pointed straight up into the garland behind where the subjects will be standing. This is to give the backdrop a little bit of glow and to prevent the entire scene from looking too flat.
- 3 SD-9 Compact Battery Packs for Nikon. These attach directly to the SB-910s. Otherwise, have many spare AA batteries on hand.
Set Up: The Camera
- D800 on Induro tripod with a medium-wide lens.
- Pocket Wizard motor cord for Nikon. 1 end connected to the camera, the other connected to a Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 (compatible with other Pocket Wizards, too, not just the TT5).
- Pocket Wizard Plus II in the hands of the model for easy firing of the camera (and so that you don’t have to man the photobooth all night – they simple hit the “test” button to activate the camera’s shutter).
Other Shutter-Triggering Options
There are several ways you can trigger your camera’s shutter for a photobooth. One option would be to get a remote. Another option is to rent a couple of Pocket Wizards and a remote camera cable. Connect the remote camera cable between your camera and 1 Pocket Wizard. The other Pocket Wizard can be held by your guests to fire the camera whenever they are ready! You can do this with a Pocket Wizard TT5 on the camera and a Plus II as the remote or just two Plus II’s.
Set Up: Firing the Flashes Wirelessly
- Pop your camera’s onboard flash.
- Set your camera’s menu settings for flash to “commander” mode.
- Set your flash dial to “Remote”.
Every time the camera fires via either remote, timer, or the Pocket Wizard, the popup flash will send a split-second signal to the other flashes to fire.Strobe-like lighting for a small space!