“Is there going to be a countdown? How do I know when its going to*FLASH*…oh crap. Okay I missed that one but the next on*FLASH*. The hell? This thing is quick! Okay now I'm ready. Okay you looking? Let me see*FLASH*. AH! I wasn't looking! No, no it's not done yet. No, look! *FLASH* Were you looking? No? Okay well look now. Okay, we are ready. Nothing's happening. What? It's done? Damn. Okay, let's see what it looks like.”
A typical result of my time spent in a photo booth; and nowhere have I spent more time in photo booths than in Japan.
Instead of finding Metal Slug, Turtles in Time, Police Trainer, three iterations of Big Game Hunter, and a Golden Tee Golf machine when I walk into a Japanese arcade, I find dozens of claw machine games and photo booths. I am disappointed to say the least.
But, hey, maybe the Japanese photo booths are special. Maybe there are monkey bars, party poppers, and strobe lights inside these things. No such luck.
Photo booths in Japan are far more complicated than their American counterparts, and joining the purinto kurabu (slow it down and think about it) is no simple task.
Walking in I can tell that this is not your average dollar photo booth experience.
For starters it costs $4 (400円).
There are lights, a green screen, a color touch screen, and nowhere to sit down. Don't you usually sit down in these things?
Luckily the instructions on the screen are in English by default (because English is trendy), and it looks like these are intended for two people at a time. I think we can make three work.
The photos come at you quickly, so be prepared from the moment you hit that “Start” or “Go” or whatever that initiation button is. Will you go for the classic peace sign? Peace sign over the eye (keep it at 45°, people)? The OK sign next to your face? OK sign over the eye? So many options, so few pictures.
As quickly as it started, it is over.
MAKING YOUR PHOTOS SUCK LESS
The picture-taking may be over with, but the work has only just begun.
After the last picture is taken you are instructed to exit the booth and continue to the next step. Next step? You mean the waiting for my pictures step? No, I mean the editing step.
Faced with a screen full of options that I do not quite understand, and a timer counting down from twenty I try pressing the screen to make my selection. Not working. Timer is at ten. Oh! This pen thing, okay I will use that – it works.
Not quite sure what I have selected I'm now looking at one of the photos I just took inside a crude version of Photoshop. Playing around with the buttons I find that I can draw, apply effects, stickers, lipstick, and even change the color of my hair. The unforgiving countdown timer marches towards zero as I frantically attempt to do more good than bad to my photos.
It takes practice.
A tip? Don't go too crazy with the stickers and effects. Keep it simple or your photos will quickly become a circus of trashiness (unless that is what you're going for). Less is more.
AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?
Now you head to the final screen where your photo strip is to be printed, but first you have the option to email or text the photos to yourself (at least I think that is what this screen is for, I am unsure because I have never been successful in entering my email address.
The final reward for all your efforts? Two strips of photos. More than two of you? Fear not! Many places will have a table or counter nearby with the tools necessary to cut and divide your photos amongst friends.
Taking full advantage of each step in the photo creation process, you can expect to spend upwards of ten minutes creating your masterpiece. A worthy investment of your time.
When you level up in the Purinto Kurabu you can find photo booth arcades that offer props, hats, or even entire outfits for you to use during your photo shoots.
Photo booths are no joke in Japan.
Keep it classy.