Lights, camera, photobooth | Arts & Entertainment

Community is what drew TJ Smith to Telluride, and now she aims to capture that beloved community through her new business, Telluride Photo Booth. Smith’s set-up is in an open-air, easy-to-use booth, as she provides props and know-how. Then she lets event attendees take fun, self-directed photos of themselves and their friends. Depending on the package, photographs can be sent directly from the booth to personal phones or instantly printed. The photo booth has made appearances across town like at the Sheridan Opera House and Transfer Warehouse.

“I’ve always loved taking pictures of other people, and I’ve always been able to prompt them to take ‘candidly candid’ photos,” Smith said.

The idea first entered Smith’s mind in December after she met a mutual friend who had started a photo booth company in Denver. On the day of the introduction, Smith decided she would start a photo booth company in Telluride. Within weeks, she had ordered equipment, set up all the business logistics and created a website.

Smith worked as a flight attendant for eight years for a major airline before moving to Telluride. With a degree in psychology, becoming a small business owner was out of Smith’s comfort zone and expertise, but she was passionate and determined.

She reached out to local small business owners like Pepper Raper Contillo, who owns The Pepporium Vintage, Costume & Consignment shop on Colorado Avenue, for advice and guidance.

“Being self-made in this town, or anywhere really, isn’t easy. I admire and respect anyone working hard to start a business on their own. Luckily, this is a very supportive community with people happy to share their knowledge,” Contillo said.

Over the past few months, Smith has studied the history and workings behind photo booths. In an article by the Chicago Tribune, the first official photo booth was invented by Siberian immigrant and photographer Anatol Josepho in 1925 and placed in New York City. The booth was operated by a coin-in-the-slot machine, and would develop, dr and then deliver the photo to customers. At the time, eight photos cost around 25 cents.

“I don’t want to cut any corners, and I want to become an expert. Becoming an expert in this field takes time. I’ve been listening to podcasts and learning the history of photo booths and learning about photography as a whole, “Smith said.

Smith’s first event was with the Second Chance Humane Society. While the organization is based in Ridgway, the adoption event was held at Chow Down Pet Supplies in Montrose. Smith herself has a rescue dog, so the partnership was a perfect fit.

“The benefits of having the photo booth are endless. Typically, we only have one staff member and a few volunteers. Remembering to take photos is one of the challenges we face. With TJ there, we got amazing photos of everyone,” said Sam Dalsing, assistant manager for Second Chance.

Closer to home at the Sheridan Opera House, the booth was set up in the SHOW Bar after the final night of the sold-out Telluride Theater Burlesque show on March 26. In addition to attendees, a lot of the performers thoroughly enjoyed the chance to capture the essence of the night and continue their performance a little longer. During the performance, photography is prohibited, explained Smith, so a lot of people jumped on the opportunity to take photos in the show bar.

Josh Laydon, Sheridan Opera House facilities and production manager, met Smith when she first moved to Telluride over a year ago.

“She was excited about this new adventure, and even more excited I produced multiple events a year and could help her bring it to the Sheridan Opera House. TJ has a passion for success, and it is so exciting to see her new business launching, “Laydon said.

He enjoyed watching the guests and performers take full advantage of the booth at the event. After Burlesque, Laydon continued to see Telluride Photo Booth images shared and posted across social media.

“Watching guests make funny faces, striking wild poses, and smiling with their friends was fun for me to watch,” Laydon added.

Smith also hopes to work with fellow local small business owners throughout the Telluride region.

“I chose the name Telluride Photo Booth for a reason,” Smith said, “because collaborating with other local small business owners has been my vision since day one.”

Telluride Photo Booth is available for events of all ages like baby showers, weddings, birthday parties, festivals and company parties. For more information on the business and about packages, visit


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