The parents of post-bar or bat mitzvah children often display their photo album featuring moments from the big day — their child holding the Torah, posing with family, hanging on for dear life during the chair dance and mugging for the camera with friends. But these albums reflect how the parents see their child, rather than how the children see themselves.
Today’s teens live in the Facebook age. Their expectations exceed the traditional brag book gathering dust on a coffee table. They don’t remember a time before computers and multimedia, and a photo album — real or virtual — is often a visual statement about who they are and what they want to become.
Mindful of this trend, a new breed of event photographers offer services that allow for greater creativity during the celebration as well as provide added entertainment.
In addition to photo booth rentals, like those found in malls or amusement parks, photographers are also offering setups that resemble a fashion shoot, with props and green-screen backdrops as well as multiple wardrobe changes and magazine-inspired glamour. Family and guests get unique take-home souvenirs, effortless scrapbooking and instant gratification with photos that can be printed and shared on the Web — even before the bar or bat mitzvah is over in most cases.
While these photographers are also still preserving the bar or bat mitzvahs’ serious moments in elegant, conventional ways, they are adding fun to the celebration afterward through add-on packages that enhance both big-budget themed celebrations and more scaled-back events, with prices that start around $500 and can run more than $10,000.
L.A. photographer Jay Lawrence Goldman credits the rise in this innovative photography to the fact that today’s teens are savvier than ever when it comes to pop culture. He says that because the ways teens want to celebrate the big day is becoming more sophisticated, a byproduct of this shift is the implementation of photo booths and photo studio environments at the celebration.
“Bar mitzvah photography is becoming themed around the personality of the child, and an integral part of the party’s décor,” Goldman said.
The trends he sees at the forefront are shots that mirror popular magazine covers and iPod commercials.
Interactive photo companies with green-screen technology have been around since the late 1990s. As the technology and quality improved, along with the pricing, more providers began offering the service.
Traditional photography packages range from basic services starting at about $800 to photojournalism-inspired approaches that can run $3,000 to $10,000. Interactive packages, which can include photo booth set-ups, novelty video and other amenities, can run an additional $500 to $3,000.
Vivian Hurwitz hired Cliques Photo Booth for her son’s bar mitzvah earlier this year, and said it was a hit with both children and adults.
“Our guests were having such a great time with the fantastic backdrop and props,” she said. “They kept coming back for more.”
The company’s instant digital results enable kids to post the bar/bat mitzvah party highlights on their MySpace or Facebook page, while adults can visit the Cliques site to download their favorites for free to share with others.
Cliques’ pricing ranges from $1,500 for a basic package to more than $2,500 for elaborate packages using the latest interactive photo booth technology. Owner Dov Viramontes said all of his packages include photo booths or backdrops as well as a roving photographer to capture the day’s more serious moments, and he is planning to add 3-D backdrops in the coming year.
“Not only are we added entertainment, but we do formal shots of the child and his family, for use in traditional albums,” he said. “Because bar and bat mitzvahs are big on themes, we also work closely with families to model our booth to fit with the party’s personality as well as the child’s.”
Looking back on the experience, Hurwitz recommends consumers consider selecting something beyond the most basic package. Two hours “is not enough time, especially because kids and adults are going to be doing other things during the party. Those who miss out [on the photo booth] will leave the party disappointed,” she said.
Madison Bishop’s parents hired LA Photo Party after hearing a recommendation from friends. Similar to Cliques, the business attracts customers who have access to the city’s best photographers but want to try something bold and new.
After a sports-themed bar mitzvah for Madison at Dodger Stadium, his parents — including his mother, party planner Yvonne Wolf — said the LA Photo Party set-up impressed kids and adults alike.
“Not only did the kids have a blast and get literally hundreds of photos from the booth, but by the middle of the evening, as the red wine flowed, the adults all ventured over there,” said Richard Bishop, Madison’s dad and owner of Three Artists Management.
“As I was at the door saying good night at the end of the evening, probably 10 of my own friends came up to me proudly displaying their photos wearing top hats and Hendrix wigs.”
LA Photo Party’s Brian Miller described his portable set-up as being like a professional studio shoot.
With “so many girls watching shows like ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ we’ve devised a set-up with a fashion-studio feel but with the efficiency of a photo booth. Images are shot every five seconds and printed out instantly as glossy 4-by-6 photos,” he said.
While he wouldn’t discuss his pricing with The Journal, Miller said LA Photo Party is in line with what other companies are charging.
“A photo booth can produce a great souvenir for two people at a time, but this gets the entire party involved in souvenirs they can share and enjoy together,” Miller said. “The entertainment is also about instant gratification as guests can see the photos on a projection screen as they are being taken. People can also flip through photos on a flat screen monitor so they can choose their favorite shots, which are ready seconds later.”
Miller said he is planning to add new technology to his offerings in the near future — Photosphere, a 360-degree panoramic photography format that captures the bar mitzvah and his guests from every angle.
“It’s our way of keeping up with the changing trends of event entertainment, and a way that we can offer repeat clients something brand new to really wow their guests,” he said.
While modern event photography is reaching some dazzling extremes, Miller said it’s the family and guests who are the subjects in the photographs, not the props or the other extras.
“The focus should be on the people in the photo,” he said, “backdrops should not take anything away from them.”
Goldman echoed a similar sentiment.
“Though we offer the photo booth as an add-on, I am still hired to document the details of the party,” he said.
Goldman considers his job as part family historian, and he said entertainment photography should not take away from the importance of artistic, traditional photography.
“It is also extremely important to feature grandparents and other close relatives, as these photos are the ones that get passed down from generation to generation,” he said.
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