How Does a Vintage Photo Booth Work?

The boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach is home to not one but TWO vintage old-school photo booths. In an arcade very close to Playland you’ll find them side-by-side near the change machine. One is for black and white and the other is for color pictures and I’m happy to say they get lots of use, especially in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago, while walking by the arcade I noticed the color machine was out of service and the guts of it were completely exposed. I only had my iPhone with me and got some not-so-great pictures of the inside.

Pretty cool, huh? I started thinking about how the old school photo booth actually works and after searching the Internet I found a very detailed description at the website for Classic Photo Booth, a company that rents digital and classic photo booths for parties and weddings. When the front panel of the machine is removed you will see a little mini darkroom (if you’ve ever used an old photo booth you probably already knew that to be the case as your pictures usually come out still damp and reeking of darkroom chemicals). This is a really nice picture from the Classic Photo Booth page:

The film sits near the top of the machine on a large roll. After capturing your crazy expressions, the film travels down the Spider and is developed.  I assume it is in here that the image is printed onto the paper because once it leaves the Spider your photo travels through a series of dunk tanks (nine to be exact).

First, your photo hits the green tanks, which contain developer. After a quick rinse in water (the white tanks) it travels to the red tank, which holds bleach. Another quick rinse with water and then it’s on to the yellow tanks for a dip in fixer. Finally, in the last white tank labeled ‘9’ you’ll find toner. That’s the final stop before the picture hits your hot little hands. In the Classic Photo Booth picture, you’ll notice a white hair dryer on the lower left part of the picture, near the green tank, which dries the paper for ten seconds before it pops out. I’m not sure if that’s part of all photo booths, but judging from the amount of time it takes for my pictures to dry completely, I don’t think it’s a part of my local photo booth’s inner workings.

It’s amazing that someone came up with this contraption at all and even MORE amazing that they don’t fall apart with more regularity. This is the first time I can remember seeing either of the two photo booths in my area out of service.  I really hope the next time someone throws a great, big party for a monumental birthday (like mine, coming up next year on 12-12-12) there will be a classic photo booth there to capture all the memories!

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About ipdegirl

analogue girl in a digital world View all posts by ipdegirl

3 responses to “How Does a Vintage Photo Booth Work?

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