The Fortune Photo Booth Guide to Making Money Renting Photo Booths (Version 1.0 updated 4-24-2014) By: Soren Coughlin-Glaser Contact me directly at: (503) 230-1181 [email protected] Chapter 1: Introduction Why Should You Start Renting Photo Booths? (Spoiler: To make money!) I began renting photo booths as a side business to my photography business in Portland OR in 2006. After 4 years my little side business became my main business, and now I shoot photos on the side. I can’t promise you are going to make Gazillions of dollars your first year renting photo booths, but with a little work marketing a photo booth rental business, and running it like an actual business you can make a great living renting photo booths. How much? I’ll get into the details throughout this e-book, but I rent out booths for about $200 an hour and my costs for supplies for that hour is, at the most, $7.50. Many times an hour costs less than $3. If I have 100 events a year at an average of 4 hours per event I can bring in $80,000. With 2-4 booths and a good marketing plan I can bring in more than that. Your Gross income from renting photo booths depends on how well you market in your area, how much your local clients are willing to spend and how many events you can book. Of course, running a business or any sort has overhead costs and advertising costs, but the photo booth rental business can be run part time and from your home or garage, and with our Fortune Photo Booth portable photo booth kits, doesn’t require any special storage or transport because it fits in a car and can be set up by a single person. I am writing this free e-book to give you some in depth information about the photo booth rental business and our Fortune Photo Booth photo booth kits, but you can apply the knowledge in this book to any photo booth you might purchase. Throughout this e-book you’ll learn about my personal experiences renting booths to make money and give you some basic tools to start off your photo booth rental business on the right foot. Who am I? I’m Soren, owner of Fortune Photo Booth (sales) and Portland Photo Booth (rentals). Back in 1996 I was a newbie wedding and event photographer in Portland Oregon. I began renting photo booths in 2006 as an add- on to my existing wedding packages, which turned into such a hit that my main business is now renting and manufacturing photo booths for events. I want to share my passion for photo booths with you. With my knowledge of starting a photo booth rental company I can teach you the essentials so that you can have a successful rental business too. If you have any questions about my photo booth ideas, philosophies or my photo booth kits feel free to call me to discuss personally at: 503-230-1181 (pacific time zone) or email me at: [email protected] I sell a complete turnkey photo booth system that you can use to start or upgrade your own photo booth rental business, but this E-book should provide useful information for anyone in the industry no matter which booth you purchase. (See more at: www.fortunephotobooth.com ) Read on, and you will see how renting photo booths to weddings, events and parties is a fun and lucrative small business that can be part time or full time, and allow you to be your own boss. What is a photo booth? Photo Booths are a popular rental item at weddings, Ba/Bar Mitzvahs, company parties and business events. This e-book will guide you through the process of purchasing and developing a money making rental business that you can treat as part time or full time, and run from your home. For this e-book a photo booth is an automatic kiosk type structure that people go into and push a button. The Booth then automatically takes a certain number of shots and automatically prints the images either in a strip or a custom layout. These booths can have a curtain or be open air against a scene or background. This e-book does not discuss the photographer shooting groups and printing them type “photo booth.” How I Started My business model for renting photo booths to events evolved from my 18 years in the event industry. Back when I started as an event photographer there simply was no photo booth rental industry. A few companies existed that had a truck and a trailer and rented out 1000 lb. photo booths, but it was a tiny niche business that most people hadn’t ever heard of. The old booths had to be filled with chemicals and maintained with parts that were only available from foreign suppliers. I looked at purchasing an old chemical booth but soon began researching how to build my own with the new digital cameras that were becoming popular. I spent way more time and money on the project than I would have had I just purchased a traditional booth, but what I ended up with was a product and a business model for renting portable photo booths that you can adopt and make money copying. I didn’t invent the photo booth rental business model but I believe I created a unique variation of it utilizing my event industry knowledge and my novel portable photo booth system. (see: www.portlandphotobooth.com and www.fortunephotobooth.com ) The Business Model (Free is the key word) The basic idea behind making money renting photo booths to events is that the event or party host pays a flat fee or hourly charge for you to deliver and run a photo booth at the event venue. Guests in the photo booth go in for “free” and receive a photo booth strip for “free.” Free is in quotes because while the guests go in for free, the host is paying you. When talking with a perspective photo booth renter, use the word “FREE” with them. “The guests go in for FREE, and get a two FREE photo booth strips.” The props are provided for FREE.” Everyone loves a FREE photo booth!” A similar word is “GIFT” which I like to use to emphasize that there is a product I am offering the client which is a GIFT to their guests. “Your wedding guests get the GIFT of a photo strip compliments of you.” Additionally our photo booths save a copy of the digital images which are either placed on line for all the guests to view and or given to the party hosts on a CD or flash drive after the event. The more of this you can do for FREE for the client the more they will like your services. Of course you bundle all the services in your quote for the client. Another use for the saved images is to project the images from the booth onto a screen at the event. This can add quite a buzz to the photo booth at an event. You can even display ads for your photo booth company mixed into the slideshow. When I do this, I play a slideshow of the actual images taken in pretty fast order, no more than 2 seconds a photo. Strips don’t fit on a screen very well. Alternatively, you can create a custom grid of 2 on top two on the bottom photo strips that can be projected. I suggest to any photo booth owners out there that the program Hot Folder Prints from Breezesys (www.breezesys.com) be used to create an easy slide show of the images and create custom layouts. You don’t even need to use Breeze’s photo booth program to be able