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Wedding Photobooth with Speedlites

StroNoobStroNoob Member
edited November 2011 in flash & lighting

I apologize in advance for the long post, but I had an idea I was kicking around and based on what I’ve read in this forum it looked like a great place to get some meaningful feedback.

I’m considering a DIY “photobooth” at my upcoming destination wedding. I’m nothing more than an amateur dabbler in (mostly sports and travel) photography, with little experience in artificial lighting. I have a Canon 450D, a couple decent lenses, 430ex II, a tripod, and a remote trigger.

We’re getting married in a garden restaurant, so it’ll be semi-outdoors; minimum walls and the ceiling is wooden. Obviously light is a concern. I looked around a bit for a set of cheap portable strobes, but the idea is to make it more or less autonomous, since I will have groom duties to fulfill. I figure I need to shoot in eTTL. So I was wrestling with the idea of getting a 580ex II, extend it off camera a bit with a cable, soften it (somehow), and use it to trigger my 430. Drop a white sheet, put my remote on a string with 2-second delay, write a few instructions on posterboard, and leave a box full of props. In theory, it should work.

Concerns: Are two speedlites sufficient to light up a space big enough for, say 4-5 people? I can’t guarantee that I’ll have any decent ambient lighting to work with. Are the speedlites workhorse enough to run for an hour or two as people come in and out? Maybe it’ll be a flop and hardly anybody uses it, but after a few drinks I could see a line forming. Another consideration: I’ll have to set this up in the daytime, and it will most likely be used at night; is it within the realm of TTL to compensate for such a dramatic change in ambient light? Is the whole idea ludicrous?

I realize it’s a bit MacGyver, and asking a bunch of pro photogs their opinion on it is probably setting me up for some harsh critique, but I thought I’d ask. Even if it goes down in flames, I wanted to say thanks to Neil and everyone else here – I’ve been lurking for a couple weeks now and playing with my strobe on the weekend thanks to what I’ve learned; it has me looking at photography in a completely different… pardon the pun …light.


  • Hi StroNoob

    No Opinions here Just helpful Facts

    I ran a Photo booth this summer at a Few weddings... So I can guide you

    You may want to rent a studio flash that you can plug in . You only need one right over the Camera with a soft box or Umbrella , If not in the Budget use a direct on camera ( I know it sacrilege , but its just a Photo booth People ,,,,, Relax!!!!!!!! )

    A couple things to look out for

    1. You'll need a F stop of at least F9 and above , F11-16 preferred.

    2 Recycling time will have to be quick , people will click and click like crazy.

    3 If your camera is not in a box Have someone there, your camera will be bumped and knocked over I promise you .

    ( I don't know why but People love Sticking there nose in the lens especially after a couple of cocktails. ) UV Fi

    4 Shoot Flash in Manual ... more consistant output don't do TTL you'll be all over the Place with exposure.

    Try and use 1/4 or 1/8 power , even if you have to bump up the ISO

    Lou .

  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited November 2011
    I did a photo booth well. Keep it simple and good advice by Matrixphoto. I just used one shoot through umbrella on a stand, centred and above pointing down. Last thing you want to do is start playing with 2 light sources when you are inexperienced and you will have no time to think things out especially in your position. You can get an umbrella for $30 and maybe borrow or rent a stand.

    I used my 580II. The 430 might do it but if you can borrow a 580 or a studio strobe that would be better. More input here would be helpful. You can always bump your ISO if you need to if. Start with ISO 400 and work your way up if you need more. Set your camera on manual. I would go with f8. That should be enough to keep the DOF good as people will be piling in there. You really start to rob your flashes power over f8 and you may be working with your 430. Shutter speed is not as critical for this. I had mine at 1/125. You are in a studio here situation so can go to sync speed if you want to kill some of the ambient light. Ignore your cameras light meter as your flash will provide the correct light to illuminate your subjects.

    Again good advice on setting your flash on manual. It will be far more constant than ETTL. Once you set your exposure you can just fire away all night. ETTL flash works much like a cameras light meter and can be fooled. A bride alone in white dress, a groom alone in a black tux and the bride and groom together will all reflect light back differently during the ETTL flash pre fire. You don't want to be messing with FEC all night. ETTL is great for run and gun shooting but in this case manual is a much better choice.

    I use a light meter but you can use you histogram for the correct exposure. Neil discusses using it. I know where to find in it his On Camera Flash for Weddings book but I'm not sure where to find it in Tangents. Here is a good reference. Scroll down half way and you will see a gent with a white towel. You do this for your initial exposure by adjusting the flash power and then you are set for the rest of the night.


    You will need to trigger your flash. The Yongnuo rf 602 is inexpensive and reliable.

