One For The Book: Innovating the Photo Booth and Producing the Sexiest Guestbook Ever

June 23, 2012

12:00 pm

When you think photo booth, it may conjure up images of the mall, or maybe an amusement park. Venturing into that type contraption results in a strip of four photos you usually don’t quite know what to do with afterwards.

One for the Book is a photo booth application (and installation) that is about as far away from those images as you can get.

Here’s how it works: One for the Book installs a studio-like setting at an event. Guests come over and use a remote control to snap photos of themselves. Guests then chose the digital photos they like via the custom software set-up onsite; one photo gets printed for the guest (and shown on a screen as part of the event), and one is printed for the host’s guest book.

Described by its creator, Joe Augstein, it’s “photo booth fun meets studio quality that produces the sexiest damn guestbook you’ve ever seen.”

I’ve seen it – and I have to say, he’s right.

One for the Book made its debut at launch party at New York City’s co-working space WeWork Lounge earlier this month. The launch party was the first real test of the mobile studio and the software, a way for Augstein to get feedback about the system from those not in his immediate circle of family and friends. I attended the event and saw One for the Book in action.

Pre-launch, Augstein made some time for an interview – he’s been working full time (and then some) on One for the Book for the past 6 months.

Tech Cocktail:  Where did you get the idea for One for the Book?

Joe Augstein, founder, One for the Book

Joe Augstein: Photography is in my blood. My dad was a photographer, and it’s a passion of mine as well, as is bringing people together.  Before One for the Book, I was an urban planner – basically my job was to design spaces where people can interact with each other.  For a while I lived in Berlin and wrote an undergraduate thesis on light in public space and its effect on the psyche – it’s really difficult to do this without including photography. This is when I got into the technical aspect of photography.

I was also the staff photographer at my job; I took photos of what we designed, spaces like the Spa at Four Seasons. I’ve also spent some time shooting events myself – weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate events in Manhattan. I’ve found what people wanted and needed, and what’s not out there. One for the Book has been a way for me to fix something that has been bugging me – fixing the quality that wasn’t there.

Tech Cocktail: What makes One for the Book innovative?

Joe Augstein: Oftentimes, photo booth images have poor quality. The set up detracts from the environment of the party. Basically, it can be tacky. The lighting is often terrible – and lighting is the most important thing in photography. I knew that I could create a custom design and build a pro-level system from the ground up, with simple software, that produces quality results.

There are a lot of people that do part of what I’m doing in a similar fashion. There are some great photo booths out there that give good quality –I’m letting everyone curate their own photos though.

We render the standard guest book useless. We’re creating a whole other level of product that doesn’t really exist right now. Our intent is not to replace the event photographer; we’re more like entertainment photography.

Tech Cocktail: It’s like high tech meets tactile – a lot of people never print their images, and they sit on their computer or phone…

Joe Augstein: Exactly, and I know a lot of people say that, ‘I’ll print them at home, or I’ll put them on Facebook.’ All of the images from the event go on Facebook the next day. In the software there is a place for me to grab everyone’s email so I can send the link to them and they can download them all the next day, or do whatever they want with them.

Tech Cocktail: People are going to want this….

Joe Augstein: People are already contacting us for bookings – I was honestly surprised. I knew that once people saw the setup they’d love it, but I don’t have any photos up, we just launched the website.  The launch is a celebration of all of the hard work, proof of concept. The little publicity that’s out there has been great.

Tech Cocktail: So far, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Joe Augstein: There is something to be said for planning properly. I’ve written a business plan and revised it until my fingers bled from typing. I’ve talked to investors, asked them if they would invest in this, and I have conducted tons of research to figure out if this is this a viable idea. To have words down on paper with the direction I’m going in, has been really helpful.  I know what the end goal is, every day.

Now, that planning is really helping the business-end go smoothly. I know the market is there, I know how investors value the business. I would say to others take your time in the beginning. If it’s a great idea, it’s not going away in a month, or three months.

Here are the photos from the NYC launch party, posted on Facebook – judge for yourself – do these compare to any photo booths you’ve ever seen?


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Marla Shaivitz is a writer, developer and digital marketer. She's interested in innovations & innovators in technology and those working toward social good. Follow Marla on Twitter at @marlashaivitz.

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