Setting Up a Photo Booth

Stephen Brown
Back in February, when we switch inventory providers, I was naive about taking one's own photos. Point and shoot right? How hard can it be? Well, quite is the short answer. Its mid-June and just now we have a process in place for photoing our new and used cars. Currently, they are taken outside in front of our building, but I have long drooled over a photo booth to fully realize the benefits of doing my own photos by getting the best pictures possible. Just yesterday I found the perfect space that I had overlooked 1000 times. It is sizable (little bigger than a 2 car garage) with a gray floor, white cinderblock walls, no drop ceiling and 4 banks of single tube florescent lights. This will become my photo booth, but unfortunately I don't know the first thing about setting one up! I really don't want it to take 4 months, does anyone have any experience or can turn me on to some sources where I can get a jump on the learning curve?
Robert Hancock
Your best bet is to get a large backdrop with your logo on it and paint the floors. Since you want a clean picture, make sure all elements around the car are crisp and neat to make your vehicle pop.
Mark Potter
The bigger the space the better. White or grey work best. I went white, with white epoxy floors to reflect the light back up underneath the car and give good detail on the tires, but I'm going to try out some different colors on a test studio soon. For lighting - you've got two basic options - hot lights or strobe lights. Hot lights put out continuous power - like a standard light bulb and fluorescents, but with the incandescents going the way of the dodo, fluorescents are increasingly becoming the standard for these lights on a budget. The problem with fluorescents is that they are color balanced based on what phosphors they use in the bulb - our eyes perceive a fairly balanced light, but what you see on a spectral analysis is very narrow bands of color output. The issue is when you start getting into car paints, especially metallic, color reproduction is not very accurate. The other issue is that for every foot away from a fluorescent the light intensity is cut in half, so you need *a lot* of lights. I have 7 studios with traditional photographic strobes, and one with fluorescents because of space constraints. The fluorescent studio has four banks of five 4' shop fixtures with two tubes each - a total of 1600w of power. And that's just barely enough. Fluorescents also don't penetrate the interior of the car very well, so you have to spend money on a good off-camera flash. The alternative to fluroescent hot lights is generally a theatre style tungsten light, but once you start getting into these their cost is the same or more than some of the budget traditional studio strobes. The advantage of hot lights is that they are straightforward - what you see is what you get, and the camera can automatically adjust it's exposure settings based on the actual light available. When switching to studio strobes - you get a lot more power - my studios range from 8-12 strobes, at a total power equivalent of 4,800w - 6,400 watts (albeit in a very short flash). This gives far better penetration of interiors, engines, trunks, etc; And far better reproduction of paint colors. The drawback on using strobes is you have to know what you're doing, or have someone that does. The camera settings are all manual, and you need different settings for interior\exterior, and different colors. I use Nikon DSLR's, with dedicated off-camera flashes, and fully manual settings. I've got photographers that never did photography, but I've given them the formula and when they follow it, the photos turn out great. The best thing you could do is find a local camera store that sells these kinds of lights and equipment to come in and set up some test lights and show you what you're working with. The next best thing would be to hire a photographer with studio experience, preferably cars, on a contract to help you setup a studio and train on it. You can see what I've done at morries.com
Mark Potter
We skipped logos for watermarks because we shoot multiple brands within the stores and wanted to differentiate the photos as part of our marketing. A logo on the wall works, but be careful about adding something like a URL, which some sites like eBay don't like.
Terry Holbrook
Don't worry about the walls and floors just make them all white. Do not I repeat do not put your logo or anything on the walls. The lighting in your booth should be directed at the walls and floor NOT the car. The set your camera correctly with your spot setting and a high f stop. This will over expose the walls and floor so they will look completely white but the car will be perfect. Now what about your logo? Find a company that has dynamic photo overlays where your logo shows and your tracking numbers change by destination. Best of luck!
Dino Flora
I've been wanting to set one up for a long time as well. I found this site www.dealermade.com but its $25,000. Here are some things i have thought about doing: - green screen background - but this means you have to process the images after you take them, so i would probably leave this out. - hire a photographer to come out and setup the lighting - Add the overlay on first pic - Need a back drop on all four sides - add some local plants or props for ambiance - mark the floor with tire locations and photo standing spots - Maybe paint the walls with a outdoor scene, hire local art school kid - amazon has some good lighting kits and back drops pretty cheap

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