published Thursday, December 26th, 2013

The new 'flash mob': Photo booths at parties are real crowd pleasers

Photo booth companies provide a variety of props such as hats, mustaches, feather boas and oversized glasses to help guests loosen up for their photos, as shown by Cassandra McCarley, Tracy McCarley and Zoe McCarley.
Photo booth companies provide a variety of props such as hats, mustaches, feather boas and oversized glasses to help guests loosen up for their photos, as shown by Cassandra McCarley, Tracy McCarley and Zoe McCarley.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Claudia Zalevsky, left, and Tracy McCarley get their photo made in a photo booth.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Zoe McCarley, right, had a photo booth at her bat mitzvah held at the Double Tree Hotel. The teen is pictured with two unidentified friends.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

What to know

Before hiring a photo booth rental company, ask these questions in addition to rental fees:

* Does your booth use a digital single lens reflex camera, or a point-and-shoot type camera? The digital SLR camera provides a better image quality.

* Do you use an off-camera flash or photography strobe for lighting, or do you use a continuous light source? Continuous light source allows motion blur and can leave the image looking washed out. Spring for a booth with good camera lighting.

* What type of printer do you use? Inkjet printers take longer to print out images and the ink on the images will have to dry. They can be smudged, smeared and get ink on your fingers or clothes when still wet. Dy-Sub printers are fast printers built for speed, large-print capacity and good print quality. Although they are typically more expensive to own and operate, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Source: Vanity Fair

Photo Booth Rentals

* Just Shoot Me: justshootmepb.com. 423-903-3333 or 931-980-8168

* In The Pic: inthepic-photobooth.com. 423-314-4758

* Pricing: Both companies start at $500 for two hours, which includes unlimited photos, set up and break down (not part of the two hours of party time), props and personalization. Additional options available with each company.

When Tracy McCarley began planning daughter Zoe’s recent bat mitzvah, she knew how to create a Kodak moment.

“We’d had a photo booth three years previously for our older daughter’s party. Everybody loved it! Parents and kids couldn’t quit talking about it — a year later they were still telling me where they had posted their pictures. It gave the party something fun for people to do,” says McCarley.

Photo booths — those curtained, stand-alone enclosures that spit out a strip of four snapshots — have made a comeback over the last four years. Baby boomers will remember cramming into them with friends at drug stores, malls, the county fair and amusement parks; now they’re fixtures at wedding receptions, mitzvahs, Sweet 16s and even corporate Christmas parties.

They started appearing at wedding receptions in 2009, according to The Wedding Report Inc., which says about 10 percent of couples nationally included a photo booth at their receptions that year. Now the website, which monitors bridal industry trends and statistics, estimates one out of 20 couples has a photo booth on hand to make reception souvenirs.

Reece and Sandy Varnell are new to the photo-booth rental business, but a good share of the work for their year-old company, In The Pic, a subsidiary of Pro Sound Chattanooga, is at homes.

“I would say I’ve done 30 to 40 percent of my business at home parties besides weddings,” says Reece.

The couple made the investment after he noticed the uptick in the number of photo booths he saw at wedding receptions where Bud Lightning, the band in which he is guitarist, had gigs.

“I’ve always had a side job playing music,” says Reece, an employee of Publix, “but I changed over to photo booths about a year ago. It’s opened a whole new avenue for income. It’s something my wife and I can do together, which has been a blessing to have the ability to do something as a team. It fits our lifestyle as far as time away from home.”

The Varnells say they have booked booth rentals for teenage pre-dance parties, weddings, Sweet 16 parties and even hauled their booth to football games in conjunction with a local radio station’s “Friday Night Lights” broadcast. He’s already had three inquiries about New Year’s Eve bookings.

Ryan and Rebekah Hargrove, owners of Just Shoot Me photo booth company, say they have been booked for events ranging from a 1-year-old’s birthday party to church festivals, school carnivals and, this month, a lot of corporate Christmas parties.

“We’ve had this company for two years,” says Ryan, a manager at AT&T. They started photo booth rentals after seeing how much fun guests had at a friend’s wedding.

“In 2012, we did 63 jobs. So far this year, we’ve had 78 bookings. Of those, about 75 percent were weddings. We’re booked through next June,” he says.

Although New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year, Rebekah, a teacher at Siskin Children’s Institute, says the couple is not working.

“There are certain dates we take for ourselves, when we get together with friends,” she explains.

Both couples say photo booths are great icebreakers, an easy way to loosen up a crowd. Photo strips may be personalized with event names, dates, couples’ names or company logos, which make them great party favors.

“People like to get their pictures made. People like to let loose a little bit, and being able to dress up and get their picture made gives them a combination of that,” says Reece. “I’ve done parties where there are 10-year-olds to 80-year-olds and they all have a great time.”

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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