Photo booth

A photo booth is a vending machine or modern kiosk that contains an automated, usually coin-operated, camera and film processor. Today, the vast majority of photo booths are digital.


The patent for the first automated photography machine was filed in 1888 by William Pope and Edward Poole of Baltimore. The first known really working photographic machine was a product of the French inventor T. E. Enjalbert (March 1889). It was shown at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. The German-born photographer Mathew Steffens from Chicago filed a patent for such a machine in May 1889. These early machines were not reliable enough to be self-sufficient. The first commercially successful automatic photographic apparatus was the "Bosco" from inventor Conrad Bernitt of Hamburg (patented July 16, 1890). All of these early machines produced ferrotypes. The first photographic automate with negative and positive process was invented by Carl Sasse (1896) of Germany.[1]

The modern concept of photo booth with (later) a curtain originated with Anatol Josepho (previously Josephewitz), who had arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 1923,[2] with the first photo booth appearing 1925 on Broadway in New York City. For 25 cents, the booth took, developed and printed 8 photos, a process taking roughly 10 minutes. In the first six months after the booth was erected, it was used by 280,000 people. The Photomaton Company was created to place booths nationwide. On March 27, 1927, Josepho was paid $1 million and guaranteed future royalties for his invention.[3]


Purikura (プリクラ), a Japanese shorthand for "print club", are Japanese digital photo sticker booths.[4][5] It has roots in Japanese kawaii (cute) culture, which involves an obsession with beautifying self-representation in photographic forms, particularly among females.[4] By the 1990s, self-photography developed into a major preoccupation among Japanese schoolgirls, who took photos with friends and exchanged copies that could be pasted into kawaii albums.[6]

Purikura was originated from the Japanese video game arcade industry. It was conceived in 1994 by Sasaki Miho, inspired by the popularity of girl photo culture and photo stickers in 1990s Japan. She worked for a Japanese game company, Atlus, where she suggested the idea, but it was initially rejected by her male bosses.[7] Atlus eventually decided to pursue Miho's idea,[7] and developed it with the help of a leading Japanese video game company, Sega,[8] which later became the owner of Atlus.[6] Sega and Atlus introduced the Print Club (Purinto Kurabu), the first purikura,[6] in February 1995, initially at game arcades, before expanding to other popular culture locations such as fast food shops, train stations, karaoke establishments and bowling alleys.[8] The success of the original Sega-Atlus machine led to other Japanese arcade game companies producing their own purikura, including SNK's Neo Print in 1996 and Konami's Puri Puri Campus (Print Print Campus) in 1997.[6]

Purikura produced what would later be called selfies.[4][6] A purikura is essentially a cross between a traditional license/passport photo booth and an arcade video game, with a computer that is connected to a colour video camera and colour printer,[8] and which allows the manipulation of digital images.[5] It involves users posing in front of a camera within the compact booth, having their images taken, and then printing the photos with various effects designed to look kawaii.[4] It presents a series of choices, such as desired backdrops, borders, insertable decorations, icons, text writing options, hair extensions, twinkling diamond tiaras,[6] tenderized light effects, and predesigned decorative margins.[4] These photographic filters were similar to the Snapchat filters that later appeared in the 2010s.[9]

Purikura became a popular form of entertainment among youths in Japan, and then across East Asia, in the 1990s.[4] To capitalize on the purikura phenomenon in East Asia, Japanese mobile phones began including a front-facing camera, which facilitated the creation of selfies.[4][10] Photographic features in purikura were later adopted by smartphone apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, including scribbling graffiti or typing text over selfies, adding features that beautify the image, and photo editing options such as cat whiskers or bunny ears.[11]


After money has been inserted in the machine, multiple customers can enter the booth and pose for a set number of exposures. Some common options include the ability to alter lighting and backdrops while the newest versions offer features such as cameras from a variety of angles, fans, seats, and blue screen effects. Some establishments even offer costumes and wigs for customers to borrow.

Once the pictures have been taken, the customers select the pictures that they wish to keep and customize them using a touch screen or pen-sensitive screen. The touch screen then displays a vast array of options such as virtual stamps, pictures, clip art, colorful backdrops, borders, and pens that can be superimposed on the photographs.

