Author: Zach Blackwood


Photobooths are fun and printing is slow!

     This past weekend I was asked to run a Photobooth at a quinceañera.  Earlier in the year, my sister had me run one for her wedding reception.  Despite not really knowing what to expect or how to run it efficiently, both booths went, at least in my opinion pretty smoothly.  The second round definitely went a lot smoother when applying the things I learned from the first time providing these services.

     These booths are attended since I am not equipped to have an unattended setup at this point.  I prefer it this way for now as I have a ton of fun doing this as well.  Get to see some crazy people really enjoying themselves, and you see a lot of people who appear to generally be more reserved, get roped into using props and making faces for the camera!

The gear/setup I use thus far are

  1. 2 Flashpoint II 320m studio lights
  2. White or black backdrop,
  3. Canon Pixma Pro9000 MarkII printer
  4. Samsung Laptop
  5. D7000 tethered via USB.
  6. Cowboy Studio wireless triggers
  7. DslrBooth Software
 Cellphone picture of my light setup. Simply going for nice even light, nothing dramatic since things were changing so much. To the left there was a table with my laptop and printer.
Cellphone picture of my light setup. Simply going for nice even light, nothing dramatic since things were changing so much. To the left there was a table with my laptop and printer.

have considered trying to shoot tethered wirelessly via an eye-fi card, but
still feel that a corded connection is more reliable.  

after only doing this service twice, I have learned a lot on what works and
what doesn’t work when it comes to being efficient and not slowing people down.
 First and foremost, printing is sloooooow and this is where I went
terribly wrong when doing this for my sister.  This is no fault of mine,
or really the printer per say, it’s just that this printer is not designed to
be spitting these out at the speed I would like.  This printer provides
excellent quality prints, and I absolutely love it for the price and the larger
prints I can get from it. For a photobooth printing on 4×6 cards, I will be
looking into other options when the time comes.

major thing I learned was to not use Lightroom for the tethering and printing.
 Perhaps there is a way to automate filling out a 2 column layout, each
column the same, and then printing, but I have not been able to accomplish that
yet.  When doing this over the summer, I had to manually add every single
picture, twice, into my print template I setup, then click print.  Having
to do that every time a new person or group came through, really, and I mean
really slowed things down.  Eventually I just had the DJ announce that
printing is a bit backed up, and the strips will be on the table as they come
out. That way I could just get the line of people through and then print the
shots while they all ate or it slowed down.  This initially made me feel
very uncomfortable, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought looking back at it
because it was all family and friends and no one seemed to mind.  However,
providing this service for a true client, that is not something I want to run

     Since I knew I would be
doing another booth this past weekend, I did a little bit of research into some
software that would help me automate the filling out of a print template and
then print.  I found quite a few options ranging from perfectly
reasonable, to quite expensive and capable of stuff well beyond what I would
ever do.  I downloaded free trials of 4 or so different programs and
finally ran across one that I really enjoyed.  This software is called
 dslrBooth and
you can find it by visiting the link there.

     DslrBooth has a very simple UI, but it’s easy to figure out and pretty much
works right out of the gate.  There are limited printing templates
available, but more are being added in the future.  However, the limited
number of options still had the perfect one I was after.  A simple 2
column, 4 row layout I could print on a 4×6 card and then cut in half for two
strips.  You pick your print layout you want, plug your camera in, and
fire away!  As the pictures come in, it displays for a few seconds before
counting down to the next shot, fills out the layout, and prints it.  You
can have it prompt you to print every time, or not bother you and just print as
each set of 4 pictures comes in.  You can add custom branding to be
printed on each column as well if you wish.  You can also have this
software run completely automated, and countdown with big numbers on the screen
when it’s going to fire off the next picture.  So you could set this up if
you are able to enclose your camera so it’s safe and run it unattended.
 The prompts are nice and big on my monitor I used, and instructions are
simple and clear if you were to run it this way. One additional thing I enjoyed
was that the software placed all the strips into one folder, and all the
individual original shots into another. With that being done, I was able to
then upload all of the strips to facebook, and have all the high res individual
shots on my website for people to download and use for other things.  I
was able to purchase this software for $50 last week and it became instantly
worth the cost the moment the first print popped out.

