Back in the dark ages, you couldn't just print your photos out at home on your printer, or use an automated machine. You had to hand your rolls of film or disposable cameras over to someone else to develop, and you KNEW they looked at all your weird photos. Thank goodness we live in the future now.
Here are 35 of the weirdest photos professional photo developers have had to develop.
Sounds like a crazy time…
I develop film right now. We got my favorite thing recently.
So when you look through a roll, you get some idea of a story. We got one roll recently. Paris vacation, shots of the Eiffel Tower, and so on. Then guy doing lines in his hotel room, then 3 shots later, it’s him in his underwear, in that same hotel room, holding a goat’s head. The flash was on too, so the goat’s eyes are glowing. No context, nothing. I love it.
Yeah…. sorry, that’s not how those work…
A guy comes in saying he wants to pick up his photos, so as usual we take his name and go to the drawer to look for them.
“Hmm, nothing there by that name,” I say, “Perhaps another name?”
“No,” he says, so I asked when he brought the film in to be developed.
“It was a disposable camera,” says the guy. I say, “okay, so when did you bring in the camera to be developed?”
“IT WAS A DISPOSABLE CAMERA,” he says.
After a bit of toing and froing, turns out he took the term “disposable camera” literally, so threw it in the bin right after using it. When I asked him how he expected the photos to get to us from the bin, he said “I dunno, satellites or something?”
Sometimes you have to call the cops…
When I was about 16-17 I worked for CVS as a photo tech. I once had a roll that was a series of trophy pictures of naked women laying all in the same bed. The problem is I knew some of them were definitely under 18 as I went to high school with them.
So I told my manager she needed to take a look at this and she said when the guy came in that she wanted to talk to him. I called him, told him his rolls were all set and when he came in she had cops waiting for him.
Well done to whoever took the picture!
I used to work in a Target photo lab. There were a lot of people with disposable cameras from parties where people appeared in various forms of undress. Once, a hunter brought in pictures of a hunting trip and subsequent butchering of a deer.
My personal favorite was a picture from a camping trip. These campers had built a wooden forest toilet. Imagine an outhouse in the middle of a beautiful forest but without any walls. The picture was just this guy sitting on the toilet completely unaware of the photographer. He was totally at peace. It was beautiful.
Nicely done, dude…
I made some poor soul develop pics of me posing as Rose from The Titanic. Fully nude, jewelry and all.
I’m a dude.
Even prisoners need their photos.
Use to develop film from a prison. They’d give the inmates disposable cameras for some reason. I think they were instructed to take pictures of their friends so the inmates would reveal who’s in what gang, idk. Any-who, between pictures of dudes making gang signs and posing in groups there would be pictures of finger-paintings, which I thought was kind of sweet.
Talk about awkward holidays…
I worked at a retail store that you could pick up your packs of photos from a large bin. Occasionally there would be a torn pack and a couple photos would fall out between the inventory truck and the customer pickup bin.
One such time, it was the photo index card that I found on the ground. Picked it up and looked at it. Showed a sequence of pictures: some grandma’s birthday party, kids playing, the (presumably) mom naked, the mom and dude having sex, random family gathering and portraits, and then a Thanksgiving.
This one’s out of this world…
Back in high school I worked at a photo lab. I come in one day, grab a roll, and start doing my thing just like I did every day. The first roll I grabbed had the most convincing UFO pictures I had ever seen.
Seriously. These photos looked real. There were even 2 or 3 with what appeared to be an Alien in a field, again, like nothing I’ve ever seen. No Sci-fi can compete with what I saw in those few pictures.
Not 5 minutes later a man walks in asking for the photos I just developed. I hand them to him and he leans in real serious and asks me, “Did ya look at em?” I jokingly said, “Sir, I don’t have time to look at half the pictures we develop.” Then he paid me and left.
Okay, well that’s just terrifying…
So my Aunt has a picture of her and her kids in front of their farm house. Unfortunately, she accidentally super-imposed the picture of her mother-in-law in her funeral casket so she was hovering in the sky above her grandchildren. My cousin called it “Grandma Levitating,” and my Aunt had it in her house for years.
How does this even happen?
Never worked with any physical film other than to box it up to ship to Fujifilm, but a good part of my job right now is printing people’s photo orders. Most of it is pretty boring and typical…occasional sexy selfies or the guy with the BBW fetish.
And then there was the time a few weeks ago I printed a picture of a guy laying in the middle of the street, head blown off and brains strewn everywhere.
The kicker to me was that it was mixed in with other innocent pictures of kids and scenery…and then, suddenly, brains.
Well, I mean that would be tough… RIGHT???!!!
The best one was the dude who decided to take a picture of his penis in a hot dog bun (no, that is not an innuendo). He did not fill the bun out.
Well now he’ll have the memories forever!
Had a guy drop off a roll of film that he said he found and had no idea what was on it. That’s not exactly encouraging. I knew I had to take a look at this one.
Developed it and it was almost like a frame-by-frame of a couch in the middle of a junkyard with two guys pouring gasoline on it and lighting it on fire. When he came to pick it up he was baffled, because he was one of the guys in the photo but had no recollection of that day.
