Meet the boothers
George Velasco has been in the Photo Booth industry for over a decade and if you haven’t heard of him, you are not spending enough time on social media! This diamond is full of personality and knowledge, that he is always willing to shine a light on what’s needed to succeed in our industry!
I was lucky to grab a few minutes with him in advance of this year Booth Mastermind, South Point Convention Centre, Las Vegas.
Name: George Velasco
Business Name: Absolutely Fabulous Photo Booth
How long have you been in business? I started out as a wedding and events photographer in 1996 and expanded to photo booths in 2011 when I was asked if I could create a photo booth experience.
I had no idea there were a few photo booth manufacturers at the time or software to operate the booths. I created a Photoshop action that created the photo layout and eventually created a photo booth using an IKEA towel rack and discovered Breeze’s NKRemote, for Nikon cameras, which is no longer being updated.
What is your favourite booth? I can’t say that I have a favorite booth, per se, but I DO have some that I favor. Among the top of my DSLR booth list are the Minbooth for it’s sleek elegance. I remember feeling I spent more than I wanted to but when I got that booth in my hands, I remember feeling confident that it was money well spent because of the attention to detail and how it was a solid booth that was very different from what I had, previously.
My go-to booth is the Curve by Danny Max, both of which I hold in high regard since I first heard of Danny’s booths while it was still in its conception stages. Danny lived on Long Island, NY and would ask some of us NY area boothers for input/feedback and gave credence to our ideas.
iPad Booth favorites include Danny Max’s Mobile Booth Mini for roaming, his Tuxedo booth (that’s no longer in production) and the Picstation Mini for unattended booths.
What is your favourite software?
I’ve heard time and time again, from the veterans, that you should use the right software for the job, which makes sense, but I’ve started with Breeze’s software and am finding it difficult to find a compelling reason to use other programs. Breeze isn’t for the faint of heart, though it’s like a camera in that it can be very simple or you can get as advanced as you’d like.
I feel that the power users are kind of old school in the sense that you need to exhaust your troubleshooting options before asking for help and I can’t disagree with that. It’s such a tremendous feeling when you finally figure out how to do something on your own and I believe that’s one of the things that provides you with a sense of pride. Happiness is bred from accomplishments.
For iOS, Breeze for iPad is amazing in the sense that you can really have full control over creating an advanced experience.
I use Touchpix for 360 and roaming booths. It’s so advanced and I would love to see people pushing it more. There’s so much that it can do if people would just dig a little deeper. The fact that it can do multiple concurrent events without any extra fees is astounding. A number of my suggestions have been implemented, many of which were based on my background in photography and years I’ve been in the boothing industry. For example, roaming photo booths had been around for several months and when I finally did my first roaming event, I noticed a glaring omission in the software I was using at the time. As lighting changed, the iPads of those days didn’t compensate well enough so I asked to create an exposure compensation slider in the camera’s live view. You could make that adjustment on the ready screen without having to go to settings.
Snappic is an industry standard and has evolved into a rock solid app and you can’t really go wrong with it. The video side of things are a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around but on more than one occasion, their live help was able to assist in not only answering my questions but to also make adjustments to fine-tune my video effects (but you didn’t hear that from me).
I have less experience with Curator but have heard spectacular things. Everyone loves James and I’m no exception. I first met him after midnight in Vegas, when there were issues with reservations and he made an immediate impression. Curator was the first app that had the AI green screen replacement and I was stunned.
Tell us about the best event you ever did?
None start out as the ‘best’, but I love events that evoke emotion from the guests or from me, myself. There are some events where everyone vibes and it’s unmistakable. There are recurring events, children’s birthday parties, for example, where I get to see the same kids grow older each year. Whenever I hear people say something like “These pictures are so good!” Or “This lighting is so good!” That makes me proud.
I love it when people ask me to be sure to wear my sequin jacket to their events. It gives me a sense of pride that I’ve chosen to head down a path that they can embrace.
The events I dislike the most are when women have to drag their husbands to take a picture with them. One time, as a supposed defense mechanism, a woman looked at me and told me that her husband doesn’t like to take pictures with her anymore. It was the saddest moment I can recall at one of my events. When I do weddings or holiday parties, I only wish I could be in their shoes, having fun in the photo booth with my girlfriend, yet there are people who make a fuss over such a silly thing.
Your 3 Tips for success in the photo booth industry
#1 The Facebook groups are a valuable resource to learn, network and grow your business but do your own work.
The landscape of the industry is changing because people want ‘easy.’ There’s no accomplishment in someone telling you how to do something. You will be a better person by learning things on your own and investing in yourself. I promise you.
#2 Go to the Photo Booth Expo in Las Vegas.
If you could go to Vegas and write it off, why would you not go?
On a serious note, it’s tremendously important to establish relationships with other brothers AND manufacturers. You can buy printer paper anywhere, but then you wouldn’t get to have conversations with people like Steve Behn from Imaging Spectrum about everything Texas, Timo Schwegmann from Booth Active, who’s an airplane pilot or opportunities to speak with people who can help you successfully execute a white label event in an entirely different part of the country.
All that glitters isn’t gold and you can touch the booths in person at PBX to be sure you’re going to make the purchase that’s right for you.
#3 Be open to criticism
Personally, I learn more when people are tougher on me. I don’t like it, but it’s an opportunity for self-reflection, which inevitably leads to growth and since I am fully aware of that, it makes learning that much more easy.
Being defensive only means you insist on seeing things from your own perspective.
Pay attention to those who get attention. There’s a reason for it. A lot can be learned from looking at someone’s set up in the Facebook groups from the way they position their lighting, distance of the booth to the backdrop, where they place their prop table or if they even use props at all.
You can tell if someone’s using an iPad, iPhone, GoPro or DSLR for their 360 events. Study it without asking where they bought their equipment because I can assure you that the same equipment will NOT yield the same results for all people.
Zach Schiffman made a statement that resonated with me when he said “I’ll give you a taste but I won’t give you the recipe.” That’s up to each one of us.