The wedding photo booth – part one

It's been more than a month since the wedding, but Amber and I are still frequently reminiscing about how beautiful and great everything turned out and how much fun we (and hopefully our guests) had.  There is so much to share that I'm sure I'll do at least a couple more posts, but tonight I'm going to talk about something we made for the reception that I'm particularly proud of: our wedding photo booth.

First, a little back story: Amber and I have a fondness for photo booths.  I'm not sure how it started, but when we encounter a photo booth, more often than not, we get even more sappy than usual and get some pictures.  They aren't always the best pictures, but they are fun.

france seaworld beach engagement photo booth

save the dateAs you can see, we even used one for our save the date cards.  We enjoy them so much that we thought it would be great to have one at our wedding.  Amber did some research (she did most of the leg work for vendors) and found that it would be pretty expensive to rent one, so I decided to take it on as a DIY project.

I have a netbook that I received as a bonus from work that I figured could be used to run the software.  For printing the pictures, I needed to find a decent photo printer - the printer I had wasn't up for the task.  A good webcam was the only other hardware that would be required.  Of course there was the matter of constructing the booth itself, but I figured we could build a simple frame of some sort and cover it with drapes.  I figured that I could probably do it all (given the components that I had on hand) for about $250.

Part of the reason I wanted to do the project was to give myself a coding project to work on.  I'll do another post going into specifics on this part, but I ended up building a Silverlight application to simplify the webcam integration and to do some animations in the UI without too much effort.  I spent many hours coding and testing the application so that it was relatively easy to use for the most novice computer users among our guests.  I have many pictures like this from these sessions:

testing

And a few like this:

more fun testing

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, after all.

The next step was to plan and build the booth.  It needed to be portable and quick and easy to setup.  I figured that I could do construct a frame with PCV pipe pretty easily.  I thought about it and decided that I should probably prototype with some stuff around the house, just to get my mind going on how it would go together.  After some tinkering and a quick trip to the office supply, this is what I came up with:

Prototype

As you can see, I constructed my prototype from disposable pen tubes and paperclips.  I misread the number of pens in the package I bought, so I couldn't complete the prototype, but it allowed me to visualize how things would go together and the couplings I would need to buy.  I tried to find these at home depot, but they only carried the standard plumbing connections, elbows and tees, but not the three-way connections for the corners or the four-way connections for the middle back.  Fortunately, Amber in her research found an article by someone that had done something similar (silly me, I didn't look at it until after I did my prototype) that referenced a site where you could mail order the joints I needed.

The next step was to purchase the PVC and somehow get it home and cut.  For those of you who haven't purchased PVC pipe, it is sold in ten foot sections.  Given the length of the pipe and the number of pieces I would need to cut it into, I figured I'd need a friend with power tools and a truck.  While I waited for one of my friends with such equipment at their disposal, I happened to talk to my dad about the project and he suggested that PVC is really quick to cut with just a hacksaw and I could do it in the parking lot if necessary to fit it in the car.

Things were already behind schedule and I was eager to get this part done, so I figured what the hell, and Amber and I went to Home Depot to give it a shot.  We purchased our PVC and were surprised to find that with my back seats folded down, we could fit the ten foot PVC pipe in my two-door Honda Accord!  They went all the way from the back of the car into the passenger seat and on the dash, but all nine pieces fit.

Once we got it home, I started cutting.  Fortunately, my dad was right and the hacksaw made very quick work of the PVC.  I marked the pipe with painter's tape and scored the pipe with a file so I'd get relatively straight cuts. Marking PVC

Scoring Cutting

Initially, I planned on having every section of pipe be uniform and planned on cutting four foot sections, essentially stacking one cube on top of another with a shared edge, but once I started putting things together, it became clear that an eight-foot tall booth was going to be too much.

Construction Construction

Fortunately, since I was cutting two four-foot sections out of the ten foot pipe, I had two foot left over from each pipe.  So the top section became two foot tall, for an overall height of six foot.  Much more manageable.

Completed

The next task was covering the booth.  I'd planned on using curtains, but unfortunately, we couldn't find ones that were reasonably inexpensive, that were reasonably opaque and would fit.  After several trips to stores looking for some or an alternative like sheets, we gave in and went to a fabric store to see what we could find.  After dealing with a few surly and non-helpful employees, we found just enough fabric on clearance that met our criteria.  Amber's mom was instrumental for this part, as we don't own a sewing machine and I haven't operated one since junior high.  It turns out that she is a master.  We took the frame down to Maple Valley, and she knocked out the panels in no time flat.

Sewing

We really couldn't have done it without her help.  We kept one of the curtains we tried as the door.  Here's the finished booth.

Covered

This post has obviously turned into a novel, so I'm going to stop here for tonight.  In the next part, I'll write about integrating the components.  In the meantime, here's one last picture: Amber and me in the finished booth at the reception.It worked!

4 comments for “The wedding photo booth – part one”

  1. Gravatar of Ann-MarieAnn-Marie
    Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:38:29 AM

    The photo booth was wonderful and such a fabulous addition to your wedding. We were both very impressed with the masterful coding and physical construction of the project. Are you keeping it for future parties?

  2. Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9:32:01 PM

    Absolutely. Right now it's propped up in the corner of the bedroom (disassembled). We need a better storage option.

  3. Gravatar of tdextdex
    Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 5:13:42 PM

    Hi there! Do you have the measurements and how much fabric you used?

  4. Posted Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 11:31:28 AM

    The physical dimensions ended up (approximately) 4ft. x 4ft x 6ft. You can see how the construction went above. The side and back panels of fabric were sewed at the top and bottom so they would thread onto the top and bottom pipe. The "door" panel was similarly sewn, but not threaded on the bottom pipe so it would slide easier. The side and back support also had a cross piece. We took leftover fabric and used that to cover those pipes as well (you can see that in the example picture). I think we purchased 10 yards of fabric and had used nearly every bit.

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