The fall and rise of the photo booth

By Jess Quayle
You and Yours, BBC Radio 4

image captionThe results of Jess Quayle's stint in a photo booth

For decades, photo booths sat in shops and department stores - used by many to get passport photos done, or by groups of teenagers cramming into the tight space for a fun photo.

Thousands still exist but the rise of the digital age means old-school analogue photo booths are few and far between.

But new high-tech versions have become the latest "must have" for anyone organising a wedding, party or other event.

They are digital, portable, print photos in seconds and cost around £500 to hire for a few hours.

Some come with special themes like James Bond or Las Vegas and most come with props - think big glasses, hat and inflatable guitars.

It is popular and photo booth hire companies are reporting steady growth, with bookings being made well in advance of events.


Glenn Richardson runs a photo booth hire company in the Birmingham area. He bought it as a franchise in 2013, and in his first year it doubled in size.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme, he says: "It is still growing, I am taking bookings as far as 2018 believe it or not. They are not even making diaries that far ahead, but there you go."

The company that he worked with - - started six years ago. It hires booths out and also sells them directly to businesses. To date it has sold around 1,900 booths in the UK.

The business has been growing by a third every year and now has more than 500 operators around the UK - as well as many abroad.

At the other end of the scale, some of those old photo booths that used to be in shops are also being preserved.

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Jess Quayle's report on the popularity of photo booths is on You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 5 September

Fred Aldous, an art and craft supplier in Manchester's Northern Quarter, has two.

The first is a Photo-Me Model 17 black and white booth from 1968. It was manufactured in the UK but spent most of its life in a Woolworth's store in Canada.

The second is a Photo-Me Model 17C colour booth circa 1986. It is thought to be the only public colour analogue photo booth in the whole of Western Europe.

Paul Walker, joint managing director at Fred Aldous, says they never expected it to be so popular.

"It is one of the best things we've ever introduced to the shop. It is just a real bringer of joy, people come in and just absolutely love it," he says.

"They are bringing people in - friends and family - and documenting their lives."

People have used the photos for proposals, new babies and also for weddings.

It costs £3 per go, but Mr Walker says: "It does not really make any kind of commercial sense to have one, it is just the feelings that people have when they are in them, and the way it says so much about us as a company - they are priceless to us."

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