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How to make money by starting a Photo Booth business in South Africa

old school photo booth on the street

We’ve been thinking back to 2012 when we first got into the photo booth game and we can’t help but smile when we realise how little we knew about the industry back then. To be fair, photo booths had only really started to become popular a couple of years before so there wasn’t a great deal of reference for us, however there was a sense that it was going to be a fun and interesting way to make money and we weren’t too far off the mark.

Fast forward to 2019 and the competition is real! Couples are including photo booths in their wedding budgets and corporates are recognising the need to engage socially with consumers through images and photos directly uploaded to social media platforms. The photo booth industry certainly has grown and although it’s difficult to say exactly how big the industry is, it’s estimated to be worth at least $100 million. While photo booths have been popular for the last 10 years or so, within the last five it’s gone from being requested for 1 in every 5 to “almost 100 percent” of events. It is even becoming more of a trend to book a photo booth instead of a DJ along with a rise in all-in-one party providers, businesses that have Photo booth and DJ packaged together.

girls with hair up in the photo booth

No modern event or party is complete without a few things; a bar, good food, good people, and a photo booth. This is good news for anyone interested in starting their own photo booth business, however it’s is not without its quirks and much like the events and entertainment industry, has its peak seasons and quieter times.

As an entrepreneur looking to get into this field you will need to take it upon yourself to learn how to navigate the ups and downs along with many of the things that you would have to learn to start any business especially like how to stand out from the competition, how to find customers and retain customers.

I’m sure by now you will be thinking that perhaps running a photo booth business isn’t as simple as just buying some equipment and taking lots of fun photographs. You will of course need some money to get started. Fortunately, a photo booth business isn’t too expensive to set up and has a low barrier to entry. In fact, you can start making money with just one photo booth and expand over time. This can also be done very economically if you are handy and can build it yourself.

Whilst the actual structure of the photo booth might be relatively inexpensive, the cost of equipment such as cameras and printers can fluctuate depending on the type and quality of photos that you want to have printed. Where the real investment comes in however is in powerful hardware and software that is essential in building a solid booth that will produce a great product. Unfortunately, there is no way around these initial up-front costs so it’s worthwhile doing your research and weighing up the difference in building your own or buying out right, because buying an already set up booth can cost a lot and might take a while to pay back.

Starting any new business is never an easy feat however it can be a very rewarding one. We’ve put together some advice to help get you started on your photo booth journey. We hope that you find this insightful and helpful and that you can take away some of the lessons that we’ve learnt along the way and be able to be successful. Photo Booths in the UK has also put together a quick guide in 11 steps that you can read here.

Starting Up Your Own Photo Booth Business - What are the benefits

The Money

Let’s be honest here, the most important benefit is to make money and photo booths can make a fair amount of money. The amount of money will of course vary depending on your specific situation and location, so it’s quite difficult to make predictions in that area. What we do know is that it’s very realistic to expect to turn a decent profit provided you do your research, invest in sound equipment and are willing to work hard.

Don’t worry though, it’s not all hard work and no play. If you’ve ever experienced a photo booth at an event before you will know that it’s often the site of a lot of fun and laughter and people are always smiling. There’s something to be said for earning money doing something that’s fun and relatively stress-free. The great thing about operating a photo booth going to run it full time or as a side line business, it’s not going to require a huge amount of manual labour.

How Much Money Can I Make by Running a Photo Booth?

Even though it is difficult to give accurate predictions or exact amounts of money that you can make, we understand that having some sample numbers to look at can be helpful. The following are merely estimating and might not be completely 100% accurate so please use them only as guideline and understand that your experience could be completely different.

It’s important to note that if you are wanting to start a photo booth business as a full-time operation, taking on multiple employees and devoting at least 45 hours a week to the job, there is really no limit to how much you can potentially earn. That said, it’s fair to assume that if you are starting a photo booth business merely as a side line or part time job then you can expect to make much less


The amount you charge for every event will also differ depending on where your business is located as you may have to be more price sensitive according to demographics. The opposite will also apply for higher income areas and big cities. Depending on how you structure your hire packages and what you charge per hour and what is included will also vary and this will result in different profit margins.

As an example, imagine that you book an event for R7000. Your cost to run the event will roughly be R1000, give or take. This means that you come away with a net profit of R6000. If the event is four hours long, with an hour of setup and tear-down before and after, this means you spent six hours working and made roughly R1000 per hour.

Of course, this is just an estimate, but we can use it as a guide to help you calculate how much you might be able to earn in different scenarios.

Photo Booth being used at a graduation ceremony

1. Run a Photo Booth Part-Time on the Weekends

If you are tied into a full-time job and either want the extra money on the weekend or as a side line you can keep your business fairly small and do all the work, yourself. If we base this scenario purely on weekend work then it might look something like this; there are 26 weekends in half the year and If you book an event for both weekend nights, 26 weeks a year, that makes 52 events. Using our R6000 profit calculated earlier, that gives us R6000 x 52, which comes out to R312 000. It might seem like a lot of money however it’s a big sacrifice to work almost every weekend when you work full time in the week and there might be other costs involved along the way such as insurance and travel which you can’t predict.

2. Hiring Employees to Run Multiple Booths

There is always the option to hire employees and run multiple booths if you are wanting to expand the business and earn more money. Bearing in mind that your profit will go down per event if you are having to pay someone else to run the booth. Let’s say you pay them R100 per hour which will be R400 for the total event and an hour to set up which will take it to R500. Your profit for every event goes down to around R5500.

If, however you have 2 booths each running in the same way even with paying employees the two booths combined have the potential to bring in a profit R11 000.

Despite these numbers being only estimates and in no way 100% accurate, they are no doubt quite helpful to illustrate that running a photo booth can in fact be a really profitable business especially when you have customers because if there are no customers, well, then you’re going to struggle.

Finding Customers

For any new business, one of the biggest challenges is finding customers. Especially in the beginning whilst you’re still trying to establish a name for yourself and even once you’ve built up a client base the challenge then comes in retaining those customers and keeping them loyal to you. Where to start? How do you get your name out there? How do you ensure that you are customers number one choice amongst the competition? We believe these are the two most important ways:

Digital Marketing and Social Media

It is paramount in today’s world that you must have an online presence. No surprises with that one! This doesn’t just refer to building a good website it means engaging on social media and actively posting content and driving traffic to your page. Your website must be functional, of course, but it also needs to be more than that. Customers will choose the top 3 featured companies from a search engine so knowing how to improve your SEO will be vital to staying on the first page. Your website should be functional and easy to navigate with the option to contact you directly. Your online presence should be consistent and engaging, t needs to have a look and feel (and possibly sound) that convinces people that you are the best in the business.

word of mouth referrals for photo booth hire

Word of Mouth Referrals

Networking is vital to building a relationship with potential clients. You are your best advertisement so you should have a strategy for spreading the word about your new business. Getting in with your local event planners and wedding planners is a must as well as targeting schools and other local businesses to let them know about your services. Don’t hold back, you need to be bold and be sure to use family & friends too! People like to recommend a business that they trust to others so make sure that business is you!

These are really the fundamentals of starting up a photo booth business if you want to be successful and have a go at making some good money in the industry. Take a photo booth and add some customers and you have a business.

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