Fast Company/Woodford Party
Fast Company/Woodford Party

Antonio Banderas, Rosario Dawson and St. Vincent have stepped inside the booth. So have Henry Rollins, Aziz Ansari and Shaun White. And let’s not forget the cast of “Orange is the New Black” at their season one wrap party.

It’s captured the smiling faces of Sasha and Malia Obama at a Chicago bar mitzvah.

It’s played host to the Internet phenom (and Indiana native) Li’l Bub and her owner.

Magnolia Photo Booth Co. was founded in Louisville by Peter Tower and Daniel Sanders in 2007, and currently has around 65 photo booths in its fleet. About 50 of those booths are available as rentals — for weddings, parties, openings and other events — in eight cities nationwide: Louisville, San Francisco, Austin, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Denver and L.A. The rest are located more or less permanently in retail stores, bars and attractions worldwide.

Magbooth is the largest privately owned photo booth company in the states.

But it’s not the size of the company that puts them in demand. It is, more likely, the style. The company allows for a great deal of customization — from the art on the actual photos to the art on the booth itself. That being said, Tower admits that “sometimes we push a bit for our design aesthetic.” The Magbooth aesthetic is so important that of the eight full-time employees on staff (with 60 part-timers or more during wedding season), one is a videographer who creates gorgeous promotional videos for the company.

And what is the Magbooth design aesthetic? Tower couldn’t put it into words. I offered “whimsy,” and he said that was close enough.

Now with the help of Louisville’s interactive design and development firm Forest Giant, Magbooth can set that aesthetic in motion. Fast Company Magazine got in touch with Magbooth and wanted them to set up a GIF booth at their Fast Company Grill, one of the hottest parties at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive. Incidentally the event was sponsored by Woodford Reserve.

Obviously, Magbooth wanted in, but while Tower and Co. had thought about a GIF booth, they didn’t actually have one.

Enter Forest Giant. They created the “brains” for the Magbooth-designed GIF booth.

The GIF booth’s guts are a laptop, an iPad mini and — well — a big button. The software “brains” of the GIF booth can be used to turn any existing photo booth into a GIF booth.

The Magbooth/Forest Giant GIF booth is also on tour with the Montreal-based band Arcade Fire. The band launched their tour in Louisville last month and picked up the booth while they were here. It was a happy accident that Magbooth happened to be headquartered in the very city where their tour launched.

The booth is a branding effort for Arcade Fire’s support of nonprofits working in Haiti. Fans hop in the booth, enter their email, pose for a shot, and then Tweet or Facebook the photo, now emblazoned with the nonprofit’s logo and contact information. (The Arcade Fire booth, because it had to be so portable and easy for a volunteer to set up, does not print hardcopies.)

In just a handful of shows, Tower says the booth has had 2,000 interactions, which means the booth captured that much email and social media data as well.

Arcade Fire photo from Louisville stop on the tour.
Arcade Fire photo from Louisville stop on the tour.

The Arcade Fire booth is about to take a break during the band’s month-long hiatus. During that time, Magbooth’s New York office will tweak the design and software, and then the band will pick it up when they get back on the road. 

A GIF made by the folks at Forest Giant:

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But photo booth photos aren’t just for fun. They can have practical applications as well.

Have you ever tried on glasses while wearing glasses? If you’re nigh-blind without your glasses like me, it’s an effort in futility. No one looks stylish with squinty eyes and their nose pressed up against a mirror. The hyper-hipster Warby Parker — eyeglass vendor that started online and now has boutiques in a few cities — is using Magbooths to solve that problem. Pop on the specs, snap a picture, put your prescriptions back on and check out the look. Tweet it out to your friends to get their opinions.

Brilliant.

Another global retail outlet with Magbooths on site is Kiehl’s, the high-end, 160-year-old skin care and cosmetics brand retailer that has gone from being a single East Village apothecary to upscale chain in the past two decades.

Motorcycle and backdrop at Kiehl's
Motorcycle and backdrop at Kiehl’s

No, the expectation was not that you would tweet your friends a picture of you and your new skin-care regimen.

The initial booths were set up to take tokens. Salesclerks could use the tokens to reward shoppers or entice new shoppers into the store.

“Then we redesigned the system to capture emails,” says Tower, “and they now use it to interact with their clients via the emails captured. It is a fun activity for store visitors and it lets them communicate with them afterwards with emails and Twitter handles captured.”

You can find Magbooths in Kiehl’s stores in Seoul, Canada, the Mall of America, and Macy’s in Herald Square.

rb-oaklandMagbooth also has a booth that’s been involved with the Oakland A’s “Fan Fridays” events. The booth prints out a baseball card with your picture on the front and (once you fold it) the A’s schedule on the back. As with Kiehl’s, the A’s marketing team uses the captured data to keep fans abreast of activities and events.

There’s a booth in Frank, an artisan hot dog restaurant in Austin (of course). They have a booth at Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden “residencies” — the open-ended monthly shows that started at the beginning of 2014. Someone at Citigroup really digs Magbooth, and often when they sponsor big events, like the Billy Joel shows and a Rolling Stones tour, they’ll get Magbooth on site.

And Magbooth recently set up shop at the local “Wes Fest” celebration of Wes Anderson films (you really want to look at the photos for that last event… they’re too cute for words).

If you’re looking for a Magbooth locally, you can find them at all the Original Maker’s Club events and upcoming Flea Off Markets. There’s a Magbooth at Why Louisville on Bardstown Road, and of course you could just pop into the stylish Magbooth office on East Market Street in NuLu.

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