Photobooth Tintype Studio in San Fran to Close

Photobooth Tintype Studio in San Fran to Close

Some four thousand custom tintype portraits, countless Polaroids and more than 30 gallery shows but after four years in business, Photobooth San Francisco is closing its doors at the end of March 2014. One of the few commercial studios selling custom hand-made tintypes, Photo Booth, located on Valencia Street, has been a favorite and easy place to have a one-of-a-kind metal portrait made.


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While you may be quick to assume that financial reasons are behind the closing, co-owner Vince Donovan cites burnout and the staff's collective interest in moving on to new ventures. "The business was doing well enough, but managing it took up a lot of time that was mostly unrewarding," he said. "Running a small business is hard work, especially one where we didn't have an existing business model to follow but had to figure it all out from scratch. Like all small businesses, the majority of our costs were rent and staff. Materials costs were small by comparison."

In addition to booking one last tintype session if you are local to San Francisco, you can also order high resolution scans or digital prints of an image from their archive. Their online store, which includes vintage Polaroid cameras, will remain open until the closing. One hour sessions, including 14x17 sessions with Photobooth co-founder Michael Shindler, will be available until March 30 when the doors will close for good.

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Donovan said he, along with the other photographers who have worked at Photobooth, are looking forward to getting back to making images and spending less time handling the minutiae that comes with small business management. "One thing about running a photography business is that you do a lot of business and not much photography!" said Donovan.

All photographs, including the image of Michael Shindler shooting a tintype during a Photobooth event, appear courtesy of photographer Jonathan Fleming. They are published with permission.

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6 Comments

Mike Kelley's picture

This makes me sad, but is understandable. It is a tiring job shooting tintypes and I imagine pumping out hundreds per week gets old. My picture (seen here at left) is from there. Great place, Michael Schindler is a great guy and was very friendly when we visited.

This is very sad news, I first hear about Photobooth in late 2012 and it was in my list of things to achieve in 2013 (as opposed to resolutions) as was a trip to San Fran.

Savi You's picture

Why not outsource the non-photographer aspects of running the business?

John Riedy's picture

I just checked out their website and it is VERY sad to lose such a unique "old school" photography business like that. That said, I think they were WAY WAY WAY underpricing their products. Having no idea what they were charging, I would have guessed that an 11x17 custom tintype delivered in a museum quality shadowbox frame would have cost at LEAST $1500 if not closer to $3000. I was shocked when I looked at their site and saw the price was only $550. After all the costs involved, what can they possibly be left with in profit??? All of their products seemed under-priced to me.

Exploding the myth of the joys being your own boss: "Donovan said he, along with the other photographers who have worked at Photobooth, are looking forward to getting back to making images and spending less time handling the minutiae that comes with small business management. “One thing about running a photography business is that you do a lot of business and not much photography!” said Donovan."

Gone but not forgotten. The upside is that companies like mine are able to scoop up some pretty legit talent left behind. The Open Source Film Project (www.theosfp.com) has partnered with @shortformelissa to bring polaroids back to the Bay Area.