My First Weeks As a Photo Booth Operator
So you all know now “How I became a Photo Boother” in 2010 but what happened in those early weeks I hear you ask!?
Well, being part of a franchise I had some great training and initial guidance from someone who had already been doing it for a few years. The franchisor was based down in Sydney so my wife and I drove 10 hours down from Brisbane to collect everything and learn as much as we could by heading out with him for a full weekends worth of “boothin”. At that point he had 3 machines and had a major share of the then small but quickly growing Sydney market and we helped him set up and pack down about 7 hires! (I think the split was 2 out Friday, 3 out Sunday and 3 out Sunday). We also learnt some new lingo with Bump In and Bump Out referring to the time at which you arrive to set up and pack down.
Learning the ropes involved how to safely remove and transport a 180kg photo booth on a hand trolley from the trailer to the venue and vice versa, liaising with the venues to ensure the photo booth was correctly placed, installing the printer paper, testing the machine before and after hires, setting up our custom timers so the photo booth turned on and off as required (we offered automated unattended machines) and then securing the booth and any loose cords. Then there was getting used to how to play with all the settings and install any logos and custom screens and hooking on and off a big box trailer. Pretty straight forward really but I remember at the time thinking if I don’t write all this down I’m going to forget! lol
In between learning the ropes we were also taken to various suppliers to collect all the tools and equipment we were going to need. The highlight being finally collecting our booth and trailer (which had already been delivered to the franchisor from Europe before we arrived) from the decal shop where he had taken it prior to our arrival to be fitted with all the custom branding and my phone number!
It was a huge weekend of learning and excitement and I remember clearly early monday morning driving out of Sydney with our new business hooked up to our car thinking one way or the other we have some exciting times ahead of us! Pretty soon my next major revelation was “oh crap I can actually see the needle going down on the petrol gauge!”. On the way down we had filled up twice but on the way back it was more like 6 times! The trailer and booth collectively weighed almost 1.5 Tonnes. Two more things became suddenly clear, our 2005 Commodore was in for a tough time and petrol was going to be our biggest expense!
After arriving home safely late Monday night we got a few hours sleep before having to spend the rest of the week back in our normal Monday – Friday jobs. That Saturday was our first booking, a wedding at Hillstone St Lucia and we were pretty nervous but confident we knew what we were doing. So with the booth set up and tested and convinced everything is going to go ok we head home before the reception starts. That night back at home we watched the clock as the start time loomed up and then passed. The booth has surely turned on the fun has begun we think…..about 10 minutes later my phone rings….”Your booth is not working, the screen say’s its printing but nothing is happening….” Panicking I tell them to sit tight and jump in the car and drive the 40mins to sort it out. Turns out there was a simple paper jam and I get the booth going again and add extra time at the end of their hire to make up for lost time., they are grateful all ends well and we collect the booth the next day without further incident.
Next up are two midweek corporate photo booth hires which go off without incident. However our 4th booking is a doozy! It’s a house booking for a 21st party up in the hills of Brisbane. The driveway is only half sealed and beyond steep! The commodore struggles and at one point I think we are heading of the side in to the scrub but the tyres grip and we make it to the “flatter” area were I need to maneuver in a tight space to get the trailer backed in. Ensuring the hand brake is on nice and tight we start to cautiously unload. The owner shows us where to go and it’s quickly apparent the access round the side of the house she assured me of isn’t going to work as there are huge rocks in our way and I simply cant “just lift the booth up and over! as she suggests lol. I need to take doors off hinges to get it through the house out to the deck and navigate a few small steps. It’s the middle of summer and Im sweating up a storm but I get the booth set up and somehow manage to safely get back down the driveway and home.
The hire has been going for 1.5hrs when I get a call “your booth is not working, the power has gone off”. By now I have learned to hide a key under the booth so I can provide technical help over the phone and I get them to turn the booth on and off but nothing happens. I ask them what was going on when the booth suddenly stopped working and I find out they turned on some cheap fairy lights which they strung up after I left and it seems they are the cause. I jump back in the car (sans trailer) and despite all my and the franchisors (who I call for advice) efforts I can’t get it to work. The client is good about it but naturally wants to be compensated. I come back the next day with a substantial (but not quite full) refund and negotiate with them a 50% discount off their next booking which they are very pleased with as they want one for their other daughters 21st next year.
My wife and I are naturally getting to our whits end with worry as we had loads of bookings coming up and no working photo booth. I have a local computer store look at it and they quickly conclude it is completely fried due to a power surge from a dodgy power source. They ask me why I didn’t have a surge protector? and I’m like “that is a very good question, why did no one tell me I should be using one!” I quickly go out and buy one and organise for a new PC to be expedited from the manufacturers local distributor at quite some expense but luckily it arrives the day before the next hires.
So at this point we have been operating for 1 month and have spent more to fix problems than we have made and are starting to wonder what the hell we have gotten ourselves into! It wasn’t the last of our misfortune but it was the first and last time we weren’t able to complete a hire and we never had a surge affect any of our booths after that either.