October 16, 2020

Specialized photo dealers and professional photographers looking for new sources of income (especially in rural areas where you have to do all things for all people to pay the bills) have dipped their toes into event and local sports photography Photo booth Setups for informal photo sessions.

But as US photo trade legend Chris Lydle (pictured right) told a virtual audience at the IPIC 2020 virtual conference in August that Covid raised its ugly head, “photo booths can kill people”.

And since our political leaders and the media have scared the metaphor out of their people for the past six months, anything as close and personal as a photo booth isn’t going to be popular again anytime soon.

(As one joker recently wrote: “Scare people is pretty easy. Not to scare them is a bastard.”)

After a stellar career, Chris is a bit retired but continues to be interested in Chris’ Camera Center and Hotlanta Photo Booths. After writing the book literally about photo booths, he introduced IPIC to the simple, inexpensive, and low-risk alternative – the virtual photo booth.

“You can capture the magical fun of the old photo booth without leaving your office or home. You can keep your corporate identity in front of customers, make new friends, and maybe even make some money, ”he said.

Your “virtual guests” take photos with their cell phones, send them to you and receive a funny, booth-like picture back in just a few seconds, while the pictures are published on an album. And of course there is the potential for print sales.

He got the idea after seeing a “virtual prom” advertised by the local high school and offered to set up a virtual photo booth to go with it. This is how he saw it work:
– We will design a custom overlay, similar to our regular red carpet or photo booth overlays.
– Prom ‘participants’ take selfies in their regalia or pajamas;
– They publish their photos on Instagram with a special hashtag.
– We collect these photos in a computer folder (one of our programs does most of the work).
– We will put these photos in this custom overlay.
– The photos are uploaded to a gallery on SmugMug as follows: https://hotlantaphotobooths.smugmug.com/Parties/Q100s-Girls-Night-Out-at-the-Coca-Cola-Roxie/
– Check photos before posting to make sure nothing inappropriate is creeping in.
– The gallery will remain open for several months.

‘Remember, this should be a virtual prom. The “participants” would not be in a common room, just listening to a DJ playing a special playlist. So I couldn’t even put a camera in a central location, ”he explained.

Standard software was the glue that brought the concept together. He was looking at a software product for event photography called Darkroom coreThis feature allows you to send your photo to a Twilio number with a keyword and write it back with your overlay. In addition, printouts are automatically generated and synchronized with the cloud server of the company’s Event Gallery. “That would be a great option, but given the schedule, I didn’t want to try software that was new to me and that I hadn’t bought a license for,” he said. ‘I already had a licensed copy of Breeze hot folder (License US $ 175, formerly called Hotfolder Prints), and since it’s very similar to Breeze’s photo booth software, I was pretty familiar with creating layouts and workflows. ‘

Hotfolder contains some useful plug-ins Hashtag Monitor and SmugMug uploader. There are two versions of the hashtag monitor, one for Twitter and one for Instagram.

Instagram is far more popular with students than Twitter, and because of its “native” square layout, it also bypasses the challenge of vertical and horizontal layouts: “I designed an overlay with the square format. Since creating prints wasn’t a concern, I created the 1200 x 1600 pixel overlay with a 1080 x 1080 opening for the image. ‘

And when you take a photo in the Instagram app, you can instantly add a hashtag in the message box section.

The Breeze Hashtag Monitor then searches for new image files with hashtags every 90 seconds, Hotfolder Prints converts them into still images and the SmugMug Uploader stores them in a folder on SmugMug.

Chris emphasized that you need to get hotfolder working before turning on the hashtag monitor as it needs to be running when image files arrive.

Another alternative to hot folders advertised as “Your Virtual Photo Booth” is FrameYour Selfie (license US $ 199). With this software, guests send their selfies to a phone number where they will be inserted into an overlay. A Twilio account is also required.

“One of the big questions is how can you make money from it? I don’t know, ”was his frank reply. “There are people who claim that they charge as much for this as a normal photo booth. Email your client list and let them know what you are doing. Tell them you have something new. Leave a sample event on your website. Your example layout could include a special offer. ‘

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