Purikura or ‘photo sticker’ machines are a special type of photo booth that produce photo stickers. Jointly developed by Atlus and Sega, the first Purikura machines were sold in July 1995. Still going strong in Japan they have spread throughout Asia to Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and even the UK.
How do they work?
Inserting money in the machine money slot, multiple customers can enter the booth and pose for a set number of exposures. Some common options include the ability to alter lighting and backdrops while the newest versions offer features such as cameras from a variety of angles, fans, seats, and blue screen effects, changing hair colour, eye colour and your appearance.
Once the pictures have been taken, the customer selects the pictures that they wish to keep and customise them using a touch screen or pen-sensitive screen. The touch screen gives them options such as shiny stamps, clip art, colourful backdrops, borders, auto text, date stamp and pens that can be superimposed onto the photographs.
Features that can be found in some sticker machines are customising the beauty of the customers such as brightening the pictures, making the eyes sparkle more, changing the hair, bringing a more reddish colour to the lips and fixing any blemishes by having them blurred. Other features include cutting out the original background and replacing it with a different background. Certain backgrounds may be chosen so when the machine prints out the picture, the final sticker will be shiny with sparkles.
Finally, the number and size of the pictures can be chosen within the layout section so you can pick a few big ones, or multiple small ones to divide between friends. Some photo booths also have email capability to text to mobile phones or email. Other photo places have a scanner and laptop at the cashiers desk for customers to scan and copy their original picture before they cut and divide the pictures amongst their group.
Photo sticker booths are particularly popular among young people as an inexpensive form of recreation. The pictures can be kept as souvenirs or traded with friends.
Purikura in London:
There is actually one known Purikura booth located in China Town, Westend, London. Here staff operate the machines for customers and take payment in pounds rather than yen. With three different types:
Pink Machine – you choose a layout and then take photos according to the layout with a plain white background
Purikura machine – the only Japanese Purikura, where the staff bypasses the automatic settings for you to take 8 automatic photos. You sit in front of a green screen using sofas and monkey bars to hang upside down create the illusion of carrying your friends too. After you choose your four favourite photos to be large, you can then go to one of the editing pods to add your own unique style to the sticker photos.