Japanese sticker-printing photo booths may satisfy shopping tweens, and passport office photo booths can spit out images as if from a cheap computer printer, but for the true connoisseur, only a dip-and-dunk booth will do.
The original photo booths -- the kind that contain several tubs of chemicals and develop photos the way they were developed before everything went digital -- have spread across Los Angeles over the last decade. Though the exact number of them can be difficult to pinpoint because of how often they break, between one and two dozen of the booths snap photographs across the region.
"The technology isn't getting any younger, and it's not like the machines have become suddenly easier to use," says Brian Meacham, who runs the all-things-booth website Photobooth.net. "But people are interested in them."
At the end of May, as the final hurrah of an L.A. photo booth convention, Meacham organized a party-bus tour of five Los Angeles booths for two dozen photo booth artists, operators and fans. Below, we profile those five spots plus five more of our favorites.
10. The Churchill
The photo booth is not the primary attraction at the Churchill. The dark wood-encased barstaurant is open nearly around the clock for all meals, hosts DJs at night and brunch on weekends, and serves signature cocktails and LA Mill coffee. The photo booth is tucked into a cozy upstairs nook. Unlike most vintage booths, the Churchill's lets patrons pay the standard $3 by credit card instead of demanding cash. Recently, while his fellow photo booth tour-goers ordered beers and snapped unadorned shots, the photo booth artist known as Mix-Up hung the booth with a black-and-white spiral backdrop and took his picture through a distorting plastic filter. "I never set out to do photo-booth art, I just fell in with a crowd," he says. "We were pretending to be a band. We wore glasses. We looked how people looked in the '70s." 8384 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 655-8384, the-churchill.com.
9. Backstage Bar and Grill, Culver City
After belting "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Gin and Juice," fans of the rowdy karaoke bar in the shadow of Sony Studios can take a photo-booth shot to commemorate their triumph. Backstage calls itself "the best dive bar in the world" and "L.A.'s favorite party spot" -- the former might apply on weekdays, when burgers and bar bands are the draw, and the latter on weekends, when patrons take the mic. Either way, the line for the booth usually is shorter than the line for a song or the wait for chicken strips. And at least as of this writing, the price says $3, but the camera starts shooting after $2.10400 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 839-3892, backstageculvercity.com.
A bar called Darkroom probably is legally bound to have a photo booth. "People look for places that have the black-and-white photo booths. A lot of places have digital ones, and they're not the same," says Dean Geistlinger, the Darkroom's general manager. Tucked in the back by the darts and below a TV screen playing campy movies or sports, the Darkroom photo booth glares its white light into the mostly black space. Emblazoned with non-photo-booth photographs of "Sarong Sisters," the booth prints clean pictures stamped with the bar's name. If you take a shot here, you'll know at least one celebrity has sat on the same adjustable stool. "Lindsay Lohan has come here a million times and she loves it," Geistlinger said. 7302 Melrose Ave, L.A., (323) 931-3800.