Starting a Photo Booth Business: Build or Buy?

Buy or Build my Photo BoothImaging Spectrum would like to thank Mike Bender for providing us with this guest blog post. Mike is owner and operator of It’s a Photo Booth. In this post, Mike addresses the big question of Build or Buy?
 

Should I buy a Photo Booth or Build my own?

So you have decided that you would like to start a photo booth business. You know that they are a great business model that allows you flexibility and the opportunity to participate in one of the greatest days in one’s life, your wedding day! So now you are faced with the question “Do I build or buy my photo booth”. This is a very important question that must be given careful consideration. A true self-assessment can be very beneficial when making this decision. Consider the following.

You are preparing to make a large investment of both time and money and you want it to succeed. To succeed you need to have a professional appearance that presents you and your company in the best light possible. Consider, every time you run your photo booth at a wedding or event you are selling your services. What? Yes, every event is a pitch for your next event. This means that you want your booth, software, prints, personnel and action to appear in a professional manner.

Now that I have touched on this very important point ask yourself the following:

  • Do I have the time and skills to build a photo booth on my own?
  • Do I understand each piece of equipment that is needed to build a successful photo booth?
  • Can I write my own software or do I need to buy it?
  • Can I fabricate my own booth or do I need to buy one?

Keep in mind that this is really just a starter set of questions, but they should pretty quickly shed light on what you should consider doing. For many, purchasing a pre-made photo booth will make the most sense. Even with that you can have many options such as simply purchasing the shell and putting in your very own electronics and software. Or, you can buy the whole enchilada, booth, electronics, software, support, etc.

Again these decisions will come down to the amount of control and responsibility you want to have. For myself it was painfully obvious that I need to build my booths from the ground up but for you it might be the exact opposite. In a future post I will discuss steps you need to take to design and fabricate your very own professional photo booth.

I would like to quickly discuss hardware considerations when selecting a booth manufacturer. You might be wondering what decisions can I possibly have to make for my photo booth? Right? Wrong!

What Form Factor is right for me?

Not all photo booths are made the same. Some use high end equipment (my election) and others do not. I am going to arm you with questions you need ask your manufacturer and why.

First let’s discuss the enclosure.

There are many form factors that today’s portable booths can take. Some are complete booths, some are a tower with a pipe and drape setup, others are open air, while some are equipment cases with electronics.

When choosing a form factor you need to answer the following questions:

  1. How portable is it? Can it easily go up and down stairs? Can it fit into my vehicle? This can have financial ramifications if not thought through in the beginning. Make sure you can haul your booth and all of its equipment.
  2. How difficult is the setup? This will vary from individual to individual but assess your technical and mechanical skills. Are you comfortable with nut drivers, discrete components, wires, cameras, printers? While to some degree you will need to be familiar with each of these the level can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  3. How long does setup and tear down take? While this will vary depending on your skillset the manufacturer should have a time range for standard setups.
  4. How heavy is it? Do I need a dolly or cart to move it? Booths can range from 50-60 lbs to 700+ lbs. Don’t be afraid to ask if it is not written in text.
  5. How many individuals does it take to set it up? Ideally this would be 1 as you want to keep your costs per event as low as possible.
  6. Is it made of durable materials? Your photo booth will take some abuse over the years as you move to and from all the weddings and events you will be attending.

Only D-SLR cameras need apply

The cameras you use in your photo booth can make the difference when potential clients are evaluating competing services. I recommend you run the very best equipment that you can. For cameras this means running D-SLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras. Based on software out there Canon has a clear advantage as almost all packages support them whereas Nikon is hit and miss. Either will produce great, clear photos. I will not be discussing webcams as they do not produce an adequate image in my opinion and therefore are not viable option.

Here are some common Canon cameras used in photo booths:

In a future post I will be discussing camera choices in greater detail.

Pick a professional printer

Like your camera your printer is a differentiator and arguably your most valued asset. If your printer is down your client’s guests are not having fun. A couple things to consider when choosing your printer is reliability, cost-per-print, capacity, speed and supply chain. Each of these will affect your business in some manner or another. While I have a future post planned to detail choosing the right printer for you I am going to quickly touch on each of the aforementioned points. (you can also check out Steve’s post on how to choose a photo booth printer)

Dye-sublimation printers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dye-sublimation_printer) are reliable, predictable and fast. They are the choice of photo kiosks around the world and they are the defacto choice for photo booth operators. Here are a few reasons why you to want a dye-sub.

Price-per-print, they are typically between $.12 and $.17 per 4×6 print. While there are inkjets that claim this same price point there is one big difference, predictability. A dye-sub printer will have a large capacity, up to 700 prints in some models and unlike an inkjet your dye-sub will produce this number every time. They are highly reliable, in fact in 3 years I have had one paper jam and that is the only time an attendant has touched one outside of changing the paper. There is a nice supply chain available for their consumables.

Here are a few of the top photo booth printers.