 Here's the 2 column, 4 row layout that I used.  It is possible to add borders or branding if you want as well.
Here’s the 2 column, 4 row layout that I used.  It is possible to add borders or branding if you want as well.

other thing I learned is ink costs are expensive and black backgrounds really
drain your ink!  I knew ink was expensive, especially for this printer.
 Running $86 for a full set of 8 colors on Amazon ($106 if you buy from
Brick and Mortar or canon stores).  What I had not counted on, was how
much additional ink a black backdrop would require over a white one.
 Luckily,  I came with plenty of supplies, but I was worried I may
run out at one point.  The black cartridge didn’t get used at all during
this time. It just used every other color combined to re-create the black
backdrop.  Using a white backdrop significantly lowers the use of ink, at
least with this printer. 

able to automate the layout and printing process made things go immeasurably
smoother.  I also had my brother helping me out with cutting the pictures
in half to create the separate strips which also helped quite a bit. However,
walmart sells a paper cutter for 11 bucks that you could just set on the table
and have anyone do it.

     After only running 2 of these booths, I am quite comfortable and confident in
being able to provide this service to people I don’t know as well.  The
software I now have and the process works great!  Throw in a few props
from the dollar store and you can have a great booth setup at a pretty
reasonable cost.

only other tidbit I found interesting was how I never used my tripod when
shooting.  If this were automated, of course one would be required, but I
never used it except to hold my camera when I had to do something else.  I
found I there was a lot of little kids and adults of all various heights that I
had to compensate for.  Spent a lot of time on my knees or crouched down,
or standing on my tippy toes to get the good shot in.

     If you wish to see the other 100+ photo strips, you can find them on my Facebook page at ZLB Photography.  If you’re after the individual larger shots, send me an email and I’ll get you hooked up.

am far from the expert on this type of thing, but if you’re just starting out
and thinking about running an attended photobooth, I hope you find this post
useful.  If you have any questions about any of this, drop me a line or
leave a comment below.


One Light, Two Light with Joe McNally and Kelby…

               This may be a little long winded, but I think it’s worth a read and will hopefully portray how great this day was. Read on for my thoughts on this One Light, Two Light tour.

August 27th I had the pleasure of attending a Kelby Training seminar featuring
Joe McNally! The title of the seminar was One Light, Two Light with the
emphasis on using one or two smaller speedlites to provide great lighting
without the need for big expensive studio strobes.  

whole idea behind the seminar is what caught my attention in the first place. I
have been shooting more people recently and wanted to improve my lighting
knowledge and capabilities without buying an expensive studio setup.  This type of setup is also portable and could
be used out in the field without too much trouble as well. When I heard it was
Joe McNally running this thing, it was a no brainer to attend.  Kelby Training prices these at such a low
price, there’s not much of an excuse to not go if you’re considering. 

                Joe is
a fantastic teacher and easy to listen to. He’s incredibly knowledgeable and it
truly shows. Despite being able to rattle off technical details and talk about
in depth subjects relating to light and equipment; he’s able to explain and
describe exactly what he’s doing so even the most novice photographers can
understand.  One of the biggest things I
came to love and respect about Joe is his standpoint on mistakes.  Mistakes happen, no matter how prepared you
are. Whether it be an equipment malfunction or user error, these things
happen.  Understanding what went wrong
and why it went wrong is an important thing. Don’t freak out, stay calm, make a
joke about it, and use your knowledge to correct it for next time you pull the
trigger.  There’s nothing wrong with
firing a couple test shots either if you’re not 100% sure where to begin.  Being more of a landscape photographer, these
lighting aspects are not my strong suit. Making mistakes has been one thing I
freak out about ahead of time and hope it doesn’t happen on the job. After
listening to Joe talk about this, and even witnessing these things happening in
front of hundreds of people, I’ve got a much better grasp on how to handle a
situation like this.

