How to start a photo booth business
A photo booth business gives you the ability to provide a fun and memorable experience to your clients. They will hire you to take photos at a special event such as a wedding or company party. The guests will use your photo booth and have their pictures taken while wearing funny hats and silly props like signs or boas. In the end, they will get a photo strip printed out to take home, usually with your clients name or logo on it. You may even offer a social media sharing station for the guests to send the pictures to themselves and view the gallery of all the pics, GIFs and boomerangs online.
In this article, you will learn how to start your very own photo booth rental business, and discover if this is a good fit for you.
Table of Contents
Step 1 - Plan Your Business
Having a clear and concise plan is critical for your new business to thrive. As a budding entrepreneur, your business plan will act as your guide and help you navigate the pitfalls of starting a new business venture.
90% of small businesses fail within the first 2 years, and the 10% that succeed do so partially by luck, but also by having a solid, well thought out plan for how they are going to make money and be profitable.
What are the costs to start a photo booth business?
Thankfully, a photo booth business has a relatively low barrier to entry and can be started fairly inexpensively. You don’t have any major franchise fees to pay, and the equipment required to operate a photo booth is getting cheaper every year.
However, this low cost to start also means there is a lot of competition, so you need to make sure that you are planning how you will stand out from your competition.
The basic costs for a photo booth: (Retail prices are shown, you may be able to buy these items on sale and save some $$)
- $1795 for a Booth Masters Pic Station Mini.
- $699 for a SKB Case to protect your photo booth.
- $749 for a Photo Booth Printer Stand.
- $735 for a DNP 620a Dye Sublimation Photo Printer.
- $499 for an iPad Air 10.5″ with 7MP front facing camera.
- $434 for a Lenovo ideapad laptop for your photo booth print server.
- $80 for a set of prop signs.
- $375 for a photo booth backdrop & stand.
- $19 per event for iPad photo booth software license.
When you add it all up, the total cost to be up and running with a complete photo booth kit is just $5385!
And while you can technically get started with less equipment, this is the minimum that we recommend you have to really provide a solid experience for people in your photo booth.
What kind of ongoing expenses does a photo booth business have?
The ongoing expenses depend on the software that you choose to use for your photo booth. If you use a high quality professional app like Snappic, then you can expect to pay either per event, or per month, or per year, depending on the features that you want.
Some software applications have a one time fee, but are lacking in features, and the top photo booth apps for iPad all generally have a monthly or annual subscription fee to ensure that you are getting the highest quality features and service.
As for other incidental monthly costs, this depends on if you rent an office space or store your equipment and operate out of your home, which may provide some nice tax benefits at the end of the year.
The other major ongoing expenses are the cost of media. Photo booth media is the term for paper & ink. Modern dye sublimation photo printers do not use traditional ink or toner like ink jet printers, instead they use an “ink ribbon” and use heat to transfer the color to the glossy photo paper.
The cost of the media depends on the printer that you use. If you get a quality photo printer like a DNP 620a or a Mistubishi CP-D70DW printer, then you can expect media to cost about $50 per roll.
One roll is good for 400 prints for these 2 printers, so that puts your cost per print to about $0.12-0.15/print.
Who is the target market?
There are multiple target markets for photo booths. Some companies aim their rentals at private parties and social events, such as weddings, schools, company parties, holiday parties, birthday parties, etc.
While other photo booth rental companies thrive on large scale corporate events, marketing activations for brands, and creating unique photo experiences.
Then there is the market of unattended kiosk leases such as in malls, amusement parks, boardwalks, and arcades. These photo booths tend to have money collectors in them so people end up paying per print.
But by far the largest market segment for your photo booth rental business is the private party rental sector. You will want to research local party rental companies, wedding & bridal shows, and build a list of businesses who are looking for regular annual holiday parties.
How does a photo booth business make money?
The old fashioned photo booth business model was to charge on a per-shot basis. But that was for the unattended kiosks in the mall or arcade.
With modern photo booth rental companies being hired for private events or to create fun photo experiences for businesses, the pricing model has changed.
