Booth Nation By Antonia Peck

Renowned photographer and founder of Boothnation, Seamus Ryan tells us what makes a powerful photograph and how you can look good in your wedding day photos.


How did the Boothnation concept come about?

My Sunday Shoots projects, an ongoing public portrait project held each week in my Columbia Road Flower Market studio, led to an advertising commission which involved faking up a photobooth. I was asked to photograph 300 laughing ladies in a week. The shoot was a great success. In the end we captured over 500 genuinely hysterical women. The secret to this was simple: no photographer and the privacy a curtain afforded.

I became obsessed with creating the ultimate photobooth, so I designed one using my own signature beauty lighting and even incorporated a wind machine for added glamour. I tested the booth on Sundays with visitors to my studio and before long got my first booking, a fashion event at the National Portrait Gallery. The business, called Boothnation, has really taken off since then. We work for a number of leading brands such as Chanel and do a host of wonderful events like Glastonbury and the Baftas. We are also delighted to be a part of many very glamorous weddings.

What is it that makes photo booths so appealing to partygoers?

Without a doubt our beauty lighting is what makes our booths so popular. Most people go through life without ever really having a nicely lit photograph and the revelation that they really are gorgeous is a joy. It is very rare for one of our booths not to be swamped all night as a result.

Though it pains me to say it, not having a photographer taking the shots seems to make all the difference. People are free to be themselves and have fun. The curtain adds the all important element of privacy. We all have warm memories of using photobooths in our youth. If you weren’t having your passport picture taken the chances are you were squashed in a booth with your friends taking hilarious photographs.

Do the results of booth photos surprise you?

Yes, very often. There is no way of predicting what magic might happen in the booth. It’s all down to the people who use it and I am constantly surprised by the infinite variety of images produced. As an evening progresses people do tend to get more and more liberated and perhaps surprise themselves a little.

Why is Boothnation a good choice for my wedding?

Firstly, we have designed our booths to look stunning in any setting. They are hand crafted to impress and have graced venues like The Ritz, Claridges and Blenheim Palace to name just a few. We work closely with you to personalise the booth especially for your day, creating a bespoke poster which can match your wedding theme and by adding your name and/or personal message to the pictures.

Secondly, and very importantly, our beauty lighting will flatter both you and your guests creating a lasting and very glamorous reminder of your special day.
Thirdly, people really enjoy themselves in one of our booths. It encourages everyone to interact and have fun together. The show offs get to show off and the more reticent find new ways to express themselves.

What are the secrets to looking your best in a wedding day photograph?

My top tip would be to banish all notions of rigidly posing for photographs. The formality of the traditional wedding photograph rarely reflects the remarkable event that is taking place and can become boring for everyone. Choose the very best photographer you can and just relax and enjoy yourself. It’s his or her job to capture the spirit of the day. If the bride and groom are having a great time then the photographs will reflect this.

Do you feel a conflict between commercial and artistic photography?

None whatsoever. I’m very passionate about good photography and always bring the same enthusiasm and expertise to every project. A great shot can come from the least promising situation. It’s all art in my eyes.

What, for you, makes a powerful photograph?

Photography plays an increasingly important role in all our lives and can become a part of family or cultural heritage. Photographs are visual reminders that we really did live life. As a photographer I look for a combination of graphic composition, great lighting and a strong sense of the human spirit.

Has there been one celebrity subject in particular who had the most fun with or most embraced the booth concept?

Boothnation has been popular with celebrities right from the start. We attend all sorts of glitzy events and parties. A number of celebrities regularly use one of our booths for all their family events, including Christmas dinner.

Supermodel Erin O’Conner has perhaps embraced the booth concept best of all and in doing so paid us a huge compliment. As someone who has been photographed throughout her career by many of the world’s best photographers she chose to use Boothnation to provide all the photography for her new fashion venture ‘She Died of Beauty.’ She visits the studio with top stylist Kate Halfpenny and just has fun in the booth. The resulting images are stunning and really capture her quirky take on life.