The problem with photo booths

A photo booth might not be the best way to get a high-quality passport photo.Several years ago my husband and I moved from Colorado to Austria. One of the (few) downsides to living in a foreign country is the annual pilgrimage to get our visas renewed. In  addition to a mountain of paperwork, we have to bring new photos every time.

In the weeks before our renewal appointment a couple of years ago, work had kept me pretty busy, and so the day before I found myself needing to rush out and get a photo. My visa functions as my primary ID, so I do like to have a decent picture, not the usual mugshot. I carefully touched up my hair and makeup before hopping on my bike for a nearby subway station, where I’d seen a passport photo booth. It was an unseasonably warm fall afternoon, but I managed to stay cool and keep my hair in order on the ride.

When I got to the station, I noticed some construction work by the entrance. Going inside, I found… no photo booth! Apparently it had been moved due to construction. I wandered around the huge, hot and humid station with no luck, growing more frustrated by the minute. I wasn’t sure where to find another photo booth or photographer on short notice, and I needed a photo TODAY. As I was about to give up and head outside, I finally noticed the booth, tucked away in a dark corner under a stairway.

I tried to smooth my now frizzed hair and blot my face in the tiny mirror attached to the booth. A video monitor showed me where I needed to place my face for a passport photo. However, the stool was stuck too low, and sitting on my purse didn’t raise me up enough, so I had to squat uncomfortably above the stool to bring my face to the right level, yet holding it back far enough that it wasn’t too close to the camera. I put in my money, and 3… 2… CLICK… 1. Umm, timer’s a bit off. Not funny, it got me with my mouth open. Try again. This time I was ready. 3… 2… CLICK… looked ok, but I got two more chances, might as well make the best of it. I made a final touch-up to hair & face, it was really getting warm in the tiny booth. 3… 2… when suddenly my leg, cramped from holding me awkwardly in place, gave and I fell ungracefully onto the stool, banging my shoulder on the back of the booth in the process. CLICK! Great shot of the top of my head. Hurriedly shaking out my leg, 3… 2… CLICK! Well, you can imagine: with the stress, heat, pain and frustration I looked like the crazy cat lady.

OK, it was obvious to me that the only acceptable picture would be number 2. But in its infinite wisdom, the photo booth decided that number 2 was not an acceptable passport photo. I’ve since learned a lot on the subject, and I have no idea what it thought was wrong. It just wouldn’t let me pick that photo. Somehow it did think the first one was ok; but even then I knew you had to have your mouth closed. So my only choice was – you guessed it – the crazy cat lady photo.

I had to live with that lovely ID for a whole year. I’ve never been happier to renew my visa than I was the next year. Unfortunately (or not) when we get a new visa we have to return the old one, so I don’t have my favorite ID photo any more. And I’m so happy that I can take my own passport picture at home now.

Image source: flickr (mootown)

This entry was posted in Travel Horror Stories and tagged , , , by Tanya. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tanya

Tanya is the project manager for Pic4Pass, with over 16 years experience in project management, customer service and marketing for high tech companies. An avid traveler who grew up in a bilingual German-American household, several years ago she, her husband and cat left the US for a chance to work in Austria. She enjoys traveling throughout Europe as well as exploring her adopted home town of Vienna. And she loves living without a car or TV.

13 thoughts on “The problem with photo booths

  1. Pingback: How to take a good passport photo | Pic4Pass Blog

  2. It’s funny but I rent photo booths and I have about one person every other month ask if they can use them for passports. I never knew what to tell them. thanks for sharing…

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