Photo Booths

Photo Booths

There is no shortage of cameras in today’s world. But back when they didn’t fit so handily into your pocket, it wasn’t quite as easy to capture those precious moments on a whim. Whether to document your dating status, or simply make goofy faces with your friends, Photo Booths provided an endless source of entertainment – and four small photos to help you remember those moments for all eternity.

The experience was simple and only took a few minutes. Drop in a couple of quarters, enter the cramped cubicle, close the curtain behind you and sit on the provided stool or bench, adjusting for height if necessary. Next, it was time for you and your cohorts to strike your best four poses.

Whatever went on behind that closed curtain was between you and the camera. Perhaps you wanted to snuggle with your sweetheart. Perhaps you wanted to stick out your tongue and contort your facial features. Because you had four photo opportunities, you could even do both. A few minutes later, your masterpieces were ready for viewing.

Coin-operated photo machines have been around since the early 1900s, believe it or not. General Electric made one around 1912 – okay, not exactly a booth, but an automatic photo apparatus that the subject sat down in front of. The snapshots cost a dime back then, and they required an attendant to place the picture in an electric dryer at the end of the process.

Actual booths arrived a couple of decades later and became an arcade institution overnight. They were especially popular in the 1950s before Polaroid cameras made instant photography accessible to the masses. Back then, the going rate was fifty cents, which included an anxious three minutes that the payee had to wait before the finished strip dropped down into its slot. Still, it was a small price to pay to forever preserve the memory of every person you ever dated for less than a week.

Technological twists on the traditional photo booth came next. In 1975, Atari patented the Compugraph Foto machine, which churned out life-sized portraits on computer paper. Competitor, I.O. Inc.’s Photovideo added zany fun house effects to the pictures, and Amazing Photos’ Amazing Photo Booth let a subject choose his own background -your head on a muscle man’s body, you standing next to your favorite celebrity, or a magazine cover that featured your smiling mug.

The Photo Sticker Booth offered the next innovation: choose a background just like you do in the Amazing Photo Booth, but this time, the finished product came out in versatile decal form, all ready to affix to school notebooks and lockers. The times and technology change, but the allure of the Photo Booth has remained constant, a staple in amusement parks, malls, fairs, and any other locale where pals and sweethearts gather.

Today, machines like Photo Sticker Booth can be rented out for parties, capable of churning out everything from buttons and magnets to stickers and key chains. Oh, and they also still spit out those iconic four-picture strips for the nostalgic among us, who remember the thrill of capturing those little precious moments with our friends and lovers, or even just four of our funniest faces, for time immortal.

If you have fond memories of sitting in a photo booth in days past, we’d love to hear all of your memories of these iconic machines in our comments section below.

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