Yeah I can see how that would be strange…
I work in a lab now. We have a guy who goes to places like Guatemala, following the death squads around, amazing photos, and that’s like 75% of his rolls. The other 25% is kids playing soccer in the streets there. Equally amazing shots, great photographer, just kinda weird to go from scanning random vacation shots to pools of blood on the ground and then to kids playing.
Yeah maybe take a look through before getting that developed…
I worked on a photo desk in a supermarket for 3 years. The craziest one I ever had was when a guy asked to print off his wedding pictures from his phone. He didn’t realize he’d selected everything on there to be printed, and ended up with a bunch of printouts of him getting it on with another guy just before the wedding.
I mean of course they did…
When I was in the Navy I had a disposable camera, now submariners are crazy, so I left the camera in the sonar shack. Well when we pulled into port I sent the camera off to my wife to develop. She told me that they wouldn’t develop all the pictures, my shipmates had taken a bunch of pictures of their junk.
People keep everything in there.
Back in the early 90s our grocery store developed film. One pic made no sense in the negative, but when printed produced a point of view shot of a guy having sex with a handbag. You could see all the miscellaneous purse contents wrapped around his junk.
It really does make you wonder.
I used to be a tech in a one hour photo lab, back when we still processed the film in the store.
Some years back I had a customer bring in a couple of rolls of film and make me promise to delete them from our machine’s archives when they were done.
The images were from Sept. 11, 2001. This guy was there and took pictures of the towers as they burned, but waited nearly a decade to get them developed. So I was the first and likely one of the few people who will ever see those particular photos of that day. True to my word I never shared them with anyone (yes, we do share crazy pictures with our coworkers), but I still remember them.
Makes you wonder how many photos like that exist in the world. Unfortunately, he’d waited too long to develop them, so some of the pictures were lost, as negatives are sensitive and can easily be damaged over time due to x-ray, heat, moisture, or light exposure.
Wow that’s pretty saucy.
I haven’t personally experienced anything weird (other than seeing about 1/3 of a NSFW in one pic), my lab manager has told me though that he’s seen some weird shit in his day.
One time he had a woman develop some photos, which included shots of her in lingerie. After the photos were developed and handed to her, the woman asks my manager, in a kind of embarrassed voice, “did you see any of the photos?” After saying he did, she leaned in and whispered “…did you like them?”
Yeah, call the cops on that one.
We had a client who always brought rolls of what looked like mediocre quality nude model pics. Not the girls, but the photographic quality. They were on a basic white background. They were the formulaic poses, and the girls didn’t look particularly stoked to be there.
One day, he brings three rolls in and we get to developing. It’s myself and my friend in the shop at the time and I was on the printer. The three rolls were of two women, a bunch of individual pics, and some together. Their demeanor seemed to go downhill as their state of undress increased; smiling to sad to almost blank.
I got a bad feeling and showed my friend. She said she’d developed some the others the previous day that looked off too. Luckily he hadn’t picked them up when he dropped these off. The girls looked drugged. We immediately called the cops (it was a one hour job.) Luckily, they got there before he did.
Our boss was pissed that we breached client confidentiality. When the article came out three days later that he’d drug girls, photograph them, and then sexually molest them (including some who were 15 and 16,) I felt vindicated. And guilty that I hadn’t paid more attention before.
Wow, what a piece of history.
I worked at a camera store in my high schools and college days, and we had a photo lab in the back… It was a college town and so there were plenty of photos of young adults exploring their sexuality, etc. I never saw anything that I considered inappropriate. We did have a cardboard cover for the machine output hopper so that people wouldn’t see any photos of nudity and get upset.
However, the most memorable images I remember printing were from 1989, from the Tienanmen Square riots. You know, the man holding up the line of tanks (The Tank Man)? And the 200+ people who were killed? It was a big deal in the world at that time, and especially in college towns for a few reasons.
First, the protesters were mostly college-aged Chinese. Second, there were a lot of Chinese grad students on campuses in the US, and they felt deeply impacted by this. Many knew people protesting in China.
We had students coming into the store with photos they took off the TV screen so they could reproduce them in the hundreds to send back to China to circumvent the regime’s oppressive control of the media.
I’ll never forget those events, and the students desire to do their part, even though they were 1/2 the world away.
What a creep…
There was one super sleazy guy who used to come in and print photos on the instant kiosks. Most of the pictures he printed were girls of questionable legality, posing but not nude. He claimed to be a photographer, but he was gross and gave off a really creepy vibe. I showed my manager a few of the pictures he happened to leave behind one day and got him banned from our photo lab, but there was nothing else we could do about it.
By and large though, most photos weren’t all that memorable. 99% of people suck at taking pictures. My least favorites were those disposable cameras people would leave on the tables at wedding receptions.
Guaranteed I’d spend an entire night developing 30 rolls of absolute garbo pictures, so boring. Those and underwater disposables, total waste of money, but at least they were fun to pop open. I used to see how far I could get the little plastic shutter to launch across the lab.
Okay I guess that’s one way to react…
I used to shoot a lot of film when I was in college. There was a community studio and photo lab.
