Lesson #6: taking pictures.
Growing up in Rowland Heights, my friends and I frequented Cue, a store that is literally filled with picture-taking machines that allow groups of people to crowd inside the booth to take pictures. They run exclusively in the Japanese language and allow you to edit the photos on site and print out stickers so you can decorate your phones, binders and paraphernalia. You must also pay a fee to use these machines.
Although Japanese isn’t the easiest language to understand, you learn a thing or two about the art of working the tricky machines when you live in Rowland Heights. Throughout all of middle school and some of high school, one of the things my friends and I looked forward to was collecting the stickers and putting them on our cell phones and binders at school. Using the machines is almost like a rite of passage in this suburb.
Here are my four tips on using these photobooths like a professional.
Tip #1: go with a group.
Not only is it more reassuring and comforting to go with more than one person, perhaps you can find a friend who has used the machines before. If not, fear not because traveling in packs is completely normal at Cue and the best part comes when everyone in the group splits the total cost of the booth. (You usually end up only spending $1 to $5 at the most per machine.)
Tip #2: pick your booth wisely.
There are a variety of machines in Cue and at first glance, it can be overwhelming. Take deep breaths and walk around. Remember that price is the easiest way to choose a machine because most of them will range anywhere from $7 to $20 dollars. My favorite for the first-timer or the low-budget college student are the $7 machines; they get the job done and you still get a worthwhile first experience.
Tip #3: make sure any unwanted belongings or items are not showing.
The biggest mistake people make is not putting away their cell phones or unwanted items before inserting money into the machine. Once the program starts, there is a timer that counts down for each decision you need to make. The phones and awkward keychain lanyards are forgotten until it is too late and the pictures are already flashing. I suggest piling them all up in a corner within the booth that is not visible to the camera.
Tip #4: read the signs, heed the warnings and ask for help.
Luckily, the Cue staff have posted their own translations and tips alongside each machine. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for help if you have difficulty reading the machine or deciding between screens. Believe it or not, there are also restrictions about using the machines, so make sure to heed those. For example: Cue does not allow you to use your camera phone or any other camera to take pictures inside the photobooth to utilize the free backgrounds.
My good friend Hana and I had a good time being nostalgic and reminiscing about our younger days. We made a trip to Cue on a weekday because it is common knowledge that Cue is ridiculously crowded on the weekends, filled with middle and high schoolers celebrating a night out. Cue your way in and try the machines out! I guarantee a jolly good time and some inexpensive souvenirs while you are at it.
(All photos taken by Yours Truly)