First published June 2006. Update, February 2008: under Leopard Photo Booth has added some exciting new features. Watch out for an updated article coming soon.
There’s a strange green light shining at the top of your computer screen: smile … you’re on camera!
If your new Mac has a small black square at the top of the monitor then it includes a built-in iSight camera.
You can use this or an external video camera while video chatting or you can use Apple’s own Photo Booth software to take some stills shots, email them to friends, add them to a web page, use them as your iChat buddy icon or your user picture for the login screen.
You can even use it like a regular camera for taking shots of scenery and so on — a bit easier with a MacBook Pro than a desktop model Mac!
It’s easy and a whole lot of fun.
Get in the booth
Look in your Applications folder for Photo Booth.app and open it. A green light next to the iSight camera comes on to show you the camera’s active. You’ll also probably suddenly see yourself on screen. If you’re using an external camera make sure it’s plugged in and switched on.
Once you’ve stopped making silly faces, or find a silly face you’re particularly proud of, commit it to posterity by clicking the red Shutter button below the image. A countdown appears below the image and after three seconds the screen flashes to add some light while the camera takes the photo.
Where’s my photo?
You’ll find the photo in the Photo Booth folder in your Pictures folder. Select a photo and choose File > Reveal in Finder to locate it easily.
Photo Booth numbers photos in sequence: Photo 1.jpg, Photo 2.jpg and so on. But don’t make things too hard for yourself — you probably don’t need to find the actual photo in the Finder as there are several things you can do from within the Photo Booth itself.
The photos from my MacBook Pro were 640 pixels by 480 pixels and were approximately 45 to 75 Kilobytes in size. That’s a fantastic size for emailing or adding to a web page.
Flip your photos
Photos you take are displayed on the shelf at the bottom of the window. use the scroll arrows at each end if there are too many photos to see them all at once. Select one to see it at full size in the display area.
After you’ve taken a few shots you’ll probably notice that all the photos are back to front. Select a thumbnail and choose Flip Photos from the Edit menu. You may wish to set Photo Booth to Auto Flip New Photos to save you the bother in future. This isn’t retrospective though — you’ll have to flip any existing photos yourself.
Share your photos
With a photo selected click a button on the Toolbar to email it using Apple’s Mail.app, send it to iPhoto, set it as your Account picture or as your iChat Buddy picture.
Delete your photo
Click the small
x in the bottom left of a photo thumbnail to delete the photo. If that was a mistake choose Undo Delete Photo from the Edit menu. If you choose Delete All Photos … from the Edit menu you won’t be able to Undo that action, so be careful with it.
A warped view
Had enough fun yet? Click the red Shutter button below the image and you’ll see a couple of Effects buttons.
Click button 1 and you’ll see filters you can apply as you take a shot: Sepia, Black and White, Glow, Comic Book, Colored Pencil, Thermal Camera, X-Ray and Pop Art are all available here, along with the Normal button dead centre.
Effects button number 2 gives you Bulge, Dent, Twirl, Squeeze, Mirror, Light Tunnel, Fish Eye and Stretch, along with the Normal button dead centre.
I don’t know how you might go with a bigger Mac, but my MacBook Pro’s very portable. When I spotted a great sunrise I just turned it around and took a photo right out of the window.
It’s nowhere near the quality of my fancy Canon Digital Rebel, but if I’d had to go find the real camera, get it lined up and compose the shot properly, the moment (and the cat in the lower window pane) would have been long gone. This one’s a bit crooked, a bit off-centre, totally spontaneous and very real. And actually, the built-in camera did quite a nice job of capturing the rosy sky.
There’s something about a photo booth that seems to bring out spontaneity and high jinks.
Apple’s Photo Booth software is well-named and simple to use. It’s not burdened down with hundreds of controls and settings, or acres of esoteric commands to learn. It’s a point and shoot type of software. If you don’t have it on your own Mac stroll on in to your local Mac supplier and play with the machines on display.
Update February 2008: I’ve been using Photo Booth for almost 2 years now and I love it. It’s spontaneous and fun. It’s not intended to be deeply serious and professional and meaningful.
Spontaneous shots with all their flaws often have a high emotional content that’s lacking with carefully lit and posed shots that are then later edited and cleaned up. Really: if you haven’t tried out Photo Booth just give it a whirl.
First published in Macguide magazine Issue #27 May / June 2006 and republished with permission. This article may have been modified from the original.