"I currently work in a photo lab at a regional superstore, rivaling Walmart.
I get a lot of weird stuff and people, but the one that sticks out is this old couple who visit once a month or so. They like to print out pictures of cheerleaders and ring girls that they take off the TV.
They sit there with their crappy $30 smartphone camera taking pictures of any hot girl on the television screen, then complain when it prints out in low quality and never end up buying them. Last time, he was in, he tried covering for himself by saying he was at the venue, and the manager said to 'have at it with the girls, take as many pictures as you like,' but again, it's still clearly the TV. It's a weird process my coworkers and I go through."
"This was in the mid-late '90s. We were a small independent one-hour photo lab right smack in the middle of town. Lots of stories.
The three that stick out the most:
It was an interesting experience for sure."
"I think my dad was accidentally the weirdest customer for an unsuspecting photo developer about 20 years ago.
He found an old camera in our house that hadn't been touched in years. He couldn't remember what photos were on it but assumed they were wholesome pictures of birthday parties and holidays. He went to get the pictures developed on his lunch break at work the next day.
It turns out my sister and I (who were about 5 and 3 years old at the time) thought it would be hilarious to take pictures of our bums on the camera, which my dad had no idea about. He said the guy developing the pictures seemed to be in his late teens/early 20s and gave him an EXTREMELY disgusted look and slammed the pictures down on the table. My dad had no idea what he had done to tick this guy off because he had been perfectly friendly just a few minutes beforehand. He didn't realize why they guy was angry until he got home and looked through the pictures to find grainy image after grainy image of a children's bare bums."
"I worked for three different labs. I did a lot of stuff for the FBI. The worst was a car accident involving a lifted truck and a Jazzy scooter. They put the pieces of the victim into little Tupperware containers then documented each piece. They were the only pictures I have ever seen and felt physically ill. I had to have my boss finish them.
We also had a lot of 'industrial accidents.' They usually involved someone falling off of high scaffolding or 'having a tool dropped on them accidentally.' I have seen the remnants of people burned alive and beaten/stabbed to death. I turned down the job offer to be a lead evidence photographer for them when I was done printing for them.
I had evidence of a botched circumcision for a lawsuit against a pediatrician, and I had a guy that used to do boudoir albums, that was really bad at it. Like comically bad. He would come in every week with slightly better pics after two years they were just ok.
The weirdest though was a regular customer that brought in her young sons' disposable cameras. The boys were 6-7 years old. One was filled with 35 pictures of his finger in front of the viewfinder, and another was a bunch of random pictures of the sky, the family, and a cat. The second roll also contained about eight pictures of the boys comparing sizes of their junk. It was clear from the pictures that they were taken by the boys. I chatted with the mother who turned beet red and apologized profusely she had the negatives destroyed, and I never printed the entire roll.
I also had to photoshop a boy's privates off once. An elderly lady had taken care of her 4-year-old grandson and let him play in the backyard pool she snapped a few pics of him to remember the occasion. A few weeks later, he and his mother were killed in an accident. She had to make the funeral arrangements and the only pictures she had of the boy were of him playing in the pool in the nude. I helped her select a viable picture, enlarged the photo as much as possible and used some creative cropping as well as a digital Penectomy to make sure she could use the photo."
"My dad isn't a career photographer, but he's into it as a hobby. He has the fancy, bulky camera with the expensive lenses and lights. He basically has professional grade equipment as a hobbyist.
One of his co-workers was getting married and asked my dad to be a photographer along with a professional one they had hired. He went, took pictures with the proper angles, and then went home to edit and send them out to his co-worker and guests.
He was editing a photo of the bride and groom dancing and was doing some kind of low light balancing in the background when he noticed something...inappropriate going on in the background. Between the bride and groom were the dinner tables in the background. A couple of tables back, in the low, shadowy light of the photo, was a woman pleasuring a man underneath the table. My dad was at just the right angle when taking the photo that you could see it in full glory. They both had straight faces and based off what I could tell, you would never know what was happening.
My dad only stumbled upon this because he had to zoom into the photo to do whatever light balancing he was going for. You wouldn't be able to see it in the regular picture unless you were actively looking for it, and even then it was kind of small, so it would go overlooked incredibly easy. My dad thought it was hilarious so he didn't even bother editing the photo that he sent to the groom. The groom and his wife have the photo hanging up in their bedroom and have no idea what is happening in the background."
