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Don’t buy a photo booth until you read this.

weddingcakeYou’ve validated that there is a market for a photo booth rental business in your area.  Before you spend your money on a photo booth, there are some realities that you should know about the unique industry you are about to get yourself into.  This blog post by Rick Brewer of  WeddingBusinessMarketing.com is on point:
 Four hard truths, by Rick Brewer.

Here are my thoughts on these 4 points:

1.  Never before, rarely again clientele. Most photo booth gigs, whether a wedding or birthday party, are one and done, never to be hired by the customer again.  However, this is also the exact reason that people rent anything and that this business exists.  People rent things that they rarely use or only need once and doesn’t make financial sense to purchase.  Even at our most expensive rental, $1500, the cost is considerably less than the customer purchasing one of their own.  The other benefit to not having reoccurring customers is that they are willing to pay a premium.  Engaged couples especially, are often of the mindset that “we are only getting married once, let’s spare no expense and splurge.”  The average wedding cost is about $30,000 and I’m fine with taking a small piece of that pie.  The photo booth has become a “must have” for weddings, proms and Sweet 16s, at least in my market.

The photo booth business is a bit unique in that you can have repeat customers, it is not impossible. Several of our customers are schools and every year we are hired for their prom, graduation or formal dance.  We also have a local college that hires us 3-4 times a year for various student events.  There are non-profit organizations that hire us every year for their fundraiser dinners.  There are businesses that hire us every year for a holiday party or employee appreciation night.  There are customers who hire us for their annual Halloween, Christmas or New Year’s party.  I’m waiting for a customer who hires us for their Sweet 16, engagement party, wedding and then children’s birthday, I’m sure it’s inevitable.

2.  Low/no value competitors. Brewer is correct here, the bar to getting into the wedding business has never been lower.  Fortunately for us in the photo booth business there is somewhat of a barrier to entry (although it the bar continues to get lower), that being the cost of the photo booth.  If you are going to get into this business, you need to treat it like one, and not like a hobby.  That doesn’t mean you need to quit your day job, but it’s about your mindset.  Run your business with professionalism and excellence, like you don’t have a day job and this is your livelihood.  We regularly get calls from people who want to haggle on price because they found a 4 hour rental for $300 on Groupon or Thumbtack.  These companies would be lucky to breaking even at those kind of prices, and likely aren’t paying taxes or insurance.  Don’t participate in the race to the bottom on pricing, but that is a discussion for another blog post.

3.  Many moving parts. There are indeed many moving parts to this business.  Each customer is different, they are hiring you for various types of events and the events are at different venues.  There is a process to the sale, from taking an initial deposit, to keeping in communication about photo strip graphic designs, backgrounds, scrapbooks, etc.  You’ll be dealing with customers, event/party planners, and venue managers.  This is not a business where you can just deal with a single customer.  Furthermore you’ve got to make sure you always have enough supplies on hand (paper/ink, USB drives, scrapbooks, prop replacement).

4.  High maintenance business. There are some high maintenance customers in every type of business.  We have found in our business that the customers we acquire at a higher price point are much easier to handle.  When you start competing in that lower price range the customers can be much more high maintenance.  Again we’ll cover pricing strategy soon!

I’m a proponent of test-driving an idea before I make an investment of time or money.  Before I started a career in law enforcement I interned a few summers at a police station and even did a ride-along with the NYPD.  I wanted to be sure that a career in law enforcement was what I thought it was.  I would encourage you to find a photo booth rental company outside of your market that you won’t be in competition with and ask if you go out on a gig or 2. Figure out if this business is one that fits you and your personality.

Lastly, are you prepared to be away from home on many weekends, getting home in the early hours of the morning? Is your spouse or significant other alright with this type of business? Are you prepared to schlep a photo booth and all the equipment in and out of your car many times over? Are you ready to deal with that one kid who wants to take 500 photos by themselves and mom and dad are using your photo booth as a babysitter? Or that one teenager that is bent on stealing your captain’s hat prop? How about everyone who treats your prop table like it was their dresser at home.  Perhaps you are thinking, I’ll just hire someone to work the events.  Absolutely hire someone, but for the first 6-8 months, I would recommend working the events yourself.  This way you get to know your photo booth setup and work out all the kinks.  Plus you’ll find out the way your local venues want you to enter their building and all of this information can then be passed on to a future employee.

So what do you think about this business now? Still ready to move forward?

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{ 62 comments… add one }
  • Toni Badillo April 12, 2016, 12:04 am

    I am start up and would love to have all the info and tips you can share.

  • PHALESE FARMER July 11, 2016, 12:59 pm

    I’m very interested in starting my own business.

