Ah, the photo booth.
Invented in the early twentieth century by an ambitious Russian immigrant1, the photo booth quickly won over the American public with it’s quick printing capabilities and intimate booth atmosphere. It started appearing in cities across the U.S. wherever crowds gathered. Photo booths grew in popularity over the next several decades, and saw such famous visitors as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Truman Capote.
But in the later decades of the 20th century, Americans’ fascination with the photo booth declined. The once-popular photo booths were relegated to dusty corners at malls and shopping centers.
But all that changed about 10 years ago.
As the saying goes, “what’s old is new again,” and this couldn’t be more true for the humble event photo booth. Now they are at weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate events, retail grand openings, first birthday parties, and graduation parties. Photographers across the U.S. are adding them as a package option for their event photography, and DIY photo booth tutorials abound.
But the fun part for you, the party planner, is all the glamorous details, and what’s more fun than a vintage 1920s photo booth theme? Whether you’re throwing a gala reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, hosting a small art deco-inspired soirée, or just want a 1920s-themed photo booth, we’ve searched high and low to bring you some of the best 1920s vintage photo booth ideas and inspiration.
Vintage Photo Booth Backdrop Ideas
- Strips of wrapping paper. Sound silly? It’s not! Put one strip black, another of a subtle black and gold geometric pattern. Just be careful not to clash patterns or create something too loud.
- Black table cloth. This is perhaps the easiest and thriftiest option, which is why it’s usually the most popular. A simple black table cloth from your local party supply store is a simple but great background.
- Streamers. Choose two or three colors, and tape streamers to the wall, keeping them all straight, twirling all of them, or keeping some straight while twirling others.
- Velvet. We’re thinking a red or black velvet curtain reminiscent of the theater. While an actual theater curtain might not fit your budget, check your local fabric store, especially the bargain bins. Or, hang a simple black backdrop, and put on red velvet curtain on each side, pulled back with a gold rope tie. Where to buy: Jo-Ann
- Clear balloons filled with gold glitter. Easy and fun glitter balloons! Just add a spoonful of glitter to a clear balloon, blow it up (with helium), tie on a gold ribbon, and tape the ribbon to the floor. Fill up enough balloons to cover a wide enough area, and tie on varying lengths of ribbon. Where to buy: Party City
- Patterns to look for. Whether it’s a piece of fabric, a table cloth, wrapping paper, or wallpaper, look for big, regal patterns like damask or brocade, or for true art deco style, be on the lookout for bold geometric patterns. Inspiration: Pinterest, of course!
Prop Ideas for your 1920s-Themed Photo Booth
- Hats, hats, hats. Find period-style hats for the guys and the dames. For guys, look for bowler, derby, fedora, top hat, panama, gambler, or homburg. For dames, look for cloche, beret, toque, turbans, and of course, the flapper headband. Where to buy: Candy Apple Costumes
- Mustache on a stick. Make your own, find some at the party store, or download some vintage-style photo booth printables.
- Bow ties for the guys. You can either find a few clip-on bow ties (skip the over-sized ones for the vintage theme), or use a printable. Where to buy: Absolute Ties (feeling crafty? Learn how to make your own clip-on bow tie.)
- Lace gloves for the ladies. So that you’re fit for your elegant affair. Where to buy: Steam Punk Emporium
- Lace parasol. Look at pictures of people picnicking in the 1920s and you might see some women with lacy parasols, meant to shelter the sun. While a full-size parasol won’t work to well in a confined space, a child-sized or petite parasol would be perfect.
- Feather boas and playful fans. Time to hit the party store again! Think glitz and glam.
- Rotary Phone. Why not? Look on eBay or ask around; you might be surprised at who has one of those sitting in their attic.
- Colorful silk flowers. Not your ordinary prop, but why should the bride and bridesmaids be the only ones with bouquets?
DIY Vintage Photo Booth Signs
- Pointing to the photo booth. Free photo booth sign printables abound online. Here are just a few: Apothecakery, Elegance and Enchantment, Poptastic Bride. Creating your own? Look up some 1920s slang to make it even more authentic.
- How to use the photo booth. Avoid the risk of losing pictures, having damaged equipment, or just confusing your guests. Kelly from A Side of Sweet provided a simple list of instructions for guests at her wedding.
- How to pose and use props. Yes, this might sound silly, but it could be another way to add some vintage flair. Find some old photo booth pictures (old family photos from the 1920s will work, too), put them in a gold frame, and place them on the props table.
Protect Your Prints! Personalized Photo Booth Favors
- Photo Booth Strip Folders. Help your guests protect their 2″ x 6″ photo booth prints. Personalize with your event details. Where to buy: Studio Style
- Photo Holder for 4″ x 6″ Photo Booth Collage. Perfect for the larger prints! Choose a vintage design, or create one of your own. Where to buy: Studio Style (Psssst… the Vintage Props is our most popular design for events like this.)
- An envelope. Get envelopes to coordinate with your color or design theme. Leave them blank, add a label, or personalize with some fancy calligraphy. Find these at any stationery supply store. For 4″ x 6″ photos, look for the A6 envelope size.
DIY Photo Booth Tutorial List
If you’re one of the brave individuals looking to set up your own photo booth, check out this list of tutorials from experts and beginners alike.
- The Offbeat Bride. No expensive camera needed, just your computer and a web cam. The ultimate budget-friendly option.
- Simple Booth. Have an iPad? Here’s a really easy one for you. Buy the app, and set your iPad up on a tri-pod.
- Photography Concentrate. Photographers Lauren and Rob Lim share their photo booth setup. This one is perfect if you have a dSLR and a separate flash unit.
- dslrBooth. Photo booth software (Mac or PC) for those with Nikon, Canon or Sony dSLR cameras. Also works with webcams.
- Viget. For a more professional setup with dSLR, lights, and live photo slideshow, see how the staff at Viget set up their photo booth.
If You’re Hiring a Photographer…
Sometimes it’s more fun to let someone else handle the technical side of setting up a photo booth, and that’s ok! You can still choose props, backdrops, and other photo booth decor. We’ve found that photo booth owners love working their clients’ ideas into their booth to help personalize the experience, so if you are hiring a professional, ask them if you can use your own props and backdrop.
Ready, Set, Go!
Whether it’s for your wedding or your kid’s birthday party, your photo booth will bring out the goofiness in your guests, and there’s nothing like a vintage theme to really get them to open up.
Are you doing a vintage photo booth theme? Let us know what your set up looks like—we’d love to see it!
1 “The History of the Photobooth” www.telegraph.co.uk