to use Hot Folder Prints. There will be more about specific photo booth programs in a later section. A quick note about software: Photo booths require software and computers. Most of the computers are Windows based. And while you may be a computer expert you will need to learn how to be pretty good at things like managing print queues, installing and managing drivers and firmware, installing and learning programs, and file management. But you shouldn’t be afraid, because one of my main goals at Fortune Photo Booth is to make sure that my customers who purchase booths from us know everything they need to know, no matter how little back ground they have with cameras or computers. The more you know and are comfortable with the software and equipment the easier it is to run a photo booth rental business, and I help you get there. Why Free Works Free really is the key word here and what makes this business so successful. Go to any mall with a pay photo booth in it and watch it for a while…. Wait around and see how many people go in and spend $5 for their photos. I bet you’ll come away from the pay photo booth thinking “how can that make money?” at $5 a pop for photos almost no one will do it. Everyone loves a photo booth, but paying for the pleasure just isn’t worth it most of the time. Now, go to a wedding or event where the pre-paid “Free” photo booth is and you’ll see hundreds of people using and enjoying the booth. People have so much fun in a photo booth when it is free, that a party host will pay you hundreds of dollars for bringing the booth to their party. This business model has brought event photo booths into the mainstream. In fact, in most areas of the country having a photo booth at a wedding is now a tradition much like hiring a DJ, or florist. Coming from the photography world makes me uncomfortable with the thought, but I have even brought my photo booth to weddings that didn’t hire a professional photographer. While a photo booth is not a good replacement for a professional photographer at a wedding, it does sometimes replace one at small events or company parties that may have hired an event photographer in the past. Because I have a background in photography, I also make myself available, for a small upcharge, to roam around an event take candid photos of the guests. This is a great way to make a little more from a photo booth rental event, and adds quite a bit of value to your services. It can also be a great way to learn about event photography while you grow and expand your event business. The basic equipment needed for this is only a camera – a decent event lens like a 24-70mm, and an on camera flash. Just send the clients a disc of images after the event, usually at the same time as you send the photo booth images. Unlimited Prints When you advertise your services another key word (I think this is #3 word after “Free and Gift”) is UNLIMITED. You offer unlimited prints to your clients, but with prints costing only $0.15 per pop and people taking over a minute in the booth you are really limited to less than $9/hour in print liability. Why Photo Booths are Popular (and not going away any time soon) Photo booth rentals at parties are getting more popular all the time. I know because I see increased demand for my services (see www.portlandphotobooth.com) every year even though my competition gets bigger every year. I feel like the number of photo booths in a region or city can equal to or greater than the number of photographers in that area. And I see a benefit to having competition. The best thing to happen to rental photo booths in my area has been all the competition from other rental companies. When I started out there was no market for photo booth rentals in Portland because no one knew they existed, now people are looking for me instead of me going out to find the business. The more photo booths get used and seen, the more people will think about including that service for their own events in the future. What You Need To Get Started Bare minimum you need a photo booth kit and some paper/ink for the printer. You can get started with a simple kit from Fortune Photo Booth for under $4000 and upgrade the booth later if you find you love it, but you will probably find that our Standard or even Deluxe models $5$6K will make enough money to pay for itself quickly enough. Our booths are meant to be portable, which means a single person can transport and set up and run a booth with just a normal car. This allows a photo booth operator to not have employees which can cut your operating costs significantly. It also gives you the opportunity to have more than one booth and be able to train employees easily. Your pool of employees is huge, since the operator doesn’t have to be big, or strong, or own a special vehicle. Once you expand into multiple photo booths your opportunity to make money also expands. In my experience selling photo booths to entrepreneurs, it is not uncommon for my client to book several paying events before the booth ships to them (2-3 weeks) To be a successful business you’ll have to treat your new company like a real business. This means contacting the Secretary of State’s office for your sate and registering your business name and finding out whether your state requires you to collect State and local sales taxes. Once you have an official business name in your state/city you are ready for your virtual store front. There aren’t many photo booth rental companies that I know of that have a retail space. Most are run from homes of individuals except for rental shops that are part of another local business such as a photography studio or event rental business. So that is great news because there is no need to rent space. If you have a closet or garage you have enough space to store one of our portable photo booths. Then you need a website…. THE INTERNET IS YOUR STORE FRONT You do, however, need a web site. Your website will be your store front. It doesn’t need to be a fancy website, but it will become your most important form of advertising for your company. No matter what advertising you do, even word of mouth, and handing out business cards personally, your clients will go to your web page before booking an event. If you start out with no money left for hiring someone to make you a web site at least you can register a domain name for your self online at GoDaddy.com and reserve your name on the internet. Then for less than $10 a month you can throw up a starter page with a photo and contact info for your new rental business, and put money into the site as you grow. It takes Google months to find new sites and get you into its search engine. And if there is a lot of competition in your area it can take longer to get on the first page of search results. In my own rental business I still get over 50% of my new business from people Googling for a photo booth rental company in my area. (I talk about Google like it is the only search engine… and I think it really is. Don’t ignore Google, it is what works) Since Google and the