DIY: Make a holiday 'photo booth'

The family's home for the holidays -- aunts, grandparents and even long-lost Cousin Bob are in town, in the house, and settling in for gift exchanges or fun holiday meals. It may be tempting to walk around with the camera, trying to capture the perfect shot of everyone in the house, but consider this: what if you could have a quick and simple photo booth setup to capture fun memories without having to stay behind the lens for the entire occasion?

Creating photo booth-style photos is easier than it seems, with very little specialized equipment needed to get a professional looking effect. With just a tripod and a good background, you can capture your family or friends in the midst of their revelry. What's better, many of the items you'll need are available locally at camera stores like Samy's Camera, which has six brick and mortar locations in California as well as a recently-redesigned web portal,

Here's what you'll need to set it up.

A tripod. Stable, consistent photos begin with a solid tripod, so you're going to want to have one to make your photo booth effect work. Set your camera up around two feet away, and try to capture subjects from the waist up, whether they're sitting or standing.

Tripod mounts are available at camera retailers for mobile devices as well, so you can use a tablet in front-camera mode to give "photo boothers" a preview of their shots.

Keep in mind that on a tripod-mounted DSLR, a portrait lens will give a crisp focus to your subject and anything close by, such as a backdrop. If you are using a point-and-shoot, zoom to focus on the participants and keep the background consistent.

A backdrop. To get the real photo booth effect, you're going to want a backdrop. And since its the holiday, why not liven up an otherwise blank canvas with some winter fun?

The easiest and quickest method if to use a pull-down backdrop, which are affordable at many camera stores and often use disposable paper, so you can decorate it without having to worry about reusing it. For a fun project, have the family draw or paint holiday scenes on the paper. Personalize the entire photo set with a banner noting the time, place or theme of the celebration.

If working without the backdrop, a blank wall will suffice; just make sure the lighting is consistent to avoid any shadows.

Bright, even light. It's a good idea to have even light for any photo, but for a photo booth it's essential to capture the action crisply as subjects move around. Most DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras have an onboard flash that will work well, just make sure it's not too bright so as to not wash out the subject. A mounted flash with a hood is an even better bet for bright, frame-filling light and less chance of red-eye.

Props. This is where the photo booth really gets fun. Props can turn the pictures into lasting memories for you and your family and will be a hit the next day on social media. Consider holiday classics like Santa hats and beards, candy canes, menorahs or snowmen. Up the fun by making speech bubbles with the season's greatest phrases for your guests to use. Be creative and add a personal touch to your photos with props that only your family will understand.

A remote (optional). Most good-quality cameras come with timer options so guests can click the shutter, get in place, and have the camera fire. But for multiple shots, a wireless remote gives more convenience. Most major manufacturers make a small remote that can be discreetly used to take shots. Guests can take as many poses as they want or get different props.

Maybe the family can even pull Cousin Bob into the frame for a picture that no one will forget.

-Alan LaGuardia for Samy's Camera

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