Ten years ago, photo booths at weddings were quite a novelty—if not rarity. A few couples had one, and it was quite a surprise to the wedding guests who walked away with a photo booth strip to remember the event.
Fast-forward to 2017 and by some reports, the majority of weddings now have some type of photo booth. Photo booths have become an essential part of the whole wedding experience.
Are Photo Booths Just A Fad?
All indications are that Photo Booths are here to stay. The continuing growth of the photo booth phenomena can be traced to four main factors that transformed the industry:
1) Portability. Advancements in computer, software and printer technologies now allowed photo booths to be transported easily from event to event— they no longer need be permanently stationed in one location.
2) Social Media. Self portraits and photographic expressions have become an essential part of our society.
3) Strong sales and distribution. The 2008-2009 recession forced both disc jockeys and photographers, as well as other wedding and event professionals, to find new revenue streams. Many choose to add Photo Booth rentals to their list of services.
4) Photo Booths Are Entertainment. In the distant past people went into photo booths to get their pictures taken. Today, the most successful companies are those that can entertain people and, most importantly, make them laugh, which comes out in the final product.
Photo Booth History
Even before the current boom, photo booths were a part of American—if not world—culture as much as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.
Cameras became a practicality in the middle of the 19th century. By the early 1900s people would go to studios and sit without moving for several minutes in order to get their portraits made. These earliest photographic devices can be seen in many photography museums around the world. At around the same time, coin operated devices were gaining popularity at fairs and carnivals,. It was the marriage of vending machine features with these portrait studios that most people consider to be the birth of the term “photo booth.”
Arguably, the first successful photo booth operator in America was Anatol Marco Josepho (1894-1980) who created a machine called the Photomaton, which produced a strip of eight photographic portaits in eight minutes for a quarter.
When he introduced the machine to the public in New York City in the summer of 1925, it was an instant success. Time Magazine reported on April 4, 1927, that 280,000 people patronized the first Photomaton location in its first six months. In 1927 Josepho sold his machines and his patent to a group of investors for one million dollars plus royalties…and the rest is history.
Not long after, imitators started appearing and photo booths began popping up on what seemed like every corner. Even World War II helped the popularity of photo booths as soldiers were using the booths to send pictures of themselves to their loved ones—while in return their loved ones sent pictures back.
It’s estimated that by the early 1950s there were more than 30,000 photo booths in the United States. One of the largest players was the Auto-Photo Company which was able to cut deals with Woolworths and Kresge (two of the largest retailers of the time) for rental space. Known as Model 9 and Model 11 machines, the 700-pound photo booths were cranked out by the thousands.
With the introduction of Polaroid technology in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the “chemical” photo booths, as they were and are still known, did suffer a significant decline, until photo booth technology caught up.
Photo booth software started becoming popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s while dye sublimation color printing was at the same time becoming both affordable and transportable. Both of these developments spurred the resurgence of the photo booth industry. For the first time it was practical to bring a photo booth from location to location rather than just having it in one place.
Today, the photo booth industry as a whole is stronger than ever. More than 40 manufacturers in the United States, and many more worldwide, offer a variety of both stationary and portable photo booths for all sorts of applications. Many offshoots are also now available, such as video booths, graffitti walls, green screen, and the list goes on and on. While it is impossible to predict the exact course that photo booths will take in the future, one thing is for certain, the journey will be exciting.
By PhotoBooth Expo Producer, By Rob Savickis –
Originally appeared in Mobile Beat Magazine, re-posted with permission.