"I worked in various photo labs in my late teens through early 20s. At the last one-hour photo lab, there was one customer however that sticks out in my mind as having a serial killer-y type vibe.
It was close to the end of the night, I wasn't wearing my lab coat, and I had on a black Tribe Called Quest-The Low-End Theory shirt as I counted down the last couple of hours of my shift. A customer came in, complimented my shirt and dropped off a roll or two to be developed. The male customer was quite charismatic, we had a passing conversation about the band of which he did not seem to know about at all. His unawareness of the band struck me as a little odd seeing as how he had complimented my shirt, which features a crouching woman whose form is revealed by blacklight-esque lighting and painterly lines of red going down her body with the band's logo above her head. I developed the customer's negatives and printed out his 4x6 Luster Finish photos.
His photographs were all 'selfies,' probably accomplished with a timer and a tripod, this was before the smartphone era. I reviewed his photographs as I packaged them up, we had to ensure quality while also preventing the lab from disseminating that kind of imagery. This customer's 'selfies' featured him fetishistically pulling up on pantyhose that he wore on his head. He was shirtless in all his photos, and he was pulling down on his shorts in few to reveal the top of his hip. As the sequence of images continued, the customer's photographs then began to feature him pouring red paint over his body, similar to the logo on my shirt. He was never naked in his photographs, so I had to package them up and prepare for Captain Creepy Red Paint Panty Hose Head Man to come back to pick up his order. He came in at around the one-hour mark to pick up his prints, I recognized him the second he came in. He had a different demeanor as I rang him up, he made no eye contact, and was now terse and hurried. To this day that guy creeps me out and it's almost been 20 years."
"I had a lady, who was an amateur/hobby model, come in regularly. She would take a flight someplace beautiful, take a few rolls of shots, and have them developed here.
One roll started with her on a city street, in an NYC taxi, in a park, then people covered in dust, crowds running, a skyscraper on fire. She'd been modeling in NYC on September 11, 2001."
"I don't develop photos, but I work at a place that digitizes photos. Basically, people send in photos that were printed out and I run them through a scanner, touch it up, and then send them a flash drive with their photos on it.
I've seen a lot of weird photos, but the picture that I always tell people about is this one of a lady getting a c-section. It was of a side view of the entire operation, so you could see the lady's upper body, a curtain so she couldn't see what was happening, and then her abdomen with all of he organs moved out so the could take her baby out.
It was gross, but what made the picture bearable was that the lady was looking at the camera high on whatever the doctors gave her and sticking out her tongue and giving those metal horns. It was pretty funny."
"While I was still in school, I worked in a camera store, and we developed photographs. The printing tech called me upstairs one day to show me something he thought was quite odd.
This sweet old lady had handed in a roll of film and an old photo where the clouds kind of, sort of, but not really at all looked like God and wanted it copied. She was a typical god-fearing, Catholic old Irish woman. The odd thing was what was in her roll of film.
The shots were mainly of typical family pics taken in Spain: happy family group shots, grandkids playing, the usual. Except right in the middle of the roll were four shots of a guy in his mid-30s laying underneath a chair in a pool of his own blood.
Naturally, I called the police, and they sent two detectives down to look at the shots. They were cool and decided to organize a little sting. When the woman returned I was to stall her, while we called the detectives, who were waiting in a car around the corner. All went according to plan and they met her when outside discreetly when she left the store.
The detectives were nice enough to come back and tell us the results. It turns out the man in the photos was the woman's son, who had a serious drinking problem. The photos were taken after a particular binge where he nearly killed himself. She took them to show him once he was sober at an intervention they had planned.
He died the week previous, and she had completely forgotten about the photos and fell apart when the detectives showed them to her. I'll never forget it."
"I used to be a cashier in a pharmacy that had a little photo lab. You could come in and print off your pictures, and we would charge per photo.
I had a middle-aged man come in a print off like 200-300 photos, he said he would come back after he finished his other errands, as that many pictures would take a while to print. So in between customers, I would have to grab the photos from the machine and bundle them, but then I saw what they were.
Literally, ALL of them were of Taylor Swift. All taken from concerts/live performances. Each photo was unique from the last, she was wearing a different outfit in every single photo. A coworker and I figured he must sell them or something, but I still have no idea."
"I don't develop photos myself, but my professor, who used to be a social worker, told me some stories of some that she came across (note photo developers are to notify social workers if they come across anything weird or troubling).
