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Photographing holiday festivities

Props go a long way in making family photos more fun. Photo credit:

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Photo booths set up at your holiday party provide a fun and festive activity, as guests can choose from a variety of seasonal props to pose alone or with friends. Then a photo-share app can be used to display those fabulous photo booth pictures in your party space - in real time - as an additional level of entertainment for your guests.

You may have seen or tried out photo booths at weddings and mitzvah celebrations, and you may be surprised to learn that photo booths are now popular at holiday and New Year's Eve parties. With the creative props and colorful backgrounds, guests can't help but feel inspired to ham it up; you'll get far better photos from your party than if you just circulated among mingling guests who stand still and smile awkwardly while clutching their drinks and appetizer plates. The photo booth gets everyone to loosen up, get silly or kiss for the camera.

Types of Photo Booths

On a bigger budget, you might hire a photo booth company to bring in a big, traditional photo booth "box" that fits small or large groups. These photo booth companies will often supply their own assortment of props, from mustaches on sticks to oversize sunglasses to brightly colored photo frames and Santa hats. Their software allows for printing out strips of photos and an upload onto a master file for your sharing or scrapbooking.

On a smaller budget, you can arrange what is known as an "open-air photo booth," a corner of the room or a separate room decorated with a holiday-themed backdrop, your table of props, lights and a camera and laptop set up with a volunteer to take the photos. Some party hosts just set up the photo booth area with a sign inviting guests to snap their own photos to hashtag and post themselves, all conveniently done with their own cameras.

"At larger parties, such as company holiday parties, it's often best to hire a photo booth so that none of your guests need to work the camera during the celebration," says celebrity event planner Jenny Orsini. "At a smaller holiday party, a series of responsible friends can work the photo booth for you, and you'll thank them before they leave with a wrapped thank-you gift. One idea is a gift card to a photo-centric website, such as one for prints or albums of your friend's own photos."

Providing Props

If you'll supply your own photo booth props, party supply and craft stores are excellent sources, and these types of stores' in-store and online coupons help your budget. "A request posted to your town's community Facebook page can also turn up low-cost photo booth props that your neighbors used for their own parties," says Orsini.

Etsy is home to a large number of talented crafters' photo booth prop collections, including themed and specialty props, and eBay is also a source of photo booth prop collections for a reasonable price. Additionally, dollar stores have a wealth of cheap items to explore, like colorful sunglasses and hats for your photo booth prop display.

If you wish to make your own props, look online for free printables. Check wedding and event blogs such as Wedding Chicks for an impressive selection of free printable templates and instructions for making your own photo booth props.

Display your props on a table for guests' perusal, allowing room to spread items out, and also provide a portable coat tree for apparel like jackets, butterfly costume wings and feather boas. "Put kids' props on a low table so that they can easily see and choose their own items," says Orsini. Keep in mind that as your party progresses, your prop collection will be sorted through and reused, winding up quite messy a few hours in. So make a note to visit the prop table a few times to do a quick organizing pass to make the area neater.

Displaying Photos

Professional photographer Chelo Keys says, "There are a number of free and paid apps that give you the ability to display your photo booth's hashtagged photos on big screens during your party." Keys mentions Eventstagram and InstaFeedLIVE as just two of the many apps out there. If you hired a deejay for your event, this slideshow package may even be offered as part of the entertainment package. With these apps, your guests' photo booth and personally taken photos from the night will flash on a big screen at your reception, adding to the fun factor of your day.

Be sure to inform guests about your photo share plans. A big, creatively written sign on a chalkboard or whiteboard by the photo booth will notify guests that all photo booth photos will be shown in the party rooms, so they have the option to skip it if they'd rather not have their photos shown. This sign will also share your party's hashtag for photo sharing.

In addition to your sign, snap a few photos of the party hosts at the photo booth or with the camera, and use your home printer to print out a large copy for framed display, to personalize your photo booth and stand out as the great hosts you are.

Sharing Photos

Keep privacy in mind when sharing photo booth photos and other photos from your party on social media. If you create a Facebook photo album of your photo booth snapshots, use privacy settings to invite only guests of the party to see their photos. You might also post them to photo sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug and Shutterfly, where guests can easily click on and order prints of the photos they'd like.

And for special guests who helped with your party plans, you might want to enclose a collection of their photo booth photos in their thank-you notes.

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