How to Start a Photo Booth Side Business


Black chalkboard sign with white chalk at a wedding reception marking the spot for the photobooth.

In an age of cheap smartphone cameras, it may seem the art of photography has lost the respect that it once commanded. Nowadays, anyone can take impressive photos without a lot of training or high-end gear. While this may seem like a bad situation for entrepreneurs looking to make money from photography, nothing could be further from the truth. Retro trends like photo booths are coming back in a big way. To make real money from a photo booth, you should do the following.

Do the Proper Market Research

It should go without saying that photo booths aren’t exactly a big draw for the average consumer. That’s not to say that an old-fashioned photo booth with a modern twist can’t be lucrative. One need look no further than the vintage “filters” of Instagram to be convinced that people like yesteryear looks in their commemorative pictures. Just take the time to figure out what locals in your region want from the photo booth experience before buying hardware.

Nail Down a Profitable Niche

With accurate market research data in hand, you need to settle on a niche approach to your photo booth business. For instance, you could target ceremonies like high school or college graduations. Alternatively, you might zero in on events where local or national celebrities will show up and take pictures with their fans. Book signings, early movie premiers and conferences are great places to set up a photo booth and attract attendees.

Acquire Funding if Necessary

No matter how you proceed, starting a photo booth business will cost you at least $1,000. A professional booth from any of the major providers will probably run at least $2,500. If you have a well-thought-out business plan, most local credit unions will be happy to lend you the money if you have a decent credit history. Alternatively, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo as well as P2P lending sites like LendingClub would also work.

Acquire the Necessary Equipment

If you want a ready-to-go booth, something along the lines of a SnapFlash or a Snapden Photo Booth should fit the bill for a relatively affordable price. If you want to build your own booth, you’ll need a camera like the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, a program like DSLR Remote Pro and a physical enclosure to house the gear. Basic woodworking skills will come in handy if you take the DIY route. You’ll probably need photo-specific printer paper and plenty of high-quality toner.

Learn the Ins & Outs of Photography

If you’re not a photographer by trade, you’ll need to figure out how great pictures are produced. Knowing how ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture affect each other and the outcome of a photo is paramount. You don’t necessarily need to go to an accredited school to acquire the crucial skills needed to run a photo booth. A free online course from  Digital Photography School or BestPhotoLessons are possible options.

Craft a Memorable Brand Image

It’s important to come up with a great brand image from the very start so that potential customers can differentiate you from similar businesses. Maybe your brand is all about wacky photos using old-fashioned props to give portrait subjects a vintage look. Maybe your booth is installed in the back of a vehicle like a classic car or truck. Come up with a distinctive name and logo that you can hang your hat on.

Soft Launch to Gain Experience

Sooner or later, you’ll need to put yourself out there and do some on-the-job training. Try the word-of-mouth route using family, friends and colleagues to circulate your name in the local and regional communities. Try posting ads on sites like Craigslist or  City Pages. Posting flyers and leaving your card with potential clients is never a bad way to drum up business. Once you’ve gotten into a comfortable groove, it’s time to really get serious.

Find Lucrative Locations & Events

Figuring out how to pump up the customer volume should be priority one during the first few months of operation. The name of the game is gross revenue rather than profit per customer. Setting up shop at summer music festivals and county fairs is a surefire way to take plenty of photos. Events that almost guarantee plenty of foot traffic include big weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, high school graduations, holiday parties and corporate conventions.

Zero In on the Right Pricing

Professional photo booths can rake in at least $100 an hour and earn up to $1,000 per event. A big part of getting to that level is pricing your services in such a way that passersby won’t hesitate to spring for a picture. At the same time, you need to charge enough so that you maximize profits on an hourly basis. It’ll take a few months of experimentation to find that sweet spot.

Flesh Out Your Photo Booth Offerings

While it’s fine to start out by delivering only physical photos to customers on the spot, you should quickly expand your services. For instance, you could offer to frame your snapshots and have them delivered to clients’ homes. For groups of customers, you might offer to produce a commemorative scrapbook including every event attendee and mail them to each portrait subject. Add-on services are ultimately the best way to earn the most from your booth.

Market to a Wider Audience

Since a healthy online presence can only help your booth enterprise, a topnotch website is a must. Fortunately, even a novice webmaster can crank out an amazing flagship site using inexpensive shared hosting, WordPress and a few premium themes and plugins. As always, creating social media profiles on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to cross-promote your site and your outfit is a given. Encourage clients to leave online reviews whenever possible.

Taking Things to the Next Level

Amplifying the revenue of a photo booth business often comes down to teaming up with complementary businesses. Becoming best friends with professional event coordinators in your area will help you to score gigs with the greatest of ease. If all goes well, your photo booth side business could become a career. Whatever your long-term goals may be, the preceding blueprint should ensure that your photo booth becomes a resounding success in short order.

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