internet are so important to my business, I would urge you to take your website seriously, and if you don’t know much about it, there are many business out there, including ours, who can create and manage a web page for you. Of all your expenses after purchasing a photo booth, your web page is the most important to your success. Since every company has a web site, you can use this knowledge to check up on your competition. Google photo booth rentals (your city) and see who pops up. How many are there? What are they charging? How attractive are their web sites? Knowing what your competition is up to is an important piece of your business. You don’t want to start out charging $300/hour when the competition is charging $200, and you visa versa, you don’t want to be charging $100/hour when you could be getting $200. We offer a $750 web page package with our photo booths that gets you a web page with very little effort. See my own site at www.portlandphotobooth.com for an example. Or go to Craig’s list and see who in your area can do it for you, or a local community college may have students that are dying to build their resumes for very little cost. But whatever you do, you must realize that your web site is your biggest source of advertising and the face of your company. Skimp on your web site and you are throwing away the money a good web site would bring in. Design a great web site that Google will love will pay off more than any other investment in your company. SEO The next step is SEO. After you have a domain name and a website, SEO (search engine Optomization) is what will make your site the top ranked Google site. If you want you can search for SEO on the internet and learn how to do it yourself. If you created your website yourself you may be able to handle SEO yourself. But, it takes time and effort and hiring out can save lots of mistakes. For about $200 a month for 6-9 months a good local SEO company can do wonders for your web site. I recommend hiring someone for this and do it at the start to give Google the best impression of your new business. Talk to friends and family to see if they have reccomendtions of good companies. I am currently using enhancedpath.com for my own business. GOOGLE ADWORDS Google lists web pages on its search engine in the order in which it thinks will help the user the most. Try searching photo booth rentals (YOUR AREA HERE) and see what pops up. The first 2-3 listings are what Google thinks are the best results, and where you want to eventually be. But you may also notice that the very top of google and the right side are photo booth rental ads. Google allows you to have an ad on the first page even if you are a 5 minute old web site. This is great news because you can get your web page noticed by searchers before Google lists you on its main pages. Another great thing about Google Adwords is that you pay only as much as you want. And you pay only if someone actually clicks on your ad. The cost of Adwords varies by how much competition you have locally, clicking on your ad can cost you from 25 cents to over a dollar each time, but you can set limits to make sure you never go over budget. I suggest you try it at the start when your page is new to get some benefit out of Google before it finds and ranks your site. Start with something small if you like $10 a week or something like that, and of course like any other web related thing, there are experts out there to help you do this for a fee. FACEBOOK and TWITTER (social) The next step after Google is naturally Facebook. Start a facebook page, its free! Take a picture with your phone at every booth event you do and post it to your Facebook page. Google likes web pages that have links to social media, so you have to do this. Twitter can also be a great place to post pictures and comments. Do this every week and your clients will notice. Just Yesterday I had a client call me and say that he liked my website and my Facebook page, and that’s why he hired me. He just blurted it out, and that’s what people do, even after looking at a website they will go to a businesse’s Facebook page to help them feel like the business is legitimate. Then there is an amazing use for Facebook at each of your events. At my events after a guest comes out of the booth, they can see their images on an iPad right outside. They can see their image even before the print comes out. And they have the option of Facebooking the photo, texting the photos to their phones, or emailing the photos to themselves. This is so popular with users in the booth that I can’t recommend it enough. It also gets you involved with the guests and allows them to have an easy way to contact you after an event because they have your phone number and or email address when they receive their images. And if they Facebook the images through our software they send a link to all of their friends about your business. The key to making your booth work with social media is to get the people out of the booth to do it. You can’t expect them to do it on the screen of the booth after they get their pictures taken, it just takes too long and keeps other guests from going into the booth, Since guests in the booth are potential future clients of yours, you want as many people to go through your booth as possible at every event. EVERY EVENT IS A MARKETING OPPORTUNITY (Why you stay with your photo booth at every event and why it is so inexpensive to run a photo booth) I used to bring my photo booths to weddings that I was shooting as a photographer. I would tell my brides about the photo booth service and add on $500 or so to my wedding package and they would always say “Wow, what a neat idea, I’ve never heard of that.” In today’s market almost every bride has heard of renting a photo booth for weddings. It’s not just the brides that didn’t know that the service existed it was the guests too. By seeing the booth at a wedding, guests couldn’t believe that such a cool photo booth was available to rent, and guests at weddings became my next customers. I was focused on weddings because that is the event industry I knew the best, what I didn’t realize for a while was that every guest at a wedding 100-200 people were actually potential future customers! Even today, in Portland, I get guests in the booth that haven’t heard about having a portable photo booth at a wedding. And Portland has a ton of photo booth rental companies. That’s how I know there is so much room to grow in this industry. A photo booth company with one booth in a metro area of a million people could average 40-50 weddings in a year. Add to that company parties, and small personal parties and school events and you have a thriving money making business. But how do you get the business that’s out there? To take advantage you need to connect however briefly with each guest that goes through your photo booth. You can do that because a photo booth rental business is a hands on business. You or your employee stays with the photo booth. (This is part of the business model) The photo booth attendant’s job is to do several things. The most important thing is to get as many people through the booth as possible during the time you are there. This may seem counter intuitive at this point, you may be thinking “I’ve already been paid, why would I want to spend more money on prints, I should make fewer people go in the booth,” but this is dead wrong. More people through the booth means more people will be exposed to your business, and more people will be having fun which means more people will think hiring you is a great idea. The secret truth in the photo booth rental industry is that the photo booth strips cost you almost nothing. That’s the truth, you can charge hundreds maybe even over a thousand dollars and you may spend only $20 on the strips themselves. Photo booths have a huge profit margin. With modern professional dye sublimation printers such as my favorite, The DNP RX-1, the photo booth produces 2 sets of 4 images on a strip for less than 15 cents. 