Who can resist a good photo booth? What was once a cheesy high-school date activity has become one of the staples of the 40-billion-dollar wedding industry. Over the past few years, photo booths “have really exploded,” New Jersey wedding industry veteran Rebecca Parliman told the Press of Atlantic City.
It’s not just weddings, either: Photo booths are popular at all kinds of parties, like bar and bat mitzvahs, company holiday celebrations, quinceaneras and more.
Creative entrepreneurs are taking note of the photo booth’s resurgence in popularity. Popular wedding site The Knot lists dozens of options for couples looking to rent a photo booth for their big day. However, not all areas are represented — and those gaps in the market represent opportunities for new businesses.
Could you run a photo booth business? Here’s how to know if owning a photo booth could be a fun and lucrative option for you.
Why Run a Photo Booth Business?
Owning a photo booth is a great choice for a new entrepreneur because the business model is simple, according to Anne Bradley of TapSnap, a mobile, futuristic photobooth in Pennington, New Jersey.
The process is straightforward, she explained. You buy a photo booth. You market your services on social media and through wedding industry events, and you provide great service. Many people are able to start this business as a side hustle, so it’s not as risky as a venture that requires quitting your job or taking out a large business loan.
The downside is that the photo booth business is becoming increasingly saturated and competitive. If you want to make money in this business, you’ll need to bring your A game to stand out from the crowd.
How to Stand Out and Find Customers for Your Photo Booth
Since photo booth businesses are becoming more popular, how do you make sure yours stands out to potential customers? Many business owners have come up with unique and specialized photo booths to help set themselves apart.
Katherine and Conan Fugit of the Lamphouse Photo Company have mastered the art of creating memorable photo booths. They purchased a vintage camper and transformed it into a one of a kind photography studio. They also built a photo booth into the back of their ’88 Grand Wagoneer, allowing them to maintain a “sense of curiosity and creativity.” Katherine explained that like most businesses, “The return you receive is relative to the amount of work you put into it.”
Kate Liebfriend of Bubble Gum Photo Booths says that her company relies almost exclusively on word-of-mouth marketing as their most effective marketing tool. However she also places ads in City Pages, a popular Minneapolis news site, and uses social media — a great, free way to spread the word about your business.
Another smart strategy is to network with others in the wedding industry. If you have a cousin who is a hairdresser, make sure she mentions your business to all of her bridal clients. Chat with caterers and florists when you are setting up the photo booth at weddings. You never know who might be able to recommend you to another couple.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Photo Booth?
There’s no way around the upfront costs of a photo booth business. Most people will have to actually buy a photo booth, which can cost several thousand dollars. Liebfriend said it took her about two years to pay back her initial investment.
However, you could also minimize your startup costs by bootstrapping like the Fugits, who built their photo booths themselves out of a camper and a car.
You’ll also need to consider additional costs of the business, like paper, ink cartridges, props and gas.
How Much Can You Earn?
Most photo booth services include three to four hours of photo booth use including props, access to all the photos people take, an attendant and someone to drop off and pick up the photo booth.
Pricing for all of these services usually starts at $500 or $600 dollars, according to Kyle Tysvaer of Insightful Eye Photography, though costs increase as renters add on more services like scrapbooks, unlimited prints and social media options. Ryan Schmitz of Digital Photography Hobbyist estimates that he earns between $500 and $1,000 per event and runs through a few scenarios of earning potential, based on how much time you commit to the business.
Tysvaer explained that a few years ago he could charge more than $1,500 for his photo booth, prices have dropped as they have become more and more common at weddings. If you live in a highly saturated area, you may want to think twice about this business.
What Else Should You Know?
When you own a photo booth, you will have to find a way to transport it to and from events. It’s best to choose a photobooth that you can transport easily in an SUV or a van, said Tysvaer. Otherwise, you might have to rent a trailer or a UHaul, which adds to your expenses.
You’re also going to want to hire an energetic, exuberant person to manage the photo booth and make it fun (or do it yourself). Personality is everything, and if people have a good time, they will recommend your business to others.
Ultimately, if you are willing to put in the effort and investment, a photo booth is a great way to create a side income as part of the lucrative and ever-growing wedding and party industry.
Your Turn: Would you start a business as a photo booth operator?
Catherine Alford is a full-time blogger, personal finance freelance writer and mom of infant twins. She writes about how to balance life and a budget all across the web including her own site, Budget Blonde.