In one story she told us, she had picked up a batch of photos and gone to the house of the person these photos belonged to. At this point, she had not opened up the envelope to see what the photos contained. Upon arriving at the scene, she took a look and immediately threw up on sight. Now I was skeptical because I've never heard of someone throwing up from a photo, but then she finally told us what the images contained and it all made sense:
A man had taken photos of his dog getting intimate with his naked, 6-year-old daughter.
She's no longer a social worker."
"I used to work for Ritz Camera back in the late '90s and early '00s. I've seen it all. Hunters prepping deer carcasses. Gay and straight romance. The one that sticks out was a woman taking her boyfriend raw-dog, and then in another photo finding new uses for smoked sausages.
I worked in the DC area, and one of the locations I worked at was near the DEA. So I developed a lot of photos of labs that blew up and the people who died as a result. Pics of dead people in a casket at their funeral were also popular.
The most disturbing photos for me ever was a baby that was stillborn. It must have only been in utero for about four or five months. Its eyes hadn't even developed and its eyelids were sealed shut. The parents dressed it up in a small onesie and beanie cap. When I realized what it was and saw they wanted 5x7 and 8x10 photos made, I told my boss I wouldn't print it and went on a long smoke break while he did it. I feel for those parents, but I can't imagine wanting pics of my half-formed baby to hang around the house."
"An old man would bring in roll after roll of a woman posing like she was dead but in her underwear. The first time I saw his pictures I thought he killed her. He had her in different underwear all the time. Then she finally came in with him, alive and well. He obviously had no idea we looked at all the pictures for color correction.
Another weird one was an old lady who dropped off a roll of two little girls in lingerie posing provocatively and showing their privates. I called the police over that one. They gave me a list of questions to ask and hid around the corner to listen. I was only 17 years old myself. I have no idea what happened after she walked out the door with police."
"My mom used to do work at a photo lab. She came across lots of nude and intimate pictures, as you might expect. It got worse when her old college professor started dropping his cameras there. Everyone knew, even back in college, that he was sleeping with students, but it was consensual and everyone was of legal age, so whatever. But now she was seeing it all, and he knew she was. Harassment.
He later killed one of his patients, and it turned out that a bunch of the pictures my mother helped develop were actually of sedated girls he abused in their sleep."
"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 bodies. 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.
However, the most memorable images I remember printing were from 1989, from the Tiananmen 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 half-way around the world.
We gave them massive discounts on the orders, too."
"I worked in a photo lab for almost 10 years, and I saw plenty of weird pictures. My favorite was a guy who dropped off a standard 24 roll.
The first 12 pictures were of an older car that he was restoring, in various angles and lighting. He had a portrait of Jesus that he kept moving so that it was in the bottom of each picture.
The other 12 photos were of him getting it on with his girlfriend in the car. The portrait of Jesus was not in those pictures."
"I had a summer job developing photos at a major American pharmacy/retail chain about 10 years ago. The photo development process itself was fairly uncomplicated, as a machine automated most of the work. I would load the 35mm roll into the compartment, seal it in, select a few settings, and the pictures would pop out in a few minutes.
The store wasn't usually busy, so sometimes I'd look through people's photos. There was the usual assortment of family trips, Bar Mitzvahs, graduations, awkward proto-selfies, photo mess-ups of people's feet and blurred walls. But every couple of weeks, I'd load in an inconspicuous roll of film, and out would pop the gore.
Corpses. A torso opened up. A stainless steel tray holding some organs. A crushed skull, orange-pink brain clearly visible. It got to be pretty disturbing. I would just finish putting photos of a kid's birthday party into an envelope for the customer to pick up, go to the machine to pick up the next batch, and see multiple puncture and slash wounds on a hairy chest. Or the bloated, opened abdominal cavity of an obese woman. A couple of the other staff would always demand to know when the sick pictures would turn up, so they could have a look, too. We speculated, for fun, that there was a serial killer in town, and that he was brazenly taunting us with his work. Of course, we had the customer's last name, first initial, and phone number on the packet we'd keep the photos in, ready for them to come and pick it up.
He came in one day to pick up his shots while I was working the photo area. When he told me his last name, he must have noticed that I paused a little longer than normal before retrieving his photos, and he gave me a wry little smile. 'You've seen my work?' he asked me. I stammered out some kind of affirmative response. His little smile grew a little more. 'Don't get any weird ideas, kid. I'm the county coroner.'"