15 cents is all you pay for a photo booth strip that you can put your company name on. It’s a business card that won’t be thrown out, and in fact will end up on a bulletin board or a refrigerator for years to come. The 15 cents per double strip is the key figure, and why you want as many people to go through your photo booth as possible. Potential photo booth purchasers sometimes ask me about getting a booth that doesn’t print, but instead sends the images to the internet. This idea could work in certain situations, but with the reality that prints only cost 15 cents each, why not do prints. For $20-$30 an event, every guest at the event can have a “FREE” take away GIFT with your name on it, or with your clients advertising info (commercial clients love to have their logo at the bottom of the strips) Pay Per Photo Booth The majority of available photo booth rentals out there are for 2-4 hours and my model is to just charge a flat fee for that service. You get paid up front, sometimes 1-2 weeks before the event, and usually you can collect a deposit of up to 50% at the time of booking. But, there are occasions where selling the booth one photo at a time can make sense. I tend to avoid this type of work, but others have made it work for them. Most event photo booths do not have bill collectors or cc machines, but with an attendant outside the booth who needs that. Better to have a person interact with a guest at an event than a machine. An example of a pay per use event would be a fair where you can rent a booth and set up shop offering a keep sake of the event. People may pay $5-$10 per shot. And 10 groups per hour would be $50-$100 and hour, which may be worth it to you for the exposure and profit. Sometimes the events you do may be for charity or a non-profit organization looking to raise funds. In this case you may donate or discount your rental fee, and also collect money from guests, that goes directly to the organization. In an auction situation I sometimes reduce my rate by 50% and donate all money collected to offset the cost of the booth. In these cases the money collected may not cover the organizations cost to hire me, but it offsets it and creates the fun atmosphere that makes coming to charity events feel worth it to the guests. In my own business I would say that the majority of fund raisers I attend do not even collect a fee, but instead use the booth solely for entertainment for their guests. Of course when doing these events I offer to put the organizations logo on the strips, essentially turning it into a promotional piece or business card that the guests are very unlikely to throw out, but will instead put on their walls or refrigerators proudly. This is a good place to segway into the next section – LOGOS- and how branding the strips is a major reason for the photo booth industries success. MORE ON MARKETING BLOG You need a Blog section of your website. It is a great way to keep your site updated with content. It can be very similar to what you post to your Facebook page, and Google loves constantly updated sites. So get a blog on your site, Wordpress is a good way to start, but any easily updateable blog section of your page is a must. Post images from events, clients you work for, stories about photo booth events, or tips for enjoying the photo booth. Use your blog and facebook posts to make yourself the local photo booth expert. SIGN UP FOR FREE LISTINGS FOR EVENT PROFESSIONALS Part of your early internet marketing strategy should be to sign up with 5-10 internet resource lists. This is often free and can help establish your web site presence across the internet. When clients search for event help in their area, many of the google listings are internet directories, One such example is wedj.com and there are many others that vary by region in their popularity. Signing up for free listings can help your initial web rankings. So its free, and you should do it. Look up photo booths and wedding services in your area in Google, and see what directories might pop up in Google and sign up with those first. The Photo Booth Renaissance Throughout the 20th century photo booths were a fixture in train stations, malls, and soda shops. And as anyone who lived through the 20th century can tell you, photo booths popularity had decreased considerably in the later half of the century. So, why the recent explosion in popularity? 1. Digital Technology The first reason is that digital cameras and digital printers are now capable of true photo quality results. Digital cameras and printers can also talk to computers. A few software developers realized that they could get all these technologies to talk together and recreate the old chemical photo booth with modern digital equipment. These technological breakthroughs could essentially turn your already purchased equipment into a photo booth! If you are curious to check it out, go to my web site and download our photo booth software www.fortunephotobooth.com/demo.zip and give it a try. All you need is a Windows computer, a Canon DSLR, and any windows printer. With these pieces of equipment you can create a simple photo booth just for testing purposes and see if the photo booth excitement might just sweep over you. Our software is simple but it works really well for basic professional photo booth use. If you need more advanced features such as video, green screen, or custom layouts then I suggest Breezesys DSLR Remote for Windows. http://www.breezesys.com Our sowftware is free to try, and Breeze is only $175 and is free for 14 days. Anyone who purchases a Fortune Photo Booth kit gets my personalized instruction on how to use the software. Where our own software is simple, the more feature rich software, like Breeze, can really benefit by a personal tutorial from me. Software that is feature rich can appear complex at first, but if you take your time and learn the basics first doing events with simple traditional strips then move on to advanced features later as you feel more comfortable, you will find that it’s not very difficult at all. 