DNP DS-RX1 Photo Printer

DNP DS40 Photo Printer

HiTi P510L Photo Booth Printer

Mitsubishi CPD70DW

Touch screen or button actuation

All-in-one:

Touch screens:

Hardware switches:

Software package

You will need a good software package to run your photo booth. If you are not a software engineer by trade I really recommend that you purchase your photo booth software from a software vendor. Here are a few available out there

As you can see there is a lot to consider when deciding to open a photo booth business and we have only touched on the hardware and software considerations. I will be outlining each of these in much greater detail in future posts. There is also the consideration of operating as an independent or joining a franchise. Let us not forget there is also the whole business side of things. Pricing, costs, insurance, legalities, etc. There really is a lot to consider and I will try to help walk you through a lot of these issues in future posts.

Thanks and good luck!

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Comments

Great post! Congratulations. I wish I had seen it six months ago when I started my photobooth business in Mexico, it would definitely save me countless hours of research. I am happy now knowing that I have bought the right electronics as all the equipment I use was suggested by you in this post.
On the other hand, I am not fully convinced of the shell I have, would you please elaborate on that in future posts?
Thanks,

Great post very informative. While there is always new equipment coming out, those listed here are pretty standard, offer more than what you would need for this application and are fairly simple to get up and running.

As for the “Shell”, we offer this option. Check us out at http://www.photoboothop.com.

Pablo, you ask a very pertinent question and one that we will address soon right here. Thanks! Eric

What are other options for the shells,tower, and curtains.
It seems easy to find the printers,cameras… for me the challenge is the framing. any suggestions?
Thanks,
Robert

Pablo and Robert,

Please give me a call to discuss. I have a few questions for you before I make a recommendation.

Steve@imagingspectrum.com
800-342-9294

Great article! I own a couple photo booths. We purchased our first photo booth, and built our second photo booth. When I invested in the first photo booth, I was not certain of how long the photo booth demand would last; however, I must say that people LOVE photo booths at their events! I think that the portable photo booth demand will be around for a long time.

Perspective Photo Booth – San Francisco, CA

I started our photo booth company (www.snapcubby.com) four years ago when there weren’t really any comparable options that would do what we wanted. Over the years, we’ve definitely learned a lot, and it has paid off in the end. We’re now expanding, and offering to set up those interested in their own photo booth company, just give us a holler! Getting a solid photo booth built is just the first step of many…. We’d be happy to get you up and running, and as profitable as possible. We have created a classy and economical photo booth, a solid reputation, and a business plan that has been tried and tested for many years. Of course, thank you to Imaging Spectrum for being with us the entire way!

Nice article but it doesn’t hit on one very important issue – competition. Any dumb bunny can buy equipment or build a photobooth, but only a smart business person will evaluate what services are already available in their respective market and THEN decide if they want to devote the time, effort and money into starting a photobooth company regardless of build or buy. Ask anyone with an existing photobooth business and they will tell you that this is not easy money but hard work, long hours and a potentially limited return.

Yvette,

Thank you!!!

Charles,

You bring up some good points. We get many photobooth inquiries daily, as people ask where to buy a booth AND where to rent one. We are able to funnel those calls to booth builders and booth owners who do business with us. It is exciting to see booth owners do well as they add booths and expand into new markets. As with any business, it is more than just having a good booth. Of course marketing, sales and competition is all a part of it. Let us know how we can help you grow your business! We help people grow their booth business every day. Our technical and support staff is free to our customers who buy from us, so this gives the booth owners more time to focus on whats really important… their customer.

If we can help you, feel free to give us a call.

Regards,

Steve Behen
Photo Booth Specialist
Imaging Spectrum

Erin,

Thank you for the comments! Much appreciated!

Steve

we sell just the shell
http://www.rentphotobooths.com/sales
for about a grand less than with the electronics.

That being said, most photobooth companies simply buy their supplies and electronics from companies like Imaging Spectrum, so don’t expect to save any money by buying the electronics yourself as most photobooth makers would be doing the same thing you would of done.

pleas call Arnie 954 600-7853

We sell prepackaged photo booth enclosures made with pipe and drape. They are much less expensive than usual if you are looking for an inexpensive, portable alternative. http://www.onlineeei.com/photo_booths.cfm

Great post on building your own Photo Booth Eric I got alot of info but now how to set it up I saw all the equipment to buy from you. My main question is do you have info on how high to put the camera and flash along with the other equipment. what kind of lens for the Canon 50d is required. I can build anything but is there a some info to go by.Thanks Ron

Ron,

Thank you for the note. Your question is really about perspective and lighting. I would recommend getting a lens with a range of 18mm to 55mm to start. This will give you some flexibility. A solid light choice is the Alien Bee. The actual light placement is key. Typically you want the light to be flattering to your subject and not overpowering or too stark. Diffusion panels help soften and are usually placed a foot or so above the camera to help avoid red eye situations.

Feel free to call me to discuss this in greater detail.

Thanks again!

