The next generation of photo booths have their sights set on you

A machine called Cheese wants me to pose as a spy. A short video shows three people doing guns with their fingers, their backs against each other, and although I feel uncomfortable doing this alone in the middle of a Las Vegas convention hall, I do it. Next, Cheese says that he pretends to pretend I'm thinking, and I'm beginning to understand why this photo booth is named after a cheese. Finally, he tells me to jump around. I jump a few times until Cheese floods me with light for the last time. Then, I quickly pick up my things and move behind the machine to retrieve a copy of my photos.

But there is no impression, once again. I arrived at the fifth annual Photo Booth exhibition hoping to return home with a bunch of comically large selfies, but none of the 40 photographers who exhibit anything has printed anything. Instead, they offer emails or text links to photos to easily share them online.

This is the state of the photo booths in 2019. What was once on a road to extinction has been reborn as an Instagram machine, transforming the humble self-portrait into theatrical screens for the currency of social networks. While the machines please the young demographic who loves these experiences the most, they are also monetizing a valuable asset in return: their data.

the next generation of photo booths have their sights set on you

For photo booth operators, there are two types of customers, says Brandon Wong, founder of Photobooth Supply Co. (PBSCO). First, there are a multitude of birthdays, weddings and anniversary parties, which are the types of events that cause people to take a souvenir home. "Everyone is already dressed, it looks great and wants to hang a fantastic image," says Wong.

But the second type, corporate events, is where the growth potential lies. That's why the two PBSCO machines on display, Cheese and Salsa, did not print any pictures at the fair, he says. Instead, they are designed to be shared digitally. "The goal is to encourage attendees to take pictures and show them online and create FOMO," adds Wong.

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The modern revival of the photo booth goes back to 2010, the same year that both the iPad and Instagram were born. Event photographers can now build smaller, cheaper photo booths that are based on the tablet and then send them via email to customers instead of having full-size cameras and photochemical solutions. Meanwhile, Instagram encouraged people to think of their online counterpart as a visual home page filled with unique photos that presented them as their most beautiful and interesting beings.

As the Instagram culture grew, so did the demand for even more elaborate selfies. Nowadays, photo booth operators spend their time creating spaces in the same way that restaurants are intentionally designed to turn viral, using intricate backgrounds, accessories and kitsch decorations to invite customers. of the photo booths. Depending on where you are and how you want to customize the stand, these machines can now be rented for a few hundred dollars per session. For event planners, especially those who plan corporate events, investing in this experience is a no-brainer.

"Photo booths have become a form of experiential marketing," he says. In the advent of social networks, "it's essentially free advertising."


When touring the Expo's exhibition hall, it quickly becomes clear that calling them "stands" is an inappropriate name. There are, in fact, multiple types of "photo booths"

Pre-internet machines found in shopping centers, gambling halls, bars and cinemas are classified as "closed". These were introduced for the first time in the USA. UU In 1925, kiosks became a symbol of pop culture after Andy Warhol used them as a medium for his portrait work in the 1960s. Over the next decades, they went from being a shopping center to relics as machines declined along with the culture of US shopping centers in the 2000s, when the retail industry moved online.

Elaborate and above. Most of what you see in today's parties are called "outdoor" style cabins, which maximize space for action shots or for more people to fit into a single photo. There are also mirror photo booths that are designed to disguise as mirrors. Portable handheld platforms created to be transported in the room by an assistant are called "vagrants".

Although these photo booths were made to be less intimidating than a human photographer, they all feel nervous as they pass by when they pile up in a single convention hall. And since most attendees at the Photo Booth Expo are manufacturers and operators looking to make an investment, people also tend to look and watch while I try to take some pictures. After I finish my last jump shot with Cheese, a woman rushes behind me to take a look. "That went well," she says without being asked. "Nice colors, too."


Many of the machines on display focus on capturing videos, whether in a loop, slow motion, 360-degree clips, or some combination of the above. These also tend to have a larger learning curve. Slow Go 360 offers a platform that holds an iPad or DSLR camera to an arm that is connected to a circular base. It is designed for you to enter and pose while the camera revolves around you, capturing a video that can slow down and accelerate. "The best effects are confetti or shaking your hair," the operator tells me when I enter. Once again, a crowd gathers. I'm still thinking about what to do with my hands when the platform starts moving so fast that I miss the signal of dropping the confetti for a whole second. In slow lands, that's almost an eternity. The resulting video is an uncomfortable drag of me that throws confetti when trying to find the camera. (On showing it to my editor, Kevin, he responded with a GIF from Yuna's Final Fantasy X .)

Other machines employ several cameras. The ArrayBooth has a camera platform of three or six DSLR cameras that form a wide curve with a built-in LED light to create a 3D video effect. The company also animates post-processing graphics, with arrows zigzagging around the subject to create an even more capable Instagram result. As people line up to take their perfect picture on your face, the pressure to compose a unique pose increases. It seems as if each group wants to overcome the last group, since they practice jumps and positions with their hands before entering the center of attention.