2. Portable Structures Digital technology was the spark that started the fire, but it took more than that. Imagine going to a wedding and seeing a computer, wires, a printer, a background, a photographer, a camera on a tripod…. It’s a mess not fitting a fine event and not conducive to having fun. It took a few portable photo booth pioneers to create the portable structures that could house and create the photo booth equipment in photo booth form and somehow do it in a way that is easy to transport to an event. In my own rental business I have 4 photo booths. I had to come up with a booth system that allowed me to store my booths at my home studio, or else I would have my profits eaten up by rental space. I also needed the booths to be portable enough to fit into my car, and any car that an employee would have. (Our booth fits in a Honda Civic) The booth had to be light enough that I could hire workers of any adult size (100lbs to 250lbs) otherwise I would only be able to hire burly guys with trucks, or have to provide trucks and trailers myself which would be another huge expense. Finally the booth not only had to be able to fit in any car, and set up by any adult person, but it had to be able to get into all of the event spaces that I knew were having all the events. I was once contracted out by another photo booth rental company to do an event because they simply couldn’t get their booth into the venue they had booked. Meanwhile, I was able to book events in private homes, in balconies, even on roof tops with no elevator service. My Fortune Photo Booth design can go anywhere a person can go, inside or even outside. If it rains I can just use a pop up tent. One service I advertise on my web site is that I can run my booth on battery power in venues that won’t have power! All this takes is a portable battery power pack available at Home Depot. These power packs contain a deep cycle lead acid battery – similar to a car battery – and an inverter that provides 120V just like a standard home outlet. A battery pack costs about $100 and can be used over and over, and can power a booth for about 6 hours. You could set up your Fortune Photo Booth anywhere! 3. Logos and Strip Customization Another key factor in photo booths popularity is the explosion of digital images on social media and peoples cell phones. Everyone loves photos and everyone likes to share them, yet in my opinion people are missing the old tactile feel of holding a print in their hands, and being able to use a magnet to hold prints to the fridge. Photo Booths help fill that gap, they give people instant prints, they get to take them home, they perceive of it as a FREE GIFT and also photo booths are easily set up to deliver digital images to the party host and even email and text message images from the booth to the guests so they can Facebook and Instagram (these are verbs now) and get their digital fix as well. And, that brings me to logos and strip customization. Modern photo booths such as our Fortune Photo Booth photo booths have an ability the traditional old school booths never had, which is the ability to put a logo or at least text on every photo booth strip which personalizes the strips to the event. Not only is this enticing for a bride and groom looking to personalize the strip to their wedding, but it is critical to the popularity of photo booths used by corporate clients you will have to promote their brand and products. My clients for my rental business include huge corporations like McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, Adidas, Copala Wines, Toyota, and Honda. I also am hired by local businesses and organizations like Public Schools, Universities, Hospitals, Restaurants, and Real Estate Groups. Aside from Businesses the other 50% of my rental business is filled with Weddings, Birthday Parties, Company Employee Parties, Dances and Holiday Events. Almost 100% of the events I am hired to do love the idea of strip customization that we can do for them. Not only are you selling your clients a fun interactive entertainment experience, you are giving their guests and clients the gift of photos with their brand on it. Props There is no doubt that having a box of props at an event can make the experience much more entertaining for your guests in the booth. You can charge more for bringing props to an event, or just bundle it in with your services. I feel that props make people feel so happy that I should just bundle it in and bring them to almost every event. My favorite props are: Mustaches and Lips and Glasses on a Stick. (These are great because they are easy to use, funny, reuseable, and won’t mess up any ones hair. Wooden or felt are best. Paper gets destroyed after one event. My daughter cuts them out for me and I hot glue them onto bamboo sticks meant to scewer food that I get at the grocery store. I get the STIFFENED FELT at a craft store, you can order plastic templates at OrientalTrading.com, or go to ETSY.com and order the whole thing done for you.) Plastic Viking Hats. (Come on, who doesn’t like a Viking hat. See: Orientaltrading,com) Over Sized and Novelty Glasses (Neon, Elvis, Harry Potter, Cat Eye….. See: Orientaltrading,com) Feather Boas (Red, Pink, White, Black. Be carefull, they make a mess!….. See: Orientaltrading,com) Top Hats and Vintage Hats (Mens and Womens hats black and red, and fedoras (plastic diff colors) See: Orientaltrading,com) Tiaras (Plastic ones break but they cost 50 cents, I have a few plastic and a few nicer metal ones) Pirate hats, swords, and eye patches (Aaaaaaarg!!! Nuff Said!) Angel head Piece and Devil Horns (everyone feels like a Devil in the photo booth) Just don’t go overboard. Expensive props have a way of making their way to the dance floor and then disappearing. Experiment and try different things, and get a few different Holiday props as you book events for different holidays, but my basic kit above seems to keep people happy all year long. Wigs are cool but tend to get trashed and people worry less about cooties with plastic props. Guest Books for Weddings A very popular add on for weddings is a guest book. Most photo booth prints out come in twos. This means that one print can go to the guests and the other strip can go into a guest book. Guest books make a lot of sense for weddings and important personal events where the guest of honor knows everyone at the party. All you need is a scrap book, glue/tape and some pens. I personally prefer 12 x 12 simple albums with sleves that accept the 12x12 pages. I lay out the 12 x 12 pages on a table so that more than one person can access the guest book at the same time. When a page is done with 1-4 strips I take it and slide it into the book. These type books have removable/addable pages so they always look finished and you can’t run out of room. The plastic sleeves also catch any strips that come loose over the years so they won’t get lost. The 12x12 pages can be black if you use glitter or gel pens, and any pen works on white pages. You could also make custom prints with a white