Features that can be found in some sticker machines are customizing the beauty of the customers such as brightening the pictures, making the eyes sparkle more, changing the hair, bringing a more reddish color to the lips, and fixing any blemishes by having them blurred. Other features include cutting out the original background and replacing it with a different background. Certain backgrounds may be chosen so when the machine prints out the picture, the final sticker will be shiny with sparkles.

Finally, the number and size of the pictures to be printed are chosen, and the pictures print out on a glossy full-color 10 × 15 cm sheet to be cut up and divided among the group of customers. Some photo booths also allow the pictures to be sent to customers' mobile phones. Other photo places have a scanner and laptop at the cashier's desk for customers to scan and copy their original picture before they cut and divide the pictures amongst their group.

Types of photo booths

Passport photo booths

Most of the photo booths are used for passport photos. They are coin-operated automated machines that are designed to print a photo in a specific format that meets the passport photo requirements. Multiple copies can be printed so users can save some for future uses.

Traditionally, photo booths contain a seat or bench designed to seat the one or two patrons being photographed. The seat is typically surrounded by a curtain of some sort to allow for some privacy and help avoid outside interference during the photo session. Once the payment is made, the photo booth will take a series of photographs, although most modern booths may only take a single photograph and print out a series of identical pictures. Before each photograph, there will be an indication, such as a light or a buzzer, that will signal the patron to prepare their pose. After the last photograph in the series (typically between 3 and 8) has been taken, the photo booth begins developing the film — a process that used to take several minutes in the old "wet chemistry" booths, but is now typically accomplished in about 30 seconds with digital technology. The prints are then delivered to the customer. Typical dimensions of these prints vary. The classic and most familiar arrangement from the old style photo booths is four pictures on a strip about 40 mm wide by 205 mm long; digital prints tend to have a square arrangement of two images above two images.

Both black and white and colour photo booths are common in the US, however in Europe the colour photo booth has almost entirely replaced black and white booths. However, newer digital booths now offer the customer the option of whether to print in colour or in black and white. Most modern photo booths use video or digital cameras instead of film cameras, and are under computer control. Some booths can also produce stickers, postcards, or other items with the photographs on them, rather or as well as simply a strip of pictures. These often include an option of novelty decorative borders around the photos.

Photo sticker booths

Photo sticker booths or photo sticker machines originated from Japan. They are a special type of photo booth that produce photo stickers. Still maintaining huge popularity in Japan, they have spread throughout Asia to Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Vietnam, and Thailand. They have also been imported to Australia. Some have also begun appearing in the United States and Canada although they failed to make any impression in Europe when introduced in the mid-1990s.


In Japan, purikura (プリクラ) refers to a photo sticker booth or the product of such a photo booth. The name is a shortened form of the registered trademark Purinto Kurabu (プリント倶楽部). The term derives from the English print club. The concept behind purikura originated with Sasaki Miho, a Japanese woman taking note of the popularity of girl photo culture in the 1990s. She later brought this idea to her game company employers in 1994.[12] Jointly developed by Atlus and Sega, the first purikura machines were sold in July 1995.[13] The booths were brought out in the U.S. and Europe in 1997.[14] The purikura machines were developed in response to young women's interest in both photography and stickers.[15] Purikura involves sitting in a booth behind a curtain and posing for a camera, after which customers can sort through the digital display and add a variety of effects, stickers, borders, and writing for a total fee of 300-400 yen. Afterwards, the customer can have the images sent to their phone or email or upload the images to social media sites.[16]

3D selfie photo booths

A 3D selfie photo booth such as the Fantasitron located at Madurodam, the miniature park, generates 3D selfie models from 2D pictures of customers. These selfies are often printed by dedicated 3D printing companies such as Shapeways. These models are also known as 3D portraits, 3D figurines or mini-me figurines.

