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Party Selfie Station

A Selfie Station/ Photo Booth is great fun at a wedding party. Or any party.

I have seen several documented on instructables. The focus is often on the housing/aesthetics of the set-up or the form of automation.

This instructable is about how I set up a selfie station using what I had lying around and focuses on the following points:

1. Getting a decent image with a single off-camera flash;

2. Creating a semi-automatic set-up using the brilliant but highly under-used 'smile filter;'

3. Creating an "almost instant" print.

The equipment I am using is listed below with notes:

Camera: Sony Alpha 550 — this is a relatively old camera, but has some great features, including face recognition (to aid exposure) and smile filter (which activates the shutter automatically to get a good smiley shot).

Lens: Minolta AF 24mm F/2.8 This is a good, fairly cheap option providing an approximate focal length of 36mm on the Sony 550's APC sensor — about right for our set-up. It can take individual or small group shots in either portrait or landscape at around 2m.

Flash: Sony HVL-F42AM. This is designed to work with the camera body and has a quite sophisticated auto wireless setting which is what I used.

2x SD Cards — we need two cards in order to swap between the Sony Camera taking the photo and the Polaroid camera which will print the results.

Studio lighting tripod.

Umbrella with a silver lining. This does not need to be a proper photographic umbrella. The one I am using is actually from an old push-chair and is quite small (around 25" in diameter).

Printer: I am using the printing function of the Polaroid Z2300 camera. This has a built-in 10MP camera which is fine for snapshots, but we are trying to get something a little better image wise in this instructable.

Media: Zink paper — I did quite a bit of research before buying this camera. The self-adhesive prints are 2" x 3" and seem to be a bit cheaper than the alternatives. All of the ink technology is embedded the paper, so to load the camera, you simply put the paper in. No cartridges or refills necessary.

Space Set-up

The lens, flash and background set up I am using creates a slightly forensic image, but it is a nice clean look and seems relatively foolproof in creating a good portrait.

The camera should be set up on a sturdy tripod (I added a weight to stop this being knocked over accidentally) around 2–3m in front of a large white background.

The umbrella should be mounted slightly behind and about a metre above the camera.

The flash should be set up to point directly into the umbrella. I used a camera clamp that I had lying around clamped to the umbrella stem. The umbrella is fixed to the tripod using another clamp and some tape. Your set up is likely to be slightly different.

The idea is to provide a large amount of diffuse light both to illuminate the subject and to minimise the shadows on the background. It takes a bit of tweaking to get this just right, but seems to be possible with just the one flash.

Camera and Flash Settings

It is unlikely you have the same gear as me, so these settings are given as guidance only.

The aim is to get some good lively shots and for this reason I am using the built-in smile detector.

This is very common feature nowadays, but although it was introduced in around 2007, very few people appear to use it. It seems more suited to tripod rather than a handheld use. People seem genuinely amazed by this feature even though it is nearly 10 years old.

The feature works particularly well with with kids who otherwise can be difficult to persuade to smile. They treat it as a game and are fascinated to see how they can set off the shutter with a smile. In addition it seems to capture the exact moment with much finer accuracy than my shutter finger.

Using this setting with the Sony 550, the camera needs to be in 'Live View' mode with auto focus. The mechanics of this Sony system are very complex, but for various reasons it means that manual focus can't be used with the smile filter. The constant sampling of the image and re-focusing means that this mode can drain the battery faster than normal and has the potential to overheat. For this reason it probably shouldn't be left on for longer than 20 minutes at a time if in constant use.

The camera settings are shown in the first image. The camera is in Aperture priority mode.

F5 for good clarity with this lens

ISO 200 for noise reduction

+0.7 Exposure to brighten image and compensate for white background

Smile filter has three settings. I set mine to 'slight smile' which seems to work OK.

The flash should be set to wireless mode. These Sony flashes are very smart and rarely mess things up in auto mode.

For this camera, it is also important to set the preview mode to 2 seconds or 5 seconds max. The camera will not take a picture in this mode while it is previewing the last one. You could also set up a monitor from the mini HDMI out port so that the subjects can see the captured image. I haven't been organised enough to set this up and just seeing the flash go off seems to be sufficient feedback for kids using this system.


I used the Polaroid Z2300 camera as the printer for this system.

After the automated smile filter set up has captured 10–20 images, you swap the SD card with the spare one in the Polaroid.

The Z2300 is great in that it will find your images even if the filing system is a mess (not true of the Sony)

The new images should pop up on the screen quite quickly and from there you can decide which ones to print.

You can perform some simple framing and editing on the screen, but with this set up, the images should be fairly well framed. Each one takes around 10 seconds to print.

I used this set-up for a couple of parties — one for kids and one for adults.

The results were great. Not only do you get a semi-instant print, but you can also compile the digital images to share as well.

I hope you have some fun with your set-up!


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