Code I can do. Picking a printer for my phothbooth? Help!
October 16, 2008 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I need a photo printer. Easy enough, but my selection criteria is a little weird and not stuff you tend to find on spec sheets. The printer will be part of a home-built photobooth for our wedding reception and the priority is on minimal interaction.

I've looked at a few of the old Ask questions about photobooths but they don't address the printing issue. I understand why - it's a pain, and why wouldn't you just show the shots on a screen or upload them to Flickr? Because my fiancée feels strongly about the physical prints. So it's non-negotiable: if I'm gonna do it, it's gotta print.

I have a fallback position that's leading the pack right now: an HP color laser. The image looks okay, if a little pixelly. The fact that I can, for the most part, expect it just to work with no paper feed issues goes a long way. Paper loading and holding is better than the average inkjet as well, what with a form-fitting tray that a half-blind syphilitic monkey could fill correctly.

However it would be NICE to have the prints look a little more like actual photos. An inkjet or dyesub on photo paper will get better bleed and the feel of the paper will be more "authentic." The drawback is that in my experience inkjets are more prone to feed and jam issues. One of the little printers that includes paper and ink in a single cart would be nice but I want 5x7s not 4x6es - typical photobooth strips are longer than 6"

So, does the Ask peanut gallery have any suggestions or experience? A printer that requires more than minimal interaction - including paper reloading - is a printer that may as well just not be there.
posted by phearlez to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can't find an inkjet you are completely confident in, consider finding a smart mechanically inclined kid at the reception (assuming kids are invited) and pay him/her a little bit to serve as the printer attendant.
posted by Good Brain at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2008

This is not an answer to your question, but here's a company that can rent you a photobooth for your reception (here's a bigger list at the "American Photobooth Association" (whut?)). It's true, at the end, you don't have a printer. But then again, how much photo printing are you going to be doing? It's something that I, at least, outsource happily.
posted by zpousman at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2008

My darling fiancée and I strongly feel like Costco etc do a better job printing than we can do at home and that it's cheaper across the board. Things that go on the wall at home are printed for $0.17 at Costco. BUT she makes a compelling case that a lot of the fun of the photobooth is the prints that people can hand around, look over, blah blah blah.

More importantly, it's what SHE values and if it doesn't spit out prints then SHE will be disappointed in it. Quite frankly, all the rest of you can go hang: if it's necessary for her to be happy, it's necessary. I'd rather not have one than have one that she looks at and thinks "I sure wish..." or "it would be better if..."

Good brain, we'll have a fairly competent quantity of people at the reception but I don't want anyone, kid or not, tied to the thing. At that point I'll use the laser.
posted by phearlez at 9:23 AM on October 16, 2008

Oh, and I have found the plethora of rental places but it's not something I'm willing to drop more than $1k on. I have the time to work on this between now and May and everything else I need I already own.
posted by phearlez at 9:24 AM on October 16, 2008

Well, the forums are down right now but the folks at the Photoboof forums may be able to help you out: Photoboof

posted by deadtrouble at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2008

Argh, sorry, meant to add that Photoboof is a software program to create DIY photobooths but the members there have tons of experience with this.
posted by deadtrouble at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2008

The photoboof forums have been broke since I first started looking at their solution several weeks ago, or at least have been broken every time I check. Thanks for the reminder tho, I'll set myself an alarm to look every few weeks.

flanders, that instructable has not one iota of information about the printer he chose.
posted by phearlez at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2008

Quite frankly, all the rest of you can go hang:

that instructable has not one iota of information about the printer he chose.

Ask Me is trying to help you, please be patient...
posted by lee at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2008

The "go hang" was just a bit of hyperbole; I apologize if anyone felt it was directed at them.

Sorry if I was curt in my response to flanders - I just meant to say that the instructable doesn't address my need at all.
posted by phearlez at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2008

HP makes some photo printers that do 5x7, are pretty easy to operate, and aren't too terribly expensive. The Photosmart A626 has a built-in touchscreen, onboard memory, jacks for every kind of digital camera and memory card slots. I haven't used this model in particular, but have used similar older models and they're pretty easy to operate. It's $150 at, but you could probably find it cheaper elsewhere.

