Finding a decent, reliable photo booth operator

"Research" spelled out in word blocks

There are always a few essentials to consider when planning a party. Avoiding the cash in operators obviously.  Venue obviously. Entertainment & food / drink, pretty much covers it. In the entertainment section, a DJ and a photographer are pretty much considered essential for a wedding – if not for all parties. There are “must haves” and fads that come and go. Chocolate fountains, for example, were extremely popular about 5 years ago and then fell out of favour.  And then the cash in operators got involved.

What’s a wedding without a photo booth?

We over-heard that, the other weekend, which made us realise that photo booths have probably moved beyond the fad stage to become one of the essentials for a wedding. And if we know that – then you can bet your bottom dollar that all sorts of operators will try to cash in. Operators that cash in can be a real danger to any buyer for a few reasons that we’ve tried to summarise below.

Longevity   It costs money to set up a decent photo booth hire business (!!) and money to run it. And it takes time to get a reputation. But a “cash in operator” is only interested in the short term. So booking a year or more before your event is likely to lead to tears. A cash in operator is only concerned with immediate cash flow – so they’ll offer cheap deals with cheap booking fees.
A common approach is to offer a cheap deal and then drop the booking because someone is prepared to pay more. For the cash in operator it doesn’t matter if they let everyone down at the last minute because “their van has been stolen” or “the booth has been damaged”. They have a better booking to go to. Gazumping doesn’t only happen in the housing market!

What to look out for

Staff     Decent staff cost money. It costs to train them, and it costs to get them to the venue. A cash in operator doesn’t have the money to pay decent wages. Poor wages leads to poor staff.
Communication     A “cash in operator” probably has a full-time job and this is just a side line, so getting responses from them and sorting things out takes time.
Equipment    On top of the “our equipment has been damaged” issue, is the whole issue of equipment itself, particularly back up equipment, spares etc. A cash in operator doesn’t have the money to re-invest in equipment or bring backups with them.
Insurance & PAT  Any photo booth operator must have Public Liability insurance – all venues should be asking for it. They also ought to have Professional Indemnity Insurance as well, to give the client peace of mind. A cash in operator won’t necessarily see the need (or have the money).  And a PAT certificate for their electrical equipment is a good test.
Reputation    Along with trust it’s the hardest to gain, easiest to lose.

That’s not to say that you can’t get a good deal or, hopefully, that all cash on operators are rogue.

What can you do?

Research ….. research! It’s easy nowadays to look through the social media record of any company and see what they’ve been up to. For a photo booth company, as with a photographer, you’ll be most interested in their photographic record over the years. This might be on Facebook or other sites. Ask about the equipment they use – you need to hear “DSLR camera” and “sub dye printer”. Ask to see their insurance certificates and PAT certificate.
Sometimes you just “know” when you find the right supplier – hopefully this blog post will help if there is any doubt.

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