Reasons why a DIY photo booth isn’t the cheaper option you might expect

Are you thinking about making a DIY photo booth for your wedding or event? If so you aren’t alone. Photo booths are more popular than ever. They’ve become a staple at almost every wedding and big event now. This inevitably adds another expense to the budget. We understand that wedding budgets in particular aren’t endless and as such, often couples will begin looking for ways to cut costs. Some couples may opt for a smaller cake or a cheaper wedding dress to bring things in on budget. Some will make their own wedding invitations whilst others may decide that they can DIY a photo booth instead of hiring a professional photo booth company.

DIY photo booth?

Although the DIY route can be an effective way to cut costs, in many cases, the DIY option isn’t quite the money saver that couples hope it will be. Photo booths tend to be one of these things unfortunately. Below, we are going to explain why.

Firstly, although they seem like quite a simple concept, there’s actually quite a lot of expense associated with photo booths if you’re attempting to create one from scratch. At a minimum you’ll need a decent camera, a backdrop of some description and some props. Great, all sounds pretty simple.

There are also miscellaneous costs that people tend to forget about though. How will you hold the photo booth backdrop up for example? Will you need a backdrop stand?  Will you need a tripod for the camera? Do you need leads or a card reader to transfer the images from the camera to the laptop, to the printer?

Other things to consider are:

How well lit is the area that you’d like the booth? Will you need additional lighting or signage to direct people where to go?

Do you plan to have prints available on site? If so, depending on what system you opt for you may need a laptop and printer (which you may already have) with a full set of inks. If you do wish to use your own laptop and/or printer and would like to use your wedding venues electrics, bear in mind that most venues will require an up to date PAT certificate and liability insurance. (Just in case your devices blow the venues electrics and subsequently cause any damage. The standard amount of coverage required by most venues is around £2million)

Polaroid camera for a DIY photo booth

To avoid this further expense some couples choose to use a polaroid type camera for instant photos. This is a really popular choice for DIY  photo booths as it delivers instant prints without the need to access electricity.

This is far from being the cheap option however. We actually chose this route for our own wedding a few years ago. We were so surprised by how expensive the film is for these cameras. We spent around £85 for just 100 shots. If you have a small-medium sized wedding with 60 guests and want to allow just 2 photos per guest, you’re already looking at needing at least 120 shots. So look to set aside at least £80 for film with a standard instax mini and around £100 for an instax wide. That of course doesn’t take into account the initial purchase price of the camera either. At the time of writing these were around £70 new and around £50-£60 second hand.

Something to take away

A really important thing to think about with this option is that guests will want to (and in many cases will expect to) be able to keep their prints. We envisioned that we’d get all the polaroids back for a nice little guest book or scrapbook, but many of the photos taken were kept by guests as mementos. This is a big problem with the polaroid route. No memory card, online gallery or social media sharing. Literally just one shot. So it’s important to manage your expectations. If you are hoping to get most or all of the photos back your best bet is to provide more film in the hope that a few more photos will be left behind.

Poor quality?

Another shocker is that the quality isn’t all that great. Especially once it’s dark. Even with a flash, a good shot isn’t guaranteed. Here’s one of the better ones from our own wedding.


bride and groom polaroid photo from DIY photo booth

On the night printing for a DIY photo booth?

An alternative option is to forego on the night printing of any description and just use a digital camera. You can then upload the full card of photos onto a computer and online gallery, or social media at a later date for guests to enjoy. This is by far the cheaper option. The only downside to this is that it’s a great idea in theory, but in reality it tends to bomb. The whole appeal of a photo booth from a user point of view is the print aspect. It’s the novelty of messing about with your mates and then having something fun and tangible to show for it. It’s that nostalgic feeling of waiting for your prints and giggling away at the result. The fun isn’t in the feather boa and pouts alone.

A photo booth is a whole experience. Without the prints, photo booths tend to fall a bit flat. We used to see it time and time again when we are actually photographing weddings. Booths without prints would always go virtually unused. I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but if there are, in seven years as wedding photographers, we never saw it.

DIY photo booth props

Props wise, it is of course totally up to you how much you wish to spend and the kind of things you want to buy. Novelty wigs and so on at £5 a pop though do very quickly add up. We’d probably advise a minimum spend of about £50 to avoid a props box being too sparse and repetitive. There are only so many photos of people in a ginger wig and an inflatable mic worth having! Mix it up a little.

Practicalities of a DIY photo booth

Now the stuff to get the booth up and running is sorted it’s time to consider practicalities. Keep in mind that at this point you’re potentially looking at a spend of over £200 so far if you’re going down the polaroid route. This doesn’t take into account costs for a backdrop, signage, additional lighting, a backdrop holder or any of the things that you *might* want or need. Throw those into the mix and you’ve spent another £100 before you’ve blinked.

Who will set it up?

This is when you have to begin thinking about things like who is going to set the booth up. Will venue staff do it? Do they understand what you’re looking for and more importantly, do they charge an additional fee for setting up things that are not provided by the venue. Most do. If you are thinking about having a friend do it, be sure to arrange when this can be done and when they will have access to the area. Often you will not be able to access a venue or a particular area of a venue until a certain time on the day, so this is something to consider.

DIY photo booth summary

Where are we so far? Assuming you’ve gone down the polaroid route to avoid PAT certificates/insurance to keep your venue happy…

  • You’ve probably spent around £200-£300 in all. Albeit in dribs and drabs so it didn’t *feel* like quite such a big spend.
  • Copies: You don’t have copies of all the photos taken on the night, or duplicates for your guest book.
  • You have a relatively small number of photos over all because the film was too expensive to allow for multiple photos.
  • Online gallery: You don’t have an online gallery of the images or a copy of them for social media sharing
  • You had to arrange setting up and taking it all down yourself or assigning the job to someone else. Or you had to pay your venue to do it for you.
  • Leg work: You have to sort out transporting it all to and from the venue

Missing out?

So you’ve missed out on a few things that probably would be quite nice. Like having copies of all the photos. And you’ve still spent a couple of hundred pounds. For the sake of another £50-£100 you could have a professional photo booth. With none of the stress of trying to arrange it all yourself. You could have unlimited prints, someone to set it all up and put it away. Someone with varied props and accessories, varied backdrops and more. You have someone to encourage guests to use the booth. And also someone to stick copies of the images in your guest book for you. You also get someone who will load all of your images online for you.

Speaking from experience

Having been there and done it all ourselves, we know that wedding budgets aren’t endless. If providing entertainment for your guests is something you have your heart set on, hiring a professional photo booth tends to deliver fantastic value for money over all. It caters for all guests of all ages. It’s safe, fun and easy to access and use. Furthermore you actually get a tangible take away product at the end of it all. Pound for pound, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

If you’re still thinking about booking a photo booth for your wedding or celebration, speak to us. It’s always worth giving a bit of Banter in the booth a try.



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