Now you would charge an hourly rate for your rental, and that would include:
- Rental of the photo booth.
- Prints (either 2 photo strips per session, or one photo print for every person in the picture, or unlimited prints).
- A backdrop choice (picked by the client).
- Props for the guests to use in the photo booth.
- An attendant to run the event and make sure things go smoothly, such as replacing paper & ink in the printer when it runs out.
How much you charge for these services is entirely up to you. Prices range anywhere from $100/hr to $1000/hr.
You can also make money by offering add-ons and upgrades such as social media sharing stations, live slideshows of pictures taken inside the photo booth, scrapbooks/guestbooks, jumbo sized prints, game rentals, and more.
How much should you charge your customers?
As mentioned before, many rental companies charge anywhere from $100/hr to $1000+/hr for their photo booths.
What you need to do in order to figure out how much YOU must charge your own customers is market research. What kind of customers are you selling to?
What kind of photo booth experience are you providing? Are you providing a simple basic rental package that is a commodity, or are you providing a unique, personalized, one-of-a-kind experience?
Obviously you want to be able to make and charge as much as you can.
The key to being able to charge more for your services is to package and bundle your services in such a way that the perceived and actual value that you provide is more than the dollar amount you are charging.
How do you do that?
The key is in perfecting your sales technique, and identifying your customers wants and desires, their pain points and frustrations, and creating an actual experience for their guests that they cannot create themselves.
So, to recap, if you are simply selling a photo booth rental where a picture is taken and a print is given to the guest for a set amount of hours, then the perceived value will be lower and the amount you are able to charge will be lower.
But if you communicate to your customer how you will give every guest the experience of being a rock star on the red carpet having their picture taken by “paparazzi”, and they’ll have a memorable keepsake glamour shot printout to take home to remember the event by… now you are selling an EXPERIENCE, instead of just a rental, and you can package that easily to get a much higher rate.
How much profit can a photo booth business make?
Photo booths are a highly profitable business venture. Due to the low cost for the equipment, the majority of costs involved in running your business comes down to cost of labor, and cost of marketing.
Let’s do some simple math and take a look at some example scenarios.
**NOTE* This is NOT a representation of earnings potential, nothing is guaranteed. How much money you earn in your photo booth business is entirely dependent upon you and your circumstances. This is only meant as a guide to understand the profit model. **
Scenario A: You charge $500 for a 3 hour wedding photo booth rental.
Media Costs – We will account that we use 1 roll of media per event, or $50 in media costs.
Labor Costs – If we hire an attendant to work the event for us, and we pay them $25/hour, then our labor costs are $75.
Total Costs = $125
Which leaves us with $375 profit per event.
Scenario B: You charge $800 for a 4 hour holiday party photo booth rental.
Media Costs = $50
Labor Costs = $150
Total Costs = $200
Profit = $600
Scenario C: You charge $1500 for a 2 hour brand activation at a store grand opening.
Media Costs = $100 (because the client opted for the more expensive jumbo prints)
Labor Costs = $300 to have 4 staff members on-site to help with crowd control and act as brand ambassadors.
Total Costs = $400
Profit = $1100
These scenarios are very rough numbers, the actual costs and profit involved depends on your actual expenses for employees, payroll taxes, media usage, etc. But you can see how a photo booth rental service provides a very high margin service.
Even though your photo booth is only a 2 or 3 hour rental, the odds that you are going to be able to have it rented out more than once per day are slim.
So you will want to take that into account in your pricing, the opportunity cost of one event over another (which is why many companies have more than one photo booth).
There are 52 weeks in a year, which means 52 potential Saturdays for weddings & events.
At $500/event x 52 Saturdays = $26,000 revenue
At $800/event x 52 Saturdays = $41,600 revenue
If you also promote and provide rentals on Fridays and Sundays, then the earning potentials can be double or triple. Even more so if you have multiple photo booths going out at the same time.
And the good news is that events like store grand openings can happen on any day of the week.