  • Tiffamy December 23, 2016, 9:09 pm

    Is there a particular company you would recommend purchasing your photobooth from?

    • Chris January 16, 2017, 7:29 am

      Tiffany, there are a lot of great photo booth companies out there. There are a few listed on my Resources page. Would you be looking for an open or enclosed booth? I hope to put together a photo booth buyer’s guide soon.

  • Elite Image Booth January 12, 2017, 5:32 pm

    I am a photo booth owner that is in my first year of business. I’ve done a few events but am currently working on getting our name out there.I really like the article I just read on your site and look forward to future postings.

    • Chris January 16, 2017, 7:27 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback, glad you like the site.

  • Heather Blackburn February 2, 2017, 5:17 am

    Please send all information to my email. I’m just getting started but want to do this business full time. Would love to visit in person.

  • Robin March 14, 2017, 3:15 pm

    I hope to be up and running in a month with my Photo Booth new business. I have enjoyed reading your articles……thank you!!!
    I will have a website and official business e-mail soon!!! But for now I’ll use this one…….

    • Chris April 5, 2017, 5:58 am

      Congrats Robin! I’d love to see your site when it’s up.

  • Michelle M. Marquez April 26, 2017, 3:30 pm

    I am interested in owning a Photo Booth. Please call me and send me the information on the cost of the both

    • Chris May 12, 2017, 6:01 am

      Michelle, I don’t sell photo booths. There are many different manufacturers, Google is your friend!

  • Apollo May 3, 2017, 4:27 am

    Hi I want to know more about this photoboot business

    • Chris May 12, 2017, 6:00 am

      Drop me an email with your questions.

  • gina holman May 5, 2017, 1:36 pm

    Very interested need a starting point in getting into this business

    • Chris May 12, 2017, 5:59 am

      Thanks Gina, drop me an email if you have any questions.

  • Van June 1, 2017, 12:10 pm

    Would like information
    Great tips

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:07 am

      Thanks Van, join the email list!

  • Mike June 3, 2017, 9:16 am

    Chris, great article as usual. It’d be awesome to see a refresh of this topic with a look into the new trend of iPad based photo booths that are taking the market by storm.

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:07 am

      Mike, that is very true, I will work on that!

  • Aime June 3, 2017, 5:34 pm

    I’m looking into a photo booth business for my 14 year old daughter & myself. We homeschool & want to teach her to be an entrepreneur. This business seems to have many options. Some of my questions are… 1) Do you recommend buying a premade photo booth or making your own? 2) Can they be outside long term? (We don’t have covered storage at our home) 3) Are they always only for special events or can they be at a set location?

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:06 am

      Aime, we also homeschool! I do recommend buying a manufactured booth, you’ll get started so much faster. I would say they cannot be outside long term, as the electronics and printers are sensitive to temperature. They can definitely be set at a location, long term, if you can sell it!

  • Tiffany June 4, 2017, 11:28 am

    What if I want to do the photos without a booth and have one of those background things?

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:04 am

      Tiffany, I would say the whole point of a customer renting the booth is because they don’t have one of their own. When you start getting into just a regular camera and a homemade background, that is something the customer could also DIY, so why hire you?

  • mo June 13, 2017, 5:02 pm

    Hi, love your article, is there a cheaper and good looking booth similar to the photo booth supply co. products?

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:02 am

      Mo, there’s quite a few photo booth manufacturers out there. Join the photo booth related Facebook groups and you’ll see what they are all about.

  • Vivian Hodges June 20, 2017, 2:08 pm

    How would you recommend to start this business? I am looking to start this on my own but I don’t know where to begin.

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:01 am

      Vivian, you’ve got to do some research and validate that a photo booth is going to sell well in your market.

  • Blink June 23, 2017, 5:43 pm

    I made my own booth and started it as a hobby. But now its turned into a real business while I’m in medical school. Ive been experimenting with different programs that run the booth but i can’t find one that is easy to use! You have great suggestions. What software would you recommend?

    • Chris July 25, 2017, 6:00 am

      What type of booth did you make? I am using Darkroom Booth, but there are other great software out there as well.

  • Michelle Dorch July 25, 2017, 2:28 pm

    Hi Chris thanks for all the helpful info. Is it practical to build your own photobooth?
    I’m just starting my business and I’m grateful for all the useful tips…keep them coming

    • Chris August 11, 2017, 5:45 am

      You’re welcome Michelle. Unless you are particularly handy, I wouldn’t recommend a DIY photo booth build. There are plenty of used photo booths for sale out there at a decent price. Join the photo booth classified type Facebook groups.

  • ana August 19, 2017, 3:56 pm

    Thank you for such a good information to start a photo booth business! It”s awesome

    • Chris September 12, 2017, 8:06 pm

      Thank you Ana, glad you enjoy the site. Let me know if you need anything.