space for people to sign the prints themselves with sharpies. EMPLOYEES (One booth or two) A single person can set up, transport and run my Fortune Photo Booth system. You can make $200+ per hour renting the booths out. But when you start renting booths out, you realize that most events happen on Saturday night. Once you book an event on Saturday July 16th, all the other calls you get for the 16th have to be turned down. Back before I started selling photo booths I had several Summer weekend nights with 7 events at the same time. I have since reduced my number of photo booths to 4, as more of my time is taken up with designing and selling the Fortune Photo Booth kits. For me having multiple booths (at least 2) is a must for a rental company whose main goal is making money. One booth is fine for a part time run from home business. A booth may be able to bring in 40-50K a year, but the step from 1 booth to 2 is a business changing event. With two photo booths you can book a small wedding on a Saturday for a discount and still not worry about the big full price wedding that you might miss if you book the small event. You can even do non-profit organization discounts and school events for less knowing you have a full price booth back up. I advertise right on my main page that I do non-profit organization discounts, And I get several calls a week about doing non-profit events. Best yet, most of the nonprofit events I do (about 40% discount) are on weekdays. I think of weekday events as bonus money. You know you are going to book the big Saturdays in June, but a Wednesday in February for a local school is a bonus! The big decision you have to make about going to multiple booths isn’t whether it will pay off, I believe it will, but if you want the extra work of managing employees. It is work managing employees because you have to train them and teach them how to handle the booth at events. You want to be confident that they will represent your business in a professional manner, almost like you were there yourself. Can you let go of the control of your business enough to make that happen? If the answer is yes, then you are ready to take your rental business to the next level, and ready to bring in more money. Because our Fortune Photo Booth kits are so portable and modular, your employees don’t have to have special cars. They don’t have to be big burly men either. I have designed my photo booth kit to be easy to teach employees how to use, and how to set up. I send newer employees to events earlier of course, and I make sure my cell phone is on for tech support, but after 1-2 events on their own I can usually trust a person to run and manage a photo booth with no problems. Open Air Vs. Sit Down Photo Booths There are two main types of photo booths, those that have the guests sit down behind a curtain and those that have the guests stand with no curtain or a back drop. Each has its benefits, but in my opinion the seated curtain type booths offer better quality photos and are easier to rent than the open air style. Our Fortune Photo Booth kits can be used either way, as an open air booth or as a curtained booth, so you can offer both options to your clients. Open air is attractive because the booth is open and the guests can see what people are doing in their photos. At the right type of event the open air booths can cause quite a buzz, but unfortunately there are three main drawbacks. The first drawback is that some people won’t go into the booth because they don’t want people to watch. This can be quite serious at a party where most people don’t know each other or a lot of people are more reserved. The second drawback is that people are at a much different height differential when standing. Imagine a parent and child both standing in a photo. The shot has to be much wider to get both faces in a photo. Sitting is a great equalizer of heights and putting a child on a lap basically evens out adult/kid differences. The third issue with open air is the lighting. Having an open area can cause all sorts of strange lighting issues. With a sit down curtain booth the lighting can be made to be very consistent. The biggest benefits of an open air style booth are the publicity, the large number of people you can get in a shot, and how little room it takes up. But I believe after using our booth as both an open air system and a sit down booth you will see the advantages of renting out the booth as a more traditional style sit down booth. BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL PHOTO BOOTH There are all sorts of different things that a photo booth can do. Video recording is one of the most popular. Guests go into a booth at a wedding, for example, and leave a message for the bride and groom. Usually if you have a flexible photo booth kit, like we sell at Fortune, then all you need to do is change or upgrade your software to create new functions of your photo booth. While there are a lot of options, keep in mind that just renting out a photo booth that takes 4 shots and pints out a strip of photos is still by far the most popular and established rental markets. It is fun to offer all the bells and whistles, but make sure it’s worth it to you financially to add all the effects and options, and make sure it doesn’t detract from your main money making option which is usually the traditional photo booth rental. Green Screen Having a green sheet behind the subjects in the booth allows that color to be dropped out and replaced by a photo / background. You can make the guests appear to be in the mountains, or in Paris… all you need is photo booth software that handles the task (such as Breeze software) and the background photo of your choice. Green screen capability is almost never perfect but t can be a great gimmick for the right event, and offering it can make your business look high tech and multifunctional. Ut the downside to green screen is that in a traditional photo booth strip the pictures are small and having a distracting background can make the images less interesting. It doesn’t seem like a good fit for a wedding, but could be great for a commercial product advertisement, or a way of advertising for a business or location. Video Adding video to your photo booth is pretty easy. You most likely need a DSLR camera such as a Canon T2i or T3i or T4i camera These cameras take stunning photos and videos, and most importantly, they have the ability to hook up to an external microphone. Because the camera is inside the booth, the cameras built in mic will get too much booth and external noise to hear what people have to say. Video is a useful option to offer to commercial clients who wants to record, employee, or customer comments for use on line or in promo videos. Wedding video guest books are another great offering you can have in your rental business. SLOW-MO VIDEO BOOTH Google it if you haven’t hear about it. There are some great videos of slow-mo wedding video booths. The jury is still out on this trend. While it is really funny to see someone get slapped