MUM, can I please have another £5?’ I suspected this would happen, that my daughter wouldn’t be satisfied with the set of pictures she had just ordered from the instant photo booth.
She didn’t just dislike them, but recoiled in horror when they slid out of the machine. I had to admit, she did look like a long-term heroin addict who’d just emerged from a Turkish prison, but, as I told her, that’s exactly what you expect.
With their greyish lighting and way of encouraging weird facial expressions, you seldom look good in a booth photograph. I tried to console her, showing her my driving licence on which I look more orange than any TOWIE character and my press pass, where I look like a Highland cow.
Photo booths put you under so much pressure, yet nowadays, other than there being a queue, there’s no reason as to why.
Today’s machines aren’t like they were when I was young, when you put your money in and had about two seconds to position yourself before the flash went off. In some booths you hadn’t a clue when it was going to go off, and would have to maintain a fixed smile for the best part of ten minutes while friends waggled the curtain to put you off. The famous advert for Hamlet cigars showed actor Gregor Fisher — best known as the TV character Rab C Nesbit — carefully arranging his combover to cover his baldness, only to have the camera flash unexpectedly on his shiny pate as — after waiting for several seconds — he bends down to check whether the money has gone in.
Now you know exactly when they are being taken, and there’s even a red circle into which you position your head to centralise it. We used to sit and spin the chairs around so many times, up and down, never getting it right. Usually, your chin would be resting on the bottom edge of the snap.
The fun of it has also disappeared. Me and my friends would cram into the booth at the bus station having group shots taken before travelling home. I’ve still got some of them, our heads squashed together, laughing. Now, at a cost of £5 per shot, kids can’t afford to fool around like that.
My daughter wanted passport photos, which are the hardest to pose for. You can’t smile, you’re not allowed hair over any part of your face and you have to have a bland expression.
She scraped and pinned her hair back so severely it looked like she’d had a facelift. “It’s only valid for 10 years,” I told her, to make her feel better.