Different types of photo booths

Cultural significance of photo booths


Purikura offer rare insight into Japanese popular culture, specifically girl culture. Purikura is a social activity, never done alone. It is also now an established form of entertainment, with most Japanese having tried it at least once. The wide lexicon associated with purikura also reveals that it has grown outside kawaii culture; erotic purikura, creepy purikura, and couples purikura are all genres of this popular form of self-photography.[16] Graffiti purikura, an alternative genre of purikura, represents young females' desire to rebel from traditional gender roles.[15] In order to contradict stereotypical images of Japanese women as docile and meek, graffiti purikura photographers may photograph themselves in unflattering fashion or add stickers which defy cuteness, such as the poop emoji.[12] Rather than simple conceited frivolity, purikura photography demonstrates ingenuity and creativity on the part of young Japanese women seeking forms of self-expression.[12]

Flinders Street Station photo booth

Located at the Elizabeth Street exit of Melbourne's busiest railway station, Flinders Street Station, lies a culturally significant photo booth. The photo booth has been continuously operating at the station for 58 years (as of 2019), with many feeling it has become an iconic and irreplaceable part of the station.[17] It has been maintained for the entirety of its life by owner Alan Adler (now 86). During May 2018, Mr Adler was given 10 days notice to remove the photo booth by Metro Trains Victoria to make way for station upgrades. Alan informed passerby with a hand written note explaining the news prompting widespread backlash from the public and support for Alan and his photo booth. After a letter writing campaign to Metro Trains, Public Transport Victoria CEO Jeroen Weimar phoned Alan to apologise and assured him a new home would be found.[18] Days later they successfully relocated the photo booth to another location within Flinders Street Station. The photo booth shoots analogue images in black and white and joins 3 images together vertically.

Photo booths for parties

Photo booth rental companies allow a person to rent a photo booth for a short period of time (usually in hours) for a fee. Photo booth rentals have become popular in the United States primarily for wedding receptions, sweet sixteen parties, Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties, along with a growing number of other public and private events. In addition to the photo booth and the printing of unlimited photo strips, rental companies usually include a photo booth attendant to service the photo booth and to help guests construct the guest book of photo strips. Online image hosting, compact disks containing the images and related merchandise are readily available. Celebrities are frequent users of photo booths in parties.[19][20]

Apart from traditional photo printing, modern photo booths may also include the following new functions:[21]

  • Animated GIF
  • Flip book printing
  • Virtual props, placed intelligently on the person's eyes or shoulders etc.
  • Slow-motion video
  • Green-screen background removal
  • Fun costume virtual dressing
  • Games - mostly Kinect body gesture controlled games, and print a photo of the person and his/her scores
  • Facial gesture recognition

Growth of photo booth rentals

As digital cameras, compact photo printers, and flat screen computer monitors became widely available in the early 2000s, people connected these together using a personal computer and software and created their own photo booths. Entrepreneurs began renting machines built along these lines at weddings and parties and the idea spread.[22] From 2005 to 2012, interest in the United States for photo booth rentals grew significantly. By 2016 more people were searching for photo booth rentals than DJ rentals in 15 of North America's largest cities.[23] In Greater Los Angeles alone, there are now more than 600 photo booth rental companies.[24] Photo booth rentals have also become popular in other countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK.[22] So far in 2016 there is an average of 226,000 monthly searches for a photo booth globally. This has risen by 48.9% since 2015 (in the UK alone this is nearly 20,000 searches a month).[25]