Full disclosure: I work for a company that does a lot of business with HP.
posted by slogger at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2008

Canon makes a line of portable printers that perform well and have minimal issues with clogging and jamming. Unfortunately, with any (non-laser) printer you get short of a fairly high end model that can take bulk ink and roll paper you will have to replace ink and paper fairly often, especially if it is getting used constantly. If you have someone you can delegate this to that shouldn't be an insurmountable problem, though.
posted by TedW at 11:35 AM on October 16, 2008

i recently printed a bunch of photos at (and of) a wedding as a gift for the couple on their way out. the key to making this easy was a vertical solution. that is, get the computer out of the picture and print straight from the camera.

i have a canon 40D camera, and i bought a canon portable inkjet printer. the results were spectacular... super crisp 4x6 glossy prints that took about a minute each to print. i just used a normal USB cable to connect the camera and the printer.

here is alist of canon products that are "direct print" or "pictpridge" compatible (strangely, my 40D is not on the list). there is some indication that this sort of thing could work across different camera/printer brands. but i'm sure the seperate manufacturers are best at ensuring that it works within their own product lines.

so i'd reccommend getting a canon camera/printer, and seting them up together. after someone takes a picture, it's about two or three button presses to print it. you could easily put the instructions on an index card next to the setup.
posted by bruceo at 12:02 PM on October 16, 2008

I was in the same place as you, last year - we ended up punting on prints, because it wasn't that important to the couple. We did get a 30" dell monitor, and used Xee to slideshow through the images (the LCD was turned sideways to match ratio with the photostrip), and people loved it.

I'm also going through this again - version 2 of my photobooth is getting used in May, and I've come to the conclusion that there's 2 options.

1. Get a swanky high-end giclee printer that has a roll feed and automatic cutting. The downside is, even the small ones that are the right width run about $2K.

2. Find out what kind of printer is used in the common models of digital photobooth, buy one of those, and pray that you can get drivers for it.

I'm currently pursuing both avenues. I'll let you know what I find out.

Also, I sent you a mefi mail, because I want to get nerdy about how you're doing the setup.
posted by god hates math at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2008

Slogger - I've looked at the little HPs and they might be nice but my biggest misgiving is all the ones that I have seen specify that their feeder tray holds only 20 pictures. That's a lot of reloading in a dark-ish room full of people who have been drinking. I know it's not a big deal for the most part but I want this to be hands-off technology as much as possible.

bruceo, the problem there is that I'm actually building a booth. Physical booth, curtain, button to press to start the 4-picture taking sequence, device barfs out a print with the pictures. So specialization like that won't work for me - the controlled camera will provide the 4 independent images to the controlling computer which will assemble them plus a constant side-banner image that'll be something like "The Wedding, May 4th 2009 blah blah."

A quick sample is here, minus the right-side filler that I haven't ginned up yet. Don't anyone tell Scalzi I've turned him into a science project.

The side junk is my solution to the fact that I likely cannot get 2x7 paper - so why not turn a problem into a feature and fill the rest of the 5x7? The side banner people can trim or not at their leisure, but during the event it makes it a little easier to hold. I'll try to make something pretty enough that the picture can be kept as-is if people don't want to trim it.

God Hates Math's display with a sideways tv rotating through the images was the exact solution I'd originally planned for this project but, as stated, my darling fiancée feels that the physical filmstrips are a big part of the fun. I suspect that in the end run she'd love it just the same but I'm going to make an effort to accommodate her.
posted by phearlez at 1:54 PM on October 16, 2008

If you don't want to tie a guest to the machine, why not hire someone specifically? You could probably hire a techy teenager for $100 or something. Cheaper than finding a photo printer that can hold more than 20 prints at a time, and you could do some dry-runs ahead of time so the teen could troubleshoot minor issues (jams, ink, lopsided, jiggered wires). Weddings are busy enough without adding an unmanned technical booth that only you know how to work if things go haywire. I know your fiancee wants prints, but I bet she'll want you by her side all night even more.
posted by barnone at 4:39 PM on October 16, 2008

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