in slow motion, the guest don’t get much out of it like they do in a photo booth, and some people just don’t want to go through the act of dancing, slapping or throwing props in front of a camera. The slow motion photo booth also almost requires you to be a wiz at video editing which is another draw back. Still, with software and a specialty slow motion camera this can be an interesting option. I think it makes much more sense to do an open air style photo booth with slow-mo video to give more room for movement in the shot. Equipment Notes Cameras There are three main types of photo booth cameras. One type is an older Canon Powershot point and shoot camera Such as the Canon S5 IS and S3 IS. These Powershot cameras work well in a modern photo booth and autofocus quickly. Unfortunately these powershots are no longer made. Canon no longer makes point ant shoot cameras that work in photo booths. You can find these cameras used on Amazon and Ebay. These cameras have a flash which is critical for good exposures in a photo booth. Canon does still make DSLR cameras such as the Rebels- t3 and t4 which work well in photo booths. The image quality of the DSLR’s are excellent but they don’t autofocus quickly enough for moving subjects in the photo booth. You can use DSLR’s in Manual focus mode and then they work fine. Most rental photo booths today use these cameras. Some Canon DSLR’s can also do video, but an audio jack to hook up an external microphone is essential. Fortune Photo Booths use Canon DSLR’s in most of our kits, although we do custom kits with different cameras if they better suit your needs. Some Nikon DSLR cameras also work in photo booths, but are a bit more expensive than the Canon’s. You have to check the software you choose to see which cameras are supported. The last type of camera that works in a photo booth are web cameras. Web cams are not very expensive and they can usually auto focus well, but their major drawback is their lack of a flash. They are also lower resolution and have lower color accuracy, but they get better every year and are very inexpensive. Built in web cams in tablets have the disadvantage that they cannot be aimed at the subjects easily because they are attached to the screen. Printers There are two main printers used in photo booths today, Inkjets and Dye Sublimation photo printers. Professional toll type Dye Sub printers are my choice for a good photo booth Dye Sub printers are about twice the size of a large toaster and can weigh 30-50 lbs. They work by heating a multi colored ribbon which transfers the color from the ribbon to special paper. Dye Subs main benefits include cheap running costs, durable performance and fast operation. A typical Dye sub holds 200-700 prints at a time on a roll of paper and a roll of ribbon which means you aren’t constantly changing paper. You change the ink and paper at the same time every time so you aren’t bothered with multiple ink changes like in an inkjet printer. A Dye Sub printer costs around $800-$1200 up front but in my experience they last 6+ years of heavy use. They are repairable and some come with great warranties that allow them to be replaced quickly if you have a problem. These warranties are very important for a busy rental company that relies on the printer to make money. Although the up front cost of a Dye Sub printer is high the speed-reliability and cheap prints make up for it. A busy photo booth may have 100 events a year. With 100 events and an average of 100 prints per event that’s 10,000 prints a year. Over 6 years that is 60,000 prints. At $0.15 per print it comes to $9000 in paper and ink over a 6 year period. Add $1000 for the printer and you are at $10,000 in printer and prints. An ink jet printer such as the Epson Picturemate costs $175, and $39 per 150 prints. Each Picturemate will only last about 100 events before it has a problem. That’s $0.26 per print (and I am being kind to the picturemate, they almost never get the full 150 prints.) over 60,000 prints that’s $1050 in printer costs, and $15,600 in paper and ink. So you can see how the Dye Sub printers higher cost is more than made up for by the consumable costs down the road. An ink jet needs attention every 20 shots or so because they cannot hold more than 20 pieces of paper at a time. Over 6 years that would be 3000 times you have to fiddle with the printer during your events, and that doesn’t include print head cleanings and ink changes which can be embarrassing to you with your clients waiting in line. On the other hand the dye sub only has to be changed 86 times over the 6 years and many of those times you will be loading paper at home before the event, and there will be 0 times during an event that you will have to fiddle with the printer. Dye sub prints come out at photographic quality and are laminated so they are instantly dry and water proof. Most printers have the print to your client in less than 20 seconds, which is often faster than they can get out of the booth. This always amazes the guests when they see how high quality and fast your booth is. The prints are water and smudge-proof. Inkjets are a super cheap way to start out. I myself used inkjets when I first started my business, and they do work. Print times are about 1 minute, which is still fast enough to keep up. Ink jets print two strips on a 4x6 which you then have to cut to make two strips. Dye Subs cut the strips automatically. You can cut the paper of an inkjet into strips first, but then you’d have to print twice to get two copies, and the printers seem to be more reliable in handling 4x6 paper rather than thin strips. If you are serious about making money and running a smooth operating photo booth then there isn’t much choice – Go for the Dye Sub printer. I suggest the DNP RX1 which holds 700 prints at a time and has a less than $0.15 print cost. But if you are just starting out and don’t mind being more hands on with your printer, you can get a great feel for the photo booth business with an ink jet and upgrade later once you are making money. I recommend the Epson Picturemate portable printers for this. Every once in a while I get a client who wants a booth, but really feels like the Dye Subs are too heavy. In that case an inkjet can be a real back saver. The Picturemate printer weigh almost nothing compared to a dye sub. And the Picturemate’s paper and ink can be purchased at most Office Depots whereas the Dye Sub supplies are only available online. There is a new type of printer that is emerging called a ZINK printer. They have paper with ink crystals already inside. They work a little like Dye Subs with a roll of paper and heat creating the image on the paper. I have played with the ZINK Printers and I do like them, The ZINK HAPPY printer prints on 2 inch wide strips which is perfect, but there aren’t good drivers yet for computers and the color quality of the images is not as good as inkjets or dye subs. I do have high hopes for this technology though and see it as an alternative in the future. The Zink prints also