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The surprising evolution of photo booths

High-speed photography was invented at Aberdeen Proving Ground, so we like sharing stories about innovations in photography. The photo booth that produced a strip of black and white photos has evolved since the first one was installed on Broadway in New York City in 1925. Now they are designed to create experiences that people want to share on social media, making them an ideal attraction for businesses and event promoters, as a reporter for The Verge explains:

The photo booth’s modern revival roots back to 2010, the same year that both the iPad and Instagram were born. Event photographers could now build smaller, cheaper photo booths that relied on the tablet and then email the photos to customers instead of having full-sized cameras and photochemical solutions….

As Instagram culture grew, so did the demand for even more elaborate selfies. Today, photo booth operators spend their time crafting spaces in the same ways that restaurants are intentionally designed to go viral, using intricate backdrops, props, and kitschy decor to invite patrons in.

That shareability, Wong says, has revitalized the business of photo booths. 

“Photo booths have become a form of experiential marketing,” he says. In the advent of social media, “it’s essentially free advertising.”

… If ever there was an analogy for technology in 2019, the photo booth may be the mascot. What was once an innocuous machine designed to help you socialize and capture moments with friends has now been reappropriated to gather data for profit. In pursuit of shareability, machines are incentivized to create viral-worthy, multimedia content that, in turn, receive and funnel data straight to advertisers. Some photo booths, like Baltimore-based Pixilated, can even follow the same email address to track the specific events a customer attends.


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