Dan Johnson, owner of Dan Johnson Photography in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a regular fixture here at the LexJet Blog. Johnson is always chock full of great ideas (make sure to click here to read about his spray booth, for instance) that build business and generate cash flow.
His latest venture is a portable photo booth that he can take to special events and weddings. Johnson says he created a makeshift photo booth to fulfill requests for a photo booth and decided it was time to buy a pre-built booth to better satisfy demand and create an additional profit center.
“We’re always looking for other ways to generate income with minimal infrastructure and without totally changing what we’re doing. One of our big commercial clients called last year who was putting on a Christmas party and wanted to know if we had a photo booth. I didn’t want to say no, so I figured out how to do it on my own with a camera, tripod, computer and a dye-sub printer. I literally took pieces and parts out of my studio and built this makeshift photo booth. It went pretty well, and then we got a couple of more calls for a photo booth,” explains Johnson. “For the makeshift photo booth I hang curtains in a square and inside the curtain there’s a camera on a tripod and a laptop computer with a program on it where the people inside the booth can click on the mouse and it counts down. It takes a series of three pictures and sends it to a dye-sub printer.”
Johnson recently purchased a professional photo booth, which he says can range from about $6,000 to $10,000. The professional booth is housed in pre-fabricated travel boxes. The bottom box has a printer and a cabinet for supplies, and the top box has the computer and the camera.
“Everything is mounted and secured. You take them out of the car and roll them out like a suitcase to the event, stack one box on top of the other, they lock together, set up a curtain system, plug it in and you’re up and running,” says Johnson. “There’s lighting and it’s all self-contained. It looks finished and professional. If I can use it 20 or 30 times next year it fits into the no-brainer category.”
Johnson adds that he charges a flat fee and offers unlimited prints. That sounds somewhat risky on the surface, but Johnson did the math and found it really wasn’t that risky.
“Realistically, everyone isn’t going to go through the booth four times and you’re printing 2-inch strips on dye-sub paper. So, let’s say we have 250 people at a wedding, which would be a large wedding in our area, and if everyone went through with their significant other it would generate 125 4x6s. A roll of this paper can print 300 4x6s,” says Johnson. “If I go through a roll of paper at every event, that’s about $150 in cost plus what I pay an employee to man it, and that’s it.”
So far, Johnson has booked several events for the rest of the year and into 2013, and he’s running special promotions on the photo booth service. “That should help generate cash up front to pay for the system and some profit on top of that. Basically, we’re not going into debt to expand our services,” he says.
Johnson is also hoping to generate some ancillary printing business in the process by offering larger prints, printed on LexJet media with his Epson printers, that people could order at the booth. He’ll start with a paper ordering system first as he figures out how to integrate more automated print orders with an iPad.