come in sticker rolls for a fun bonus for your clients. You may have also heard of mini dye sub printers, such as the Canon Selphys. These printers produce water proof images and are about as fast as inkjets. They may be good emergency backup printers but I have avoided them because they drop the prints onto the paper tray which is an awkward presentation for your clients. COMPUTERS When it comes to computers I hate to say it but PC’s are the choice for photo booths, not Apple. I love my iPhone and my iPad, but PC’s running your booth are more affordable and compatible with the current hardware you need in your photo booth. I am a big fan of using tablets in my booths as the main computer and screen. This is because tablets are light, have plenty of computing power and eliminate the need for a button and a separate touch screen which are just more pieces of equipment that can fail. There are computer/tablets now that range from 8 inches to 22 inches and work really well in a photo booth. My favorite size for a portable and light set up is around 13 inches. People in the booth never feel 13 is too small and it travels easily. I also use 10 inch tablets often and never get complaints from my clients about the monitor. The only reason you would need a larger monitor is if people will be standing far from the camera, and that makes lighting a big challenge. In a normal situation 10-13 inches is big enough. Some photo booth operators have options in the booth for emailing and Facebooking the images inside the booth, that is another reason for a big screen. This to me is a horrible idea. You have to get the people out of the booth quickly, so more people can go in. Imagine a group of 3-8 people trying to enter Facebook login info inside the booth on a touch screen while other people want to go in. That is why ourFortune Photo Booth iPad Sattion outside the booth solution is perfect for getting people out of the booth and still offering them the social sharing opportunities that you can use to further connect with your clients and book more events. Non-Internet Marketing (I Love Bridal Shows!) Besides your webpage and Google/Facebook advertising there are several proven ways to advertise your new photo booth rental business. But, please do the web site first! My own marketing plan includes going to 1-3 local Bridal Fairs in my area each year. I estimate that the big bridal show in my city gets me at least 30 events every year. One of the cool things about the bridal show bookings is that almost half of them aren’t even weddings. I am always amazed at how many people going to the show aren’t even getting married. You also have the Moms and Bridesmaids and friends that go with a bride and groom, who all have jobs and lives and go to parties and events. At the Bridal Show I am marketing to everyone! My job at the show is to get as many people into my booth and get as many prints (with my logo: www.portlandphotobooth.com at the bottom) into their hands. I use a 10x10 space and one booth, although you could do 2 booths if you are ambitious. I always have a helper with me during the events to keep handing our business post cards out, and guiding people through the booth process. People seem to like to be told what to do. Even if directions are written inside the booth, a little personal instruction helps them enjoy the booth even more and creates an opportunity to interact with your future clients. I designed my Fortune Photo Booth Kit for weddings, Of course it works at any type of event, but I specifically designed it to work at weddings. This gives my booth system some key advantages over my competition. First, my photo booths are meant to accommodate 1-10 people in the shots. Brides love this because they can picture their whole bridal party in the photo booth. In reality 10 people will try to get in the booth less than 2 times per wedding, but the possibility of it happening gets the brides to book you. Second, my photo booths can go anywhere, inside or out and be run on battery power if needed. It’s amazing the number of times every year that I do a wedding in a field, or in a balcony only accessible by stairs. My booth can be carried and set up anywhere. Third, my booth blends in at any wedding. My booth does not look like an arcade machine, it is simple and black and that goes with any event. I put decals on the booth that say PHOTO BOOTH, and everyone knows what it is, even from across the room. Our booth panels can also be customized with printing to make it look however you want. You are not limited to simple elegant and black, you can go crazy and print it purple or rainbow colored. I have done single events for big companies like McDonalds where I printed the booth to look like a Hamburger on all sides. Having this customizable option is a fantastic thing to advertise on your site and has booked me events even if the client ended up using the booth as is, just having the option of customizing it to their brand go them interested. If a company does want it customized, you can make more money on the event by charging several hundred dollars extra for the printing. Bridal shows are great marketing opportunities for booking weddings and also booking events from people who are just attending the show and not getting married. There is a super importan, and often wasted, opportunity that occurs at 90% of all weddings. Most booth operators ignore this opportunity because it requires a little effort on your part, but I urge you to take advantage. This opportunity is with the event venue that the wedding is being held at. And event venues do much more than weddings. You must develop a simple business relationship with every venue that you ever wish to work in again. Every venue has a banquet or event coordinator and almost every event space gets booked way way before the client will start thinking about booking a photo booth. What if you could get the Venue’s event coordinator to refer your photo booth as an option for every event they service. So, what you do is introduce yourself when you get there, and make sure the coordinator is happy with your booth placement in their facility, and then if the coordinator looks like they are friendly and have a minute I try to get them to test out the booth. Then they have a photo booth strip to hang on their office wall. Get all the event employees to go in the booth. Then the really sneaky part that I like to do is to send the digital files to the email address of the coordinator a few days after the event. If you really want more business at a venue, meet with the coordinator during the week, and offer them a deal where their clients get a better rate at that venue. And then you have to keep up the venue relationship a little bit each event or at least once a year to keep you at the top of their recommended photo booth list. Coordinators also seem to burn out often, and employee turnover is high which means you have to start over with the venue every time this happens.
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