  • Massen, Ernst: Kleine Geschichte der Fotoautomaten (Short history of the automatic photo apparatus) – in: Photo Antiquaria 103 (April 2011)
  1. Massen, Ernst: Kleine Geschichte der Fotoautomaten (Short history of the automatic photo apparatus) - in Photo Antiquaria 103 (April 2011)
  2. Goranin, Näkki (March 7, 2008). "The history of the photobooth". The Daily Telegraph.
  3. "Photo-in-slot Inventor Will Endow Genius", Miami Daily News, March 28, 1927, p15
  4. Pan, Lu (2015). Aestheticizing Public Space: Street Visual Politics in East Asian Cities. Intellect Books. p. 107. ISBN 9781783204533.
  5. Sandbye, Mette (2018). "Selfies and Purikura as Affective, Aesthetic Labor". Exploring the Selfie: Historical, Theoretical, and Analytical Approaches to Digital Self-Photography. Springer. pp. 305–326 (310). ISBN 9783319579498.
  6. Miller, Laura (2018). "10. Purikura: Expressive Energy in Female Self-Photography". Introducing Japanese Popular Culture. Routledge. ISBN 9781317528937.
  7. "Harvard Asia Quarterly". Harvard Asia Quarterly. Harvard University. 7 (1–3): 32. 2003. Purikura, clipped from purinto kurabu, was invented by Atlus, a Tokyo-based game software company. A female employee named Sasaki Miho had noticed the popularity of stickers among schoolgirls, a craze that also generated huge sales. In 1994, Sasaki came up with the idea of combining stickers with photos and proposed it to her Atlus employers, but her male bosses did not think it worth pursuing until 1995, when they finally gave her concept a chance.
  8. Edwards, Elizabeth F.; Hart, Janice (2004). Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415254410.
  9. "Video: Japan's 'Purikura' Photo Booths Offer Snapchat-Like Filters". NPR. July 3, 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  10. "Taking pictures with your phone". BBC News. BBC. 18 September 2001. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  11. "How 'playing Puri' paved the way for Snapchat". BBC. 23 November 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  12. Miller, Laura; Bardsley, Jan (2005). "Bad girl photography". Bad Girls of Japan. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 127–141. ISBN 978-1-4039-7712-0.
  13. Terashita N, Kudo H (1998). “プリクラ”ブームを作った人々 [The people who made a "purikura" boom] (PDF). The Journal of The Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan (in Japanese). 118 (2): 85–87. doi:10.1541/ieejjournal.118.85.
  14. "Tidbits...". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 97. Ziff Davis. August 1997. p. 20.
  15. Miller, Laura. 2003. “Graffiti photos: Expressive art in Japanese girls’ culture.” Harvard Asia Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 31-42.
  16. Miller, Laura; Freedman, Alisa; Slade, Toby (2018). "Purikura: Expressive energy in female self photography". Introducing Japanese Popular Culture. New York: Routledge.
  17. Buckley, Nick. "Iconic Flinders Street Station Photo Booth May Soon Develop Its Last Print". Broadsheet. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  18. Eddie, Rachel. "Iconic Flinders St Station photo booth given last-minute reprieve". The New Daily.
  19. Moon, Rachael (4 November 2015). "The Kardashian beauties posed for the camera at Kendall's 20th birthday party". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  20. "Kylie Jenner and Tyga smooch in photo booth at Kris's birthday party". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  21. "How Photo Booth Technology Has Improved Over the Years". 2015-10-30. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  22. "Photo Booth vs Photographer". BestPhotoBooths. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  23. "Infographic - Demand for Photo Booths, DJ Services & Wedding Photographers in US & Canada Top Cities". Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  24. "Leading Photo Booth Rental Companies in Los Angeles, California". ProStarra Photo Booth Template Designs. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  25. "Infographic - Photo Booth Numbers for 2016". Photobooths. Retrieved 2016-09-21.

Further reading

  • Warhol, Andy (1989). Andy Warhol photobooth pictures. New York: Robert Miller Gallery. OCLC 21828769.
  • Hines, Babbette (2002). Photobooth. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1-56898-381-6.
  • Ratner, Brett (2003). Hilhaven Lodge: the photo booth pictures. New York: PowerHouse Books. ISBN 1-57687-195-9.
  • Miller, Laura (2003). "Graffiti photos: Expressive art in Japanese girls' culture". Harvard Asia Quarterly. 7 (3): 31–42. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  • Chalfen, Richard; Murui, Mai (2004). "Chapter 11: Print club photography in Japan: framing social relationships". In Edwards, Elizabeth; Hart, Janice (eds.). Photographs objects histories: on the materiality of images. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 166–185. ISBN 0-415-25441-8.
  • Goranin, Näkki (2008). American photobooth. New York: W. W. Norton Co. ISBN 978-0-393-33076-2.
  • Woo, Cameron (2010). Photobooth dog. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-7251-5.
  • Pellicer, Raynal (2010). Photobooth: the art of the automatic portrait. New York: Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-9611-3.
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