An acquaintance of mine was in the next studio over and had a hot model. They closed the partition, which is very common, and shot away.
I saw the guy the next day and asked how his shoot went. Handed me a wonderful artistic black&white print of a vagina. Perfect lighting, perfect printing.
I still have it somewhere.
Well, what a coincidence!
I have an old college buddy several states away that used to work for Walmart and develop pictures there. He told me of two stories.
The first being about a guy that had a roll developed when he visited the Sturgis Motorcycle rally. Going through and there’s typical stuff: bikes, chicks, bars. Then all of a sudden the rest of the roll is just this dude (the camera’s owner) high-fiving an entire biker gang. Apparently one of the bikers picked up the camera and started taking photos.
The second was a women who was developing pictures of me. Remember, this is states away, so my friend, upon recognizing me in the pictures, got worried. All these shots of me just standing around talking. He finally mustered up the courage to ask her about the photos, and she told him about a great tour she had in the Black Hills and her lovely tour guide (which was me). He was less worried after that. I was pretty blown away by the coincidence, however.
That actually sounds pretty fun…
I worked at a pharmacy on a major college campus for a couple of years, and I saw plenty of strange stuff. When film got brought to us, or digital orders came in, you gave them a quick scan through for banned pictures, which only came up once.
I saw a fair share of pictures of people who were drunk, which while funny the first time you see it, after a while it got old.
I saw hazing pictures from a fraternity where pledges had plungers strapped to their heads and the were fencing each other with them.
I bet he was…
I worked in a film lab for all of 2 months. The weirdest roll I ever got was of this old couple’s poop fetish.
The husband took close up pictures of his wife crapping on the lawn and it was all very vivid. He was actually a pretty good photographer, though.).
That’s really too bad… 🙁
My mother once developed photos for the police and they contained pictures of a man who hanged himself.
By the time the photos had been taken, he’d been there for a few days. She hadn’t been warned about it ahead of time.
The images stuck with her for years.
Good for business…
Worked at a grocery shop developing photos in the early 2000’s. Developed a roll which had a bunch of pics of a MASSIVE grow op.
When the older lady came in to collect I asked her about her hedge clipping business, she didn’t realize her son had taken some of the photos. I told it was cool, I was a smoker too, she gave me her number and I ended up becoming a customer of hers!
Not so awkward for her, apparently…
I work at a store (no details) that has a photo development section. A lady came asking for her photos and I couldn’t find them anywhere. So I check in the system and see her name so I decided to reprint them.
In order to print them I need to open a page on the computer that showed all of her pictures, and when I looked it was all naked pictures. This lady was getting naked pictures of herself printed out at a store where some employee will have to see them.
After I printed them out, she smiled and winked and walked away. Incredibly awkward.
Wow, what a find…
I grew up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and my Mom used to get photos developed at the WalMart or CVS or whatever, nowhere special.
I remember distinctly that a week or two after 9/11, we got a package of our photos returned — interspersed within pictures of my grandparents, brothers, toddler me in my underwear, and other standard fare, there was an eyewitness photograph from the Pentagon immediately after it was hit.
I have no idea whether or not my parents still have the photo.
Just one photo, sitting within out normal family stuff. Maybe a great metaphor for the mental impact of 9/11 on the American psyche yadda yadda yadda.
I used to work at a store that had a photo department, I was 16. While at a party one night I took my gf on the back porch to hang out. Someone at the party held a camera around the corner of the house and snapped a pic.
Didn’t really bother either of us at the time but doesn’t then she brought it in while I’m working and ask for the pictures back in an hour.
Luckily the lady working in that department was cool so I told what was about to come out of the printer. She made me a couple copies of a perfect side shot of me with my girlfriend.
Oh come the heck on
A person would sit and take photos of their TV with a digital camera and then print out every single photo. His photo orders were usually in the hundreds of dollars. This would occur 4-5 times a month and the photos were like a child took them.
Burning My Forehead
A friend of mine worked in her dad’s photo lab in the 80s. This woman brought her instamatic-type camera back because “All the pictures are blurry” and “It keeps burning my forehead” WTF? Friend says “Do you have your camera with you?” Lady pulls it out, my friend looks at it for a second or two and says: “Can you show me how you take a picture?” Yep, lady had it backwards….was looking into the lens, not the viewfinder, and the small flash on the top was in contact with her forehead….my friend could not speak for laughing and the woman got all upset with her for it.
When I was moving out for college, I found one from a family beach trip from when I was 11. It was like 15% pictures of crabs, 20% pictures of a dog, and 65% hot young women doing beach stuff. I knew I was kinda a creepy kid…but Jesus… these were some real creep-shots. I threw them away immediately.
Used to develop film for the local coroner. Saw a lot of dead people. Babies. People I grew up with. Didn’t enjoy that job.
That’s not a job for your kid!
I used to work on a cruise ship developing film. Some guy would get films sent from his wife that we would develop.
Some of them were pretty raunchy. We assumed she used a timer to take these. But in one set of shots there was a mirror in the background. We could see that the pictures were actually being taken by their 11 or 12-year-old son.
Note: Comments have been edited for clarity.