Steve
Imaging Spectrum
800-342-9294

I built my first booth 3 months ago (www.partywavebooths.com). I went with an open air for my first build. Although I do not regret it, I cannot wait to build a traditional booth. Building an open air first taught me a lot about things I never considered. Like:
how high should the camera be?
which side do photo’s come out?

Questions I continue to ask myself:
flash or lights
what’s the best lens

These are all very helpful!! My husband and I would love to start a photobooth in Idaho. I need help on where to get started. I have the camera…now what?
Thanks,
Monica

Monica,

Thank you for the note. Imaging Spectrum has helped countless companies get started in the photo booth business. Feel free to give me a call. I have some questions for you as far as your output requirements and booth design ideas. Glad to help!

Thanks again.

Steve Behen
800-342-9294
Imaging Spectrum
steve@imagingspectrum.com

Steve! Thanks! I will make a list of my questions and call you!

Thanks!
Monica

Great Post, Really helped when we built our booth. Touch screen all the way. Thanks

Very informative post, but I have a few more questions and would like to talk with you more.

Hi Mike,
Feel free to contact us at 800-342-9294 and ask for Steve (the photobooth guru). or email steve@imagingspectrum.com

Thanks for discussing about Portable Photo Booths. I appreciate your work and this blog post. Great work, keep this carry on. I would like to visit again and like to read some more interesting information.

Eric/Mike

Great article. Interesting view on the use of web cams. We tend to offer options to include both as we find that where operators want to offer both photo and video options, the higher end web-cams tend be more flexible than the DSLRs, especially if you do not want to limited the length of time you allow for the video recording. They can also be a safety net just in case you have an accident with your DSLR prior to or during set-up and then at least you have a back-up option.

Rob
Photobooths.co.uk

is the camera in MF or Af just concern about the camera focusing under low light.
thanks.

Are there any great mac base software for a photobooth? Thank you.

Thomas, We sell Breeze for Mac with a printer purchase or to current customers. It is Canon only but works really well: http://breezesys.com/DSLRRemotePro4Mac/index.htm

I love this site and these slogans for rally signs will help stimulate those who wish to attend.

Thanks for discussing about Photobooth. I appreciate your work and this blog post. Great work, keep this carry on. I would like to visit again and like to read some more interesting information.

i was thinking of starting a photo booth business. wanted to ask is this something you feel is profitable? I have some funds to work with and time. Been in sales and marketing for years. I don’t want to get into something that will not support my family i. If I decide to do something I am the type of person that will shoot for the starts.

Thanks

Thanks for sharing your website.Really i like your great information.

Hello All,

My name is JP. I am having such a hard time deciding on the company of Photo Booths to purchase from. I heard of Open Air, Mojo, Pixbox and ext.. but I just dont know which is the best photo booth for me to buy. Please help me.

Thanks

JP
info@bluepalmstudios.com

Hi JP,
I have asked our photo booth guru, Steve, to contact you by email. He can help. Feel free to call and ask for him or Christina @800-342-9294

Hi,
I have been thinking of venturing into the photo booth business. I am a first timer in all this, I am currently just doing a bit of research, I’m thinking of buying my first photo booth, could you give me suggestions on some reliable brands. I want something that’s portable and stand-up, not those enclosed booths with curtains.

Thanks.

Mildred, Papua New Guinea

Mildred,

Thank you for posting. Yes, we do have a preferred network of quality booth builders that we recommend. However, I am not sure who does business with Papau New Guinea. I might suggest you log onto http://www.photoboothtalk.com or http://www.photoboothowners.com to find a builder that sells to your country.

Thanks again.
Steve B
Imaging Spectrum

Mike Bender must really angry that you stole what he wrote and you just take the credit for it.

https://photoboothowners.com/starting-a-photo-booth-business-build-or-buy

@Yonna – Please note in the first paragraph that this is a Guest Blog Post. Credit is indeed given to Mike Bender. Mike is a friend and we collaborate on various projects.

Worth mentioning that web cam based systems can and do produce excellent results. Sparkbooth is a case in point. They are now offering a DSLR version too though. Sparkbooth.Com

After reading your blog post i come to my point of view that your blog post idea is look very fresh and unique.

Very good post. I am considering starting a photo booth business. I Would like to take a look at your booth.

it’s really such a nice design collection , its give me new more ideas and we are also from same industry and welcome you to visit our site.

Great post – me and the team went for the buy option. Think the hassle of building one yourself takes up valuable time.

http://www.trigger-happy.co.uk

I am thinking about building an open air photobooth. Thank you for sharing such great information and resources. I am still in search of the best flight/carrying case. Would love some advice and options with pictures. My monitor is 42 inches and the Kiosk is very similar to the TapSnap kiosk. Thanks

For a flight carrying case you might want to check with other photobooth businesses at one or all of these Facebook groups.
Photo Booth Marketplace
Photo Booth Talk
Photo Booth Network

Good writeup from your guest poster. You’ll get fantastic value building your own booth over paying for a prefab, but when it comes to software, etc. There’s so many freaking options out there and they update so often. The technology is amazing as well. We started about 5 years back, and the power of really inexpensive cameras is just stunning.

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