What is a good name for your photo booth business?
When picking a name for your business, you will want it to be memorable, recognizable, and not confused with any other company. It is almost more important that you are able to get the domain name for your business, so be sure to check for domain availability during this process.
We recommend buying your domain name from NameCheap.
Think about your target market, what kind of events are you going to be providing services to most of the time? You will want to pick a name that resonates with your target market and still conveys a sense of what services you provide.
Step 2 - Register your business as a legal entity
Use a company like LegalZoom, or find a local business attorney to help you register your company as a legal entity.
You will want to be a limited liability company (LLC) or S-Corp in order to provide liability protection between you personally and the company.
Consult with your accountant on whether an LLC, S-Corp or even a C-Corp will be better for you.
If you plan on having employees work as photo booth attendants at your events, then you should also register with the IRS to get an EIN tax ID for your business. Consult with your accountant or payroll company to make sure that you are set up to properly provide payroll for your employees and handle income tax withholding.
Step 3 - Set up your business bank account and merchant account to receive payments.
Now that you have your business filing and your EIN, you can go to your bank and open up a business checking account!
Your new business probably won’t have any established business credit yet, so if you want to get a credit card for company expenses, it will be based on your personal credit rating. When starting out though, a business debit card is all you should need to be able to pay for expenses.
You will also want to talk to your bank about getting a merchant account to receive credit card payments.
Step 4 - Set up your CRM and accounting systems
One of the things that helps ensure a new business succeeds is a system for generating sales, and automating your follow-up. This is where having a good CRM (customer relationship management) system comes into place.
There are many CRMs out there:
And most modern CRMs also provide some marketing automation such as email autoresponders.
And then there are some niche specific CRMs that exist solely for the special events industry, which provide event planning tools:
Some CRM’s include basic accounting features such as billing and invoicing, but you may require additional accounting software to handle payroll and expenses. Check with your accountant to see what they recommend for you.
Common accounting software for photo booth businesses:
Step 5 - Make sure you have necessary permits and licenses
The last thing you want is for your new business to be shut down because you were operating without a permit. Be sure to check with your local city, county, and state business offices to see what licensing and/or permits you will require to operate your photo booth rental business.
Step 6 - Get photo booth business insurance
It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you get business liability insurance. You can talk to your local insurance agency or broker to get a general liability umbrella policy to cover your photo booth business.
And depending on the amount and cost of your equipment, you may want to consider getting an inland marine policy to cover replacing your equipment if lost or damaged while it travels to events.
Speak with a licensed insurance agent to find out what your insurance policy covers and know exactly what you need.
Some states require employers to carry workers compensation insurance for their employees, so depending on where you are located, this may also be a requirement.
Step 7 - Develop your brand & marketing plan
Your brand identity is what defines your business from a logo and color standpoint. It should convey what you stand for, express who you are as a company, and help you stand out from your competitors.
You will want to get a logo, you can use a site like Fiverr to have a logo created for you at a very low cost.
Next you will want to create your marketing plan.
Your marketing plan should identify who your target customer is. How you will reach them, and a plan for following up and closing the sale.
Step 8 - Build your website & photo booth marketing funnel
Now it is time to build your website, you should use a proven platform like WordPress to make sure that your site is SEO optimized.
Your website should have a contact us page so that potential customers can easily contact you to get information about your photo booth services or to book you.
If you are using a modern CRM like Keap, you can put a contact form or request a quote form on your site and the leads will be automatically captured into Keap where an email autoresponder can follow up with them.
Where to market & promote your photo booth business.
Promoting your photo booth startup isn’t hard, it’s not much different from promoting any other kind of business. Except for the fact that the wedding and special events market has some nice niche places to promote yourself.
Promote on social media:
Be sure to have strong presences on the following social networks:
Other event based listing sites to promote your new photo booth rental company:
As you build out your website and work on your photo booth marketing funnel, think about the different stages your customers will go through.
They will find out about you from Google, or Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube, so it is important to have strong social media presences on all of these 4 major platforms.