Operators are also starting to think of other places where a photo booth could be modified. The Simple Booth Halo, a ring of light with an iPad in the middle, bordered a wall of the convention room, like touch-screen menus in a modern fast-food restaurant or bathroom mirrors in a bar. A Halo machine was embedded inside a Tesla Model X. I'm not sure when it's practical to have a photo shoot inside a car, but if you ever worry that the interior of a car is too dark for you, "on my way to steal your bae. " "Self-help, you can be sure, there's a solution."

The machines become progressively unconventional as I wander the corridors Hidden in a corner is a karaoke booth with a webcam that can record or take pictures of you I reluctantly pull the curtain aside and enter, in that skeptical way you do when there's a hole in the wall and you're not sure what's on the other side. It forces me to choose between a video or photo capture, After publicly failing in front of everyone in the Slow Go 360, I choose the humble still picture.

On the song selection screen, I choose "Hello" for Adele, I was already beginning to regret this position when the melancholy introduction of the piano sounded in my ears, startling me so much that I fell against the curtain and almost fell out of the booth. He begins to look out the window, trying to see what is happening. When I recover my posture and look around for the camera, I realize that my photos have already been taken. Humble, in fact.

I leave the karaoke booth mortified. As I walked away, I noticed that a pair of eyes followed me. To my right is Occo, "the robot that makes you smile". The machine has a Wall-E type head with two bright eyes and a large tablet body. Occo seems to have noticed my direction of walking until I stopped. After a pause of a few seconds, take a picture of me.

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Occo may be one of the few photo booths that openly monitor it, but the reality is that most digital machines today are already doing so under the pretext of fun. . As companies use photo booths to increase their marketing, they are also used to collect the data they provide when they enter an email or a phone number to retrieve an image.

Sean Sigh learned this shortly after beginning his career as a photo booth operator in Huntsville, Alabama. After meeting a client at a wedding that hired him for a corporate event, Sigh realized that the photo booths were an opportunity for advertisers to generate clues about the information that people placed on the machines to obtain their photos.

"Thirty percent of our business is weddings, another 30 are corporate parties and the rest is marketing," says Sigh. It's a part of the market that, according to him, is growing faster than traditional meeting clients. A year and a half after entering the industry, his clients now include Huntsville International Airport, Topgolf and Google Fiber (his area was a test town).

"With Google Fiber, people shared their Zip codes when they took a picture, "he says, noting that the company can attack those within the Fiber coverage area." After that, he simply started clicking to see how the data can be captured through the photo booths. "(Google did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.)

If there was ever an analogy with technology in 2019, the photo booth could be the mascot What was once a harmless machine designed to help you socialize and capture moments with friends, now It has been reappropriated to collect data for profit In the search for sharing, the machines are encouraged to create viral multimedia content that, in turn, receives and channels the data directly to the advertisers. Pixilated, based in Baltimore, can even follow the same email address to track specific events a customer attends.

"It's easy to generate leads when you use a photo booth." Ask each person to take a photo booth. a photo to sign a list with the information you need, such as your name, address, email and phone number ", LV Photo, an operator based in Las Vegas, he announces in a blog post. "Given that people will be excited about being photographed, they will deliver the information without hesitation. Then, you can use it to market them later. "

While some operators do not make a secret that their photo booths have been transformed from providing a tangible asset (a strip of photos) to a service (aggregation of data), suppliers As PBSCO considers it their responsibility to have the client's privacy, although Wong says that his company does not cling to any customer data from private events, it maintains emails from industry programs to send sales launches. PBSCO machines include two waivers screens, so people have to "double opt-in" for marketing content.

But as recent Congressional research on technology giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter have left in Of course, technology companies have not yet. I have not been successful with privacy policies, and it is unlikely that anyone bothers to read the Terms of service of a company before rushing to take fabulous selfies and download your copy to post. While advertisers, technology companies and legislators still disagree with federal Internet privacy regulations, marketing experts have the ability to be creative with ways to manipulate data collection, leaving one to wonder if it is a eternal video of confetti that rains slowly on his head. It's worth it in the first place.

the next generation of photo booths have their sights set on you

As modern photo booths become an extension of our most beautiful lives on the Internet, the nostalgia of analog booths remains. has been cataloging the locations of these machines around the world since 2005, listing their appearances and disappearances from various sites and if they are still in operation. Today, most have gone to private collections; In the USA UU., The few hundreds of posts that are conserved are found in galleries, bars and, in an unusual way, museums.

Sitting in front of a vintage stand, you did not always know what you were going to get. Maybe the contrast of the image is too high, maybe half of the frame is lost, or maybe the printer is running out of ink. But when the photo was printed, you knew it was yours. As photo booths have become social network machines and disguised data aggregators, those who still print physical photos remind us of their original purpose: to capture the moments that unite people, which are the best tasted of those who They appeared in the photos.

When I returned to New York, I reviewed the digital copies of my adventures in Las Vegas. The weekend before I went to the exhibition, I had the opportunity to take a photo on an analog booth at a friend's engagement party, but I scoffed at the seemingly exorbitant $ 5 fee. In hindsight, maybe I should have paid the privacy behind those curtains.

Photograph by Natt Garun / The Verge

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