    Last thing. Do not let the people get too close to the flash/umbrella. I had a piece of red tape along the floor about 12 feet away from the flash and made sure they did not cross it. It is due to the Inverse Square Law and fall off. Without getting technical, if people are too close to the light source the ones in front will get nuked by the flash and the ones behind will be underexposed. The further back the people are the more even the light is between the people in the front and back. After several drinks it will be difficult to control that. And don't forget the people will be drinking too :) Thus the red tape.

    Good luck and have fun.
  • StroNoobStroNoob Member
    edited January 2012
    Hey guys, thanks a lot for the information, it was a big help, and I've been having a ton of fun. I ended up biting the bullet and getting a 580ex II so I could trigger in e-TTL. It’s funny, you can read countless articles about this stuff and think you understand it, but it’s not until you pull out your gear and start shooting that it really clicks and you have the ‘Ah Ha!’ moment. Long story short – y’all were right, no need for e-TTL. Guess I could have gotten some generic strobes and saved some cash. Oh well, if I lump the cost in with that of the wedding, it’s trivial; and I have a new flash!

    So I’ve been playing around with my 580 off-camera connected via e-TTL cord, triggering my 430 via Canon wireless. Both set in manual, one at each side with an umbrella, camera (350D) at 1/200, F8. I know you mentioned keeping it simple with one light, but I’m finding it pretty easy to balance the two. The results are fantastic and it reduces the power I need out of each unit. I’ve had no problem at all with the wireless (indoors), however, I’m beginning to get a little concerned about it functioning as well in the semi-outside venue. So I was looking into your suggestion of the Yongnuo 602s. That brought up a couple more questions:

    People keep mentioning flash trigger cords. I was under the impression that you just connect it to the camera hotshoe and that will tell the transmitter to fire and communicate to the receiver? Is the cord for something else (not shutter trigger, I understand that)? Edit: After some more research I think I was looking at models that trigger shutter and flash at the same time.

    Any concerns with them not having a shoe-lock? Seems my whole unit could come sliding off? I noticed the Cactus V5s have a lock and are in the same price point. However, they don’t have a wake-up function, and I’m thinking that may be necessary for my application. I also noted that they specifically mention that it doesn’t work with the 300D. I have the 350D, which isn’t mentioned, but it’s just one model off. Anybody have the 350D with a V5?

    Thanks again for your time.
  • k8etk8et Member, Moderator
    I have the Cactus V5s - worked well with my XTi, though I only used them once or twice. I'm sure they'd work with the XT as well. I can't find any "translation" for the 300D, but if it's the only model mentioned that doesn't work and the XTi works, I'm sure the XT would as well.

    I have Yonguo triggers, I think the 602, that I should pass on to someone else at this point.
  • StroNoobStroNoob Member
    edited February 2012
    I ended up going with the 602s once it dawned on me that I'd mostly be using the threaded mount on the receivers for putting them on umbrella holders. The lack of locking shoe is still a bit annoying for using them around the house on those little plastic feet that come with the flashes, as they slip off extremely easily. But I've taken to mostly using them on stands and those GorillaPod wrapable tripods, both of which they lock into, so that's a fine workaround for not having a locking shoe.

    The location of the power switch isn't very well thought out either. But I think I can mod that with a little bit of superglue, a paperclip, and my MacGyver decoder ring. Other than that, the 602s work great, no problems at all. Certainly a great little device for the price, for a hobbyist. If I did this kind of stuff more frequently I'd certainly want to be able to control strobe power from my camera. Running back and forth to the different strobes to balance light can be a chore.
  • Out of interest what are people using as the actual 'booth'?
  • StroNoobStroNoob Member
    edited February 2012
    Photobooth is a bit of a misnomer, at least for my situation. It just seemed an easy term that everyone more or less understood. Mine was open, essentially a studio situation. My original intent was for a white seamless background, but it quickly dawned on me that 1) unsupervised drunk wedding guests would trip all over the flooring, and 2) it would quickly become non-white on the floor. So I opted for just a dropcloth in the back with the regular floor. I did mine on my own wedding day, so I had a few other things on my mind, and out of all the things I forgot it was my dropcloth that I dragged all the way down to Mexico with me. We used a few table cloths that were less than seamless and rounded on the corners, but in the end it didn't matter. The guests had a great time with the "booth". It gave them some extra entertainment and they wore the props for the rest of the night. The pictures pictures are silly, candid, and highly entertaining memories for my bride and I, as well as guests... as a recent groom I'd recommend to just about anyone to have one at their wedding.
  • You definetly can do it with speedlights for few hours. Make sure you set your ISO higher and use the flash at power power. If you have two flashes, put them in a bracket or tape the togheter. This way each flash uses half of the power need it.
    If you just use one on the front, use the other one above your background in the middle and point it down on your subject. Use low power, just enough to add some hair light, spicing up your shots. If it stop working during shot, no biggie. Make sure is not pointed into your lens and out of the frame.
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