They will visit your website, and get interested in you, so it is important that your website is designed to convert visitors into leads with a good lead capture form.
You must actively follow up with your leads, and never stop following up until they book, or say “no thank you.”. Having an automated lead follow up system like Keap is very important.
Once they book and become a customer, now you need to excite them about their event. Now is a good time to offer add-ons and up-sells.
When you work the event, be sure to bring business cards to help promote your business to the guests at the event.
After the event, you will want to have a system in place for generating raving reviews and testimonials.
Then you will want to turn your customers into fans and promoters, referring new business to you.
What kind of person starts a photo booth business?
The special events industry is a place for a wide variety of people with all kinds of different personalities. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, a love of interacting with people at some level is required.
Often times photographers and photography lovers jump into the photo booth business as it is a direct extension of their passion, hobby, or business. If you are already an event or wedding photographer, adding a robust photo booth kiosk as an add-on to your packages is a great option.
Your familiarity with camera settings will be a benefit, especially if you are using a DSLR photo booth. But if you don’t have a photography background, have no fear, modern technology makes it very simple to run a successful event even if you don’t have any technical camera skills.
You might be another kind of event professional, a DJ or entertainer who provides fun music at events. Adding a photo booth is a great profit center and a way to earn additional income at the events you are already working and have booked.
Or you might be a stay at home mom, looking for a great side-hustle business to get you out of the house on a Saturday night. You can become a weekend warrior, rocking weddings and events with your brand new photo booth, making a good income for just a day or two of work per week.
No matter who you are, if you like people and special events, then the photo booth business is for you.
What does a regular day in the photo booth business look like?
You’ve booked your first photo booth client, HOORAY!
So what does it look like to actually work an event?
You will want to pre-check, set up, and test all of your equipment to make sure everything is working.
- Create a photo template for the client
- Have the correct backdrop for the client
- Configure your photo booth software with the template
- Set up the booth and take a test picture
Then you will pack up everything and head to the venue where your client is having their event.
You will want to get there 1-2 hours early to set up and make sure everything is working correctly.
Check in with the venue manager to find out where you will be setting up. It is a good idea to have a reliable cart to help carry all of your equipment into the venue.
Set up the photo booth.
Set up the backdrop.
Set up the printer stand & printer.
Set up an optional table with the props on it off to the side.
Take a test photo and make sure everything is printing correctly.
Start the event!
Be friendly & courteous to guests, and encourage them to use the photo booth.
Encourage them to use the props, and make silly poses.
At the beginning of the event, you will most likely be pressing the buttons on the screen of the photo booth, but soon the guests will see how to take the pictures and will start using it all on their own.
As the pictures are printed, hand them to the guests, or help them put them into a scrapbook or guestbook and have them sign their pictures.
At the end of the event, be sure to provide the prints & guestbook to the client, and maybe include a USB thumb drive with all of the pictures taken in the photo booth.
Some companies will email a link to a dropbox folder or an online gallery instead of providing a USB flash drive.
Pack up the photo booth and head home!
Is it OK to have a tip jar at the photo booth?
This is a very controversial topic that is debated over and over in the photo booth industry Facebook groups. The grand majority of boothers believe that having a tip jar out while working a photo booth is considered to be unprofessional.
However, you are the boss of your own company, and it is up to you to create company policy on whether or not you allow your attendants to have. a tip jar out while they work.
What company policies should a photo booth business have?
As your photo booth startup grows, you will find that it becomes important to create a set of company policies for your employees to follow.
You should put these policies into an employee handbook. You can start with a simple word document that you print out for each employee, or create an online portal for your staff to access for training materials.
Policies you should have for your photo booth attendants:
- Dress code policy – to define what appropriate attire they should wear to events.
- Drug & alcohol use policy – to cover your rules on drug and alcohol use while on the job.
- Travel policy – to cover mileage and reimbursement when an employee has to drive a long ways to an event.
- Equipment policy – to cover what happens when your equipment is damaged or lost due to employee negligence.