  • M September 7, 2017, 3:23 pm

    Would like more info on props thank you

    • Chris September 12, 2017, 8:04 pm

      Feel free to email me with any questions.

  • Gwen Meisner September 8, 2017, 1:36 am

    I’m interested in learning more about a photo booth business

    • Chris September 12, 2017, 8:03 pm

      Gwen you’ve come to the right place! Feel free to email me with any questions.

  • Jennifer Corral September 26, 2017, 2:51 pm

    My boyfriend and i are very interested in starting our own photobooth business. We need advise i guess more info on how to go about it. We found a company by the name of photobooth international since we are in the richardson area to buy the booth from but wanted to get more tips. I tried to ask them if they could let us tag along one day for just an hour to i guess get a field of what it entitles to see if we really do want to do it but so far no response. Please email me and cc my boyfriend valdes972@yahoo.com since we are both really wanting to get help

    Best regards and hope to hear from you really soon!
    Jennifer Corral

  • Sherita September 28, 2017, 10:25 am

    Getting started and would like helpful information on all aspects of owning my photo booth. Thanks

    • Chris October 9, 2017, 11:50 am

      Sherita, just read through all the posts and stay tuned!

  • Rachel Black October 8, 2017, 8:40 pm

    Looking to start a photo booth business. I was looking into the mirror me photo booth for 7,000. What is the maintenance in photo booths & how much should i charge starting out as there are no photo booth rentals in my area

    • Chris October 9, 2017, 11:49 am

      Rachel feel free to send me an email.

  • Tina S. Ditto October 9, 2017, 3:22 am

    I currently have a manually run open air photo booth, would love to purchase the real deal. I look forward to receiving your articles. Thank you.

    I look forward to receiving your articles.

  • Tawanna C Bishop October 9, 2017, 7:30 pm

    Im still interested, welcome all tips and advice.

  • Marty Silva October 24, 2017, 10:45 pm

    Great article!! Got Alot out of it…Thank You!!!

  • carla edwards November 23, 2017, 9:09 am

    I just bought a magic mirror photobooth and waiting delivery. I’m running a non profit business right not and bought the booth to generate income for the business. This will be my marketing plan, I live in Cali, so I suspect a great market. There are very little photobooth businesses here. Do you have suggestions on pricing, anyone interested in pricing send me an email as I bought my booth from China for a great price…. info @the-lords-closet.org

    • Chris January 16, 2018, 7:16 am

      Nice Carla! Pricing is a very local strategy. You’ll have to research your area and see what prices are to be competitive.

  • Margie Lizcano November 28, 2017, 1:30 am

    I used to work in a photobooth job. Now I’m planning to start my own! Please message me on my email I need extra tips

    • Chris January 16, 2018, 7:14 am

      Congrats on diving into the business!

  • Yem December 3, 2017, 7:55 pm

    Hi Guys,
    Please i am interested to start a photo-booth business but i don’t know what the financial commitments are e.g after buying the equipment that’s cost nearly $9000, where do you go from there, how do you calculate your financial projects, cost , maintenance fees to enable you see what the future possibilities are and so on. Any help and direction will be great

  • Karyn Lee December 22, 2017, 7:57 pm

    I’m highly intrigued. I used to do photography and I’m looking for a home based business. Full time! I’m in a very large market. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read from you so far and have signed up for your newsletter. Bam! Ball. Rolling.

  • Tanesha January 10, 2018, 12:50 pm

    Hi, I’m a New photo booth owner. We purchased a dark room photo booth with all the latest equipment. Trying to set up my website for the first time. Who should I go with?

    • Chris January 16, 2018, 7:10 am

      I personally like to use Squarespace!

  • Carol Rodriguez January 13, 2018, 4:04 pm

    I am considering a photo booth business.
    Thank you

    • Chris January 16, 2018, 7:10 am

      Wonderful Carol, drop me an email if I can be of any help.

  • Glen Saber January 23, 2018, 5:48 am

    Love the article, I can surely relate to nearly every single word. Before diving in know your local market and be different.

  • Contemplating January 25, 2018, 8:01 am

    I am straddling the fence as I would need the entire setup to get started, which runs around $3K. Do you also have to register your business name? I am trying to assess the cost-benefit or ROI. It is tough because I am not positive about the market in my area either. As you stated…Lots of moving parts!! Thank you for all the information you shared. This is very helpful. 😊

    • Chris February 1, 2018, 5:54 am

      Thanks for the comment Julia. You do also need to register your business name, which depending on which structure (DBA or LLC) and your location, it could range from $30- hundreds.

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