                For a
good half of the day, he used one off camera flash.  He used a variety of different light
modifiers to achieve different light and effects he was after. Sometimes he
would block off parts of the light with gaffers tape or a flash bender, other
times he would double diffuse and add additional interruptions to the light
before it hits the subject.  Joe would
choose various people from the audience for his subjects and he would shoot
tethered so we would see the results straight from the camera instantly.  When things went wrong, he would explain what
happened and make the necessary changes. 
He always made it a point to ask their name, what they do, and shake
their hand. Little things like that add a lot to the experience.

                One big
surprise to me was that Joe uses TTL for all of his flash work and no radio
triggers involved. He shoots with Nikon so it’s the i-TTL stuff.  He had one flash on the camera that was
acting as the commander, not effecting the exposure of the image, and then it
would tell the off camera flash how to expose. He was able to easily manipulate
the flash using on camera settings without adjusting the shutter speed or
aperture most of the time. Using a white background, most of the pictures he
shot were black, and only lighting the subject as he wanted. A few times he
would maintain the white color depending on the look he was after. Between each
shot, he would review the camera settings and talk about the modifiers being
used and what they do to the light.  It’s
all simple and affordable stuff that even beginners could obtain easily.

last thoughts on the day. Joe would take time to ask the audience if we had any
questions, and would take the time needed to make sure the answer was addressed
and understood. He and his assistants were available during the breaks for
questions as well.

                It was
just a fantastic day and a lot of fun. I learned a heck of a lot, and from one
of the world’s best! This ended up being exactly what I was hoping it would be
and touched on everything I was hoping for. I walked away with a far better
understanding of light, and what my current gear is capable of with just a few
tweaks here and there. If you haven’t attended any of the Kelby Training
seminars, I can absolutely recommend this one without hesitation. I will
certainly be looking out for others in my area.

you Joe McNally and Kelby Training for the services and knowledge you provide
to us. I’d hug you both if it were possible!

If you would like to check out more about Joe McNally, visit his website at
Also be sure to check out Kelby Training at One of the best resources on the internet for all things photography.


April Showers

This photo was taken back in April during a pretty big rainy spell we had. It was nearing the end as you can see with the clouds breaking a bit in the background. The rain visible up front is what drew my attention to this particular spot. During the winter, this type of scene is not uncommon as we get a lot of rain, and some incredible clouds that often break nearing the sunset hours creating some fantastic drama in the sky.  It doesn’t always work out like that, and in this case it was one of those times. Still provided some great pictures, but never did quite break enough for my liking.

In order to capture the background, rain and foreground the way I wanted to, I shot a 3 bracket exposure with 2 stops between each capture. I processed this image using NIk HDR Efex Pro2 and Lightroom 4.

I started with some of the presets built into Nik Software and then tweaked the options for a look closer to what I was going for. Started out with the Deep2 preset, and then added some custom control points to adjust the exposure, contrast, saturation in very specific locations. After that I added a little sharpness and noise reduction in Lightroom.

 Seal Rock, OR during some April showers.
Seal Rock, OR during some April showers.


Fairly recently I’ve been trying out some new techniques and edits on some images. Here’s a couple images shown in a Before/After fashion. I flipped which ones on top and bottom for no apparent reason 😉  These are from an engagement shoot done at the end of May. They got happily married the following month on June 30th. Congratulations Nick and Kelsey!

The before versions are SOOC and the edited versions were done in Lightroom and Photoshop.


Nik HDR Efex Pro2

I’ve been a fan of HDR for a while. Some of it overcooked, some of it much more natural looking. My taste varies quite a bit depending on the scene I’m looking at. 

Recently I picked up this piece of software and have been really enjoying it. I previously used Photomatix, which is still great, but I really enjoy the layout and control in HDR Efex. It’s a much more comfortable layout and control for me.  This is likely due to being a big fan of the other Nik Software, Color Efex, Silver Efex etc..

Here’s a great little article with images to download if you wanted to trial out exactly what this gentleman did.

Below you can see an image I processed using this software in combination with Lightroom4.

 Yaquina Bay bridge as seen from the Port of Newport public fishing pier. Processed using Lightroom4 and Nik HDR Efex Pro2
Yaquina Bay bridge as seen from the Port of Newport public fishing pier. Processed using Lightroom4 and Nik HDR Efex Pro2