Photo Booth History – Where did it all begin?

Photo Booth History - Where did it all begin?

Photo Booths History - Where did it all begin and how did it evolve? We all know of the modern photo booth and how they work. Ever popular in a world where we all love a good selfie, but we thought we'd take a brief look at the early beginnings and where it all evolved from.

What defines a photo booth? A photo booth is a vending machine which contains an automated camera or film technology, most of which are digital in this day and age.

Traditionally, photo booths contain a seat for one or two patrons. The seat is usually hidden by a curtain to allow for some privacy during the photo session.

Early Beginings

In 1888 William Pope & Edward Pope from Baltimore filed the first patient for an automated photographic machine. A machine that was never built.

The modern concept of the Photo Booth wasn't really discovered until 1925. The Serbian immigrant to the USA Anatol Josepho invented the "Photomaton" (Pictured) . This was the first truly automated photo booth and appeared on Broadway in New York City.


Photo Booth History - Anatol Josepho's Photomaton

The photomaton took 10 minutes to develop and print 8 photo's, Pretty slow compared to today's standards.

A Photomaton company was set up with the aim of placing photomaton machine's at locations across the country. Its believed that Franklin D Roosevelt was on the Board of Directors for the company. On March of 1927 Anatol was paid $1 million dollars for his invention. A figure would be worth $14,762,514 in 2018

vintage photo booth

Automatic Booth 1946

In 1946 Auto Photo a Californian company produced the first fully automatic photo booth that didn't require an attendant. Auto Photo went on to start the UK subsidiary Photo-Me which you will still see today. Albeit with new technology. Photo-Me has been operating in the UK since 1962.

It wasn't long until photo booths could be found almost everywhere, including, Bars, Clubs, restaurants and even airports.

The process the photo booth took to produce a photo was a very complicated one. There was a whole 'chemistry' of things happening within the booth to create the photo's you had just posed for. Specially treated paper and inks all whizzing and whirling around to create your printout. Inevitably after 3-4 minutes out popped your picture.


In 1970 colour photo booths started emerging. Printing in colour was the same process as printing in black and white, it was just a case of changing the chemicals used in the process. No mechanical changes where needed to aid this process.

Colour photo booth pictures

TODAY: THE OLD CHEMICAL PHOTO BOOTH - Its much like a telephone box or an old black and white TV, you just don't see them now.

Wild Phone Booth

1960's 70's & 80's

Its was in the 60's to 80's that photo booths really started to take off. You could go in to your local Woolworths or the back of the Post Office and snap away. Used mostly for your passport pictures it was often a bit of fun. There was a certain sense of  excitement, going in and snapping 4 funny pictures. The waiting for your 'prize' to be printed and spat out. Still smelling of the chemicals used, reminiscent of a hair dressers salon. It was a bit of excitement for the younger ones among us. We've all done it.

A NEW Decade.

Most noteworthy in the 1990's was Photo-Me launching their Official Passport photo booth. This allowed for people to be able to get photos for their official ID's while posting their mail or doing their shopping. Customers can access more than 26,000 Photo-Me Booths worldwide.

In 2017 Photo-Me advanced these technologies even further. As a result of working with Her Majesty's Passport Office you can now add your photo's directly to an online application. You will be given a unique code which you can use online.

Consequently the company turned the photo booth into a £601 Million business.

Not quite there but, We are working on it!

Photo-Me booth

With the modern digital era and the rise of smart phone and the likes of Instagram, most people now love to take a great selfie. As a result Photo booths have had to evolve and you rarely now see an old fashioned chemical booth. They are mostly all digital now.

As digital cameras, compact photo printers, and flat screen computer monitors became widely available in the early part of the millennium photo booths have become easier to set up. In turn this means that they can be moved quite simply. Welcome to modern photo booth hire!

wedding photo booth hire southampton

Furthermore in 2016 there were 226,000 search's worldwide each month for photo booth hire. 20,000 of which were in the UK alone. That's an increase in search's of almost 50% on 2015.

With companies now offering hire for a fee, usually for 3-4 hours the photo booth is as popular as ever. Almost everyone will consider hiring a photo booth at some point, whether for a wedding, birthday party or any other event.

Future of the Booth.

The photo booth is ever evolving, not just a photo booth anymore. There are Magic Mirror's, Selfie pods and even table selfies all with the abilty to do various different things. Its not just a printed picture any more. You name it you can probably find it somewhere.

Finally with with more and more innovation we think there is much more to come yet. We have heard of a 3D booth which can print small mini-me figurines. Watch this space!

And we all have to thank Anatol Josepho for that original concept.