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Photo Opportunity Is Transformed Into a Business Opportunity

Faced with increasing competition, San Diego County photo booth companies are finding new customers in corporations looking to expand their brands and their social media presence.

One of the more successful local companies is Pixster Photo Booths, which provided a photo booth used last month by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. at a major medical conference at the downtown convention center.

With thousands of people in attendance, the group assembled items that encapsulated what San Diego has to offer, among them a plush panda from the San Diego Zoo, an acoustic guitar from Taylor Guitars, a surfboard, various rally gear from San Diego’s universities, and lab coats.

“The props served as a valuable marketing tool for the region as we engaged a new audience — informing many participants about San Diego’s tourism and lifestyle industries, innovation economy, manufacturing capacity and broad talent pool,” said Bree Burris, the communications coordinator at the San Diego Regional EDC.

The two-year-old Pixster, which has grown from one booth to 19, said it expects to host 1,500 events in San Diego in 2016.

Forty percent of Pixster’s business is weddings, 30 percent is corporate events and the remainder is events such as graduations, birthday parties and other occasions. Pixster has seen a rise in corporate rentals due to its own marketing campaign geared toward those clients.

Because of the audience and the reach at these corporate events, Pixster said it will focus on its corporate clients this quarter, among them Petco Park, Irvine Galaxy and Comic-Con

International. These companies tend to have bigger budgets and repeat clientele.

Pixster said it has as many as 40 competitors, most of which are mom-and-pop shops or franchises.

Up to Date and Affordable

A photo booth’s low barrier to entry allows startup costs to remain low. To stay competitive in a market with many competitors, photo booth companies must update their technology and service offerings to meet the client’s needs and to fit a budget.

“The market is definitely changing weekly because the consumers are more educated,” said McLain Harvey, co-owner and CEO of Pixster Photo Booths. “So before they used to call us and not know anything. Now they call us and know exactly what they want.”

San Diego and San Francisco were early adopters of photo booths, Harvey said. The company opened a location in Austin, Texas, about three months ago and is looking to open locations in Denver, Colo., and Southern Los Angeles in 2016.

The average rental for a Pixster photo booth package is $800. The low end of the photo booth business falls into the $300-400 range. The high end can reach from $1,000 up to $3,000.

The appeal of photo booths?

“A photographer takes a picture of you whenever the photographer’s ready,” Harvey said. “The photo booth takes a picture of you whenever you’re ready. It’s less intrusive on the guest and they respond well to that and they like to engage in that.”

Among services they offer are Hashtag printing, customized emails for clients, social media integration, an instant print service and a wide selection of backdrops.

Feature Attractions

The perks and features of photo booth technology are often the most important thing for a photo booth company; that and making sure attendees gets their souvenirs.

A local photo booth franchise, TapSnap Phototainment, engages people with its interactivity. While other competitors are starting to develop video (Pixster), graffiti art (that can be applied to the image instantaneously), gifs and moving photos, TapSnap adds art directly to the image, including branding. The company had a booth at Comic-Con, the “Hunger Games” premiere and a show for Luxottica.

“The sharing and the ease of branding with a good return on investment, that’s always the bottom line in business,” Peter Sandy, owner of Sandy Entertainment and a franchisee of TapSnap Phototainment in Carlsbad. The TapSnap headquarters is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. “So with the geometric potential of social media, we can go directly onto someone’s

Facebook page if they want to do that.”

Great Views

On average, the photos taken at a photo booth get seen through social media and within the user’s social circle by 11,400 viewers, according to Pixster.

With San Diego’s reputation as a destination city, Sandy said people and their corporations want to come here for events and this is just an added perk to expand their brand into the community.

“When the majority of people at an event want their image captured, they want it to be there after they’re gone or they want to be able to send a picture to somebody who’s not there,” Sandy said. “They want to share. It’s all about sharing. That’s one of the things that’s not going to go away.”

Ashleigh Berry, the manager of events for the industry group BIOCOM, said they’ve done photo booths multiple times.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from sponsors,” she said. “And then as far as attendees, we’re noticing a lot more followers on all of our social media. We’re noticing a lot higher traction on our website as well.”

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