I’m not sure what it is about photo booths, but I’ve always been drawn to them. If a bar or event has one, I head straight there. Maybe it’s the way you can unapologetically be so silly and absurd with faces, poses and props. Or the ability to take a picture of the print and Instagram it in a super meta-double-inception-photo-sharing fashion.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – for any huge event I’ve planned, a photo booth is non-negotiable. It’s an unspoken, approved part of the budget (within reason), and the proof is in the pudding – people flock to it.
The history of the photo booth dates back to the late 1800s, when the first patents were filed. The earliest machine was built for the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889. Then, in 1923, the modern curtained photo booth was designed by Anatol Josepho, a Russian immigrant. Naturally, this guy banked – he made $1 million for the invention (about $12.5 million in today’s dollars).
While the traditional photo booth produces a strip with three or four images stacked vertically, the popularity of this attraction at events has forced companies to step up their game to compete with the saturated market. Every time I search for a booth at an event I’m planning, I discover new and interesting types that I’ve never seen before.
I’ve listed some of the more interesting booths I’ve seen in my years as an event planner, ranked from one to five flashes.
Social Media Sharing
Most photo booths I see at events have a social media sharing option. This typically looks like an iPad on a stand that you head to after taking your photos to instantly receive them via email or text, and share to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. For our SXSW event earlier this year, we used Pixster. They did a great job, complete with an attendant, full setup, props, and even printed a backdrop with our logo.
Pixster did the social sharing booth really well. However, because it’s pretty standard across the board when it comes to photo booths, I’m going to give it two flashes.
This one brings it back to middle school when you would draw a stick figure animation in the corner of your math textbook’s pages during a boring class. A flipbook is an awesome and special thing to be able to bring back from an event, especially if it features you and your friends dancing around in the pages.
A local San Francisco company that provides this service is The Laugh Box. In under 60 seconds, you can twist and shout in front of the camera and have a mini flipbook printed for you to take home, right then and there. (The Laugh Box also provides the social media sharing option, but gives it an added twist in their Hashtag Photobooth service, which automatically prints your photo when used with a specific hashtag that you can choose.)
The flipbook is super cool, but it’s not very shareable, which is really the main draw of a photo booth (in my opinion). I’m giving it three flashes.
Our annual SXSW party is dubbed “Beats and Bourbon,” since it’s a DJ set hosted at a whiskey bar – an inspired name if I do say so myself (can you guess who thought of it?). In 2015, I wanted to really take this theme home, complete with light-up wristbands, glowing swizzle sticks, and awesome lighting throughout the stage area. I also found an awesome company that provided the perfect photo booth option for our theme.
Flipside, based in Austin, not only provides all of the photo booth options listed above, but offers something I’ve never seen before: light painting. It’s a large, enclosed booth with different light-up props you can choose upon entering. The camera flashes to capture the subjects, and then an attendant literally “paints” the space around you with lights as the camera captures a long exposure. They even guide you while you create your own light paintings!
The hitch with this booth is that it takes up a bit of space. But, if you have the room, the results are super cool and memorable.
Due to the uniqueness and ultra-creativity of this booth, I give it four flashes.
Gifs have really made a comeback. A few years ago, reaction gif blogs started cropping up everywhere, and I now receive almost half of all text messages in moving image form thanks to the invention of gif keyboards. It’s not surprising that gif photo booths are hugely vogue in this day and age of animated communication.
This may not be very rare in the universe of photo booths, but you know what they say – keep it simple, stupid. Gif booths are typically small, easily sharable, and for the most part, free – or cheap – to create yourself. After years of client events, holiday parties and happy hours, our company finally purchased our own setup (post on how to DIY a gif booth coming soon).
Before I was the proud owner of my own gif-capable photobooth, we hired PHHHTO for our holiday party a few years ago. It was the first time I had actually seen a gif photo booth, and everyone LOVED this thing. Its bright, diffused light attachment made everyone look damn fine, and they have a cool add-on photo wall service that projects the gifs in real-time.
You can share the images immediately, and after the event, you have access to a sleek photo gallery to share with guests. Also, the app is free to download and use on your own mobile device.
Since using PHHHOTO, a lot of the booths I’ve seen offer a service similar to this – it’s pretty ubiquitous these days. But it’s chic, it’s shareable, and it’s fun. Enough said. Five flashes.
I know I’m going to keep discovering more new and interesting booths. Can’t wait for hologram booth to be invented! (Or has it?!)