Review: Sparkbooth Turns a PC Into a Photo booth
At a Glance
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Sparkbooth turns your laptop and Webcam into your own personal photo booth. It's not cheap, but it's much less expensive than renting a physical photo booth.
Looking for a neat party favor? No need to rent a photo booth to capture a few silly photos when you have Sparkbooth installed on your computer. This clever application lets you use a webcam and a computer to capture photo strips, almost as if you were sitting in a real photo booth. And while the software is on the expensive side—$59 for a consumer license—it's a whole lot cheaper than actually renting a photo booth.
Sparkbooth is free to try for 10 days, but the demo version places a watermark on all of your photos. To use Sparkbooth, simply install it on your Windows or Mac computer and attach your Webcam. Sparkbooth will find it automatically, and displays a large preview photo on the screen—and this preview is a lot more accurate at showing you what your photo will look like than those old mirrors you find in some photo booths.
You hit the space bar to begin, and it then begins snapping four pictures in succession. The application alerts you when it's about to capture the image, and then displays the results in a sequence of images that appear on screen.
Sparkbooth includes a few effects that you can add to your photos: color (which is the default), black & white, sepia, and fomomatic (which makes it look like it was shot with a toy camera). You can change these settings via Sparkbooth's menu, which is a little cumbersome, or you can add a keyboard shortcut to change them more easily. Sparkbooth's creator notes that the number of effects is limited because the software is really designed for use with guests who will want to sit for a photo and move on, not mess around with the software. In that respect, he's right: the software really is easy to use for anyone who just wants to sit for their photos and then get back to the party.
Where Sparkbooth can't match up to a real, live photo booth is in the printing; you will need to add a printer to get a take-away print. A portable photo printer would be ideal for this, but that adds to the cost. You can set the application to automatically print photos with a customizable layout that can include a company logo and event name, and there are several templates on offer. You can also send photos right to Twitter, Facebook and email, should your guests want to share them.
I did run into a few stumbling blocks when testing Sparkbooth: When I tested it using the integrated webcam on my Windows 7 laptop, the app kept crashing. After nearly every strip of photos it captured, Sparkbooth would hang and then crash. The software's creator notes that it was likely due to my integrated webcam, and I did have much better results when I attached an external webcam via USB. But I do wish the application worked better with my internal camera; it already costs $59 for the software itself, so paying for a new webcam in addition pushes up the price even more.
Overall, though, Sparkbooth is fun and easy to use, although you should test it with your webcam and printer before the party starts. I'm already planning to pull it out at my next party.