Handing over your personal photos to a stranger behind a counter is an inherently strange and invasive thing, so much so that it became the subject of a film starring Robin Williams in 2002.
If you’d always wandered how closely developers at supermarkets/printing shops etc inspect your snaps in the dark room, and what kind of exhibitionists choose this method over home printing, then an AskReddit this week might interest you.
People who have developed film were asked what the most shocking thing was that they’d seen on customers’ reels. The responses were plentiful, sadly riddled with matters for the police, but also bizarre portraits of guinea pigs in sunglasses and genitalia. Oh, so much genitalia...
“Many years ago I worked the night photolab shift at a Walgreens. I saw more than my fair share of sex, boobs and general things you would expect someone to bring in at 2am to be ran.
"But the most memorable was a guy that worked at a local strip club. He came in every 2 or 3 weeks with several rolls shot of stage shows and in the dressing room of all the girls. He would wait on them to get done then stand there at the counter going through them trying to show them to me.”
“The weirdest ones I saw involved a middle aged couple who either owned a million pets, or got friends to lend them pets for awkward photo shoots. They came in every week with a new set to develop - cats in football uniforms, guinea pigs with glasses, etc. One time I developed a photo shoot of a bunch of lizards dressed like cowboys in front of a cardboard box colored to look like an old western. Weird stuff.”
“Like pretty much everyone else is saying, nude pics happen pretty often.
"I did see a pic of a middle-aged balding man (definitely not on the lower end of the weight spectrum) attempting to shove an apple into his rectum. Like, out of all the fruit, an apple?”
“We had a woman come in who was probably in her 50s. She tried to print out some nude pictures of herself. Me and my coworker had to explain to her that we couldn't print them because it was against company policy. She got mad and told us, "But I still look good for my age! See?" Like as if we were going to agree with her and let her do it.
"This one's not really shocking, but it makes me laugh when I think about it. I had a little old lady come in one day to print out some pictures. She calls me over to the kiosk and asks for my opinion. She has a bunch of selfies and wants to know which one is the best because she's going to try online dating and needs a good profile picture.”
“I once developed pictures for a guy who had pics of himself in his underwear and hiking boots out on a trail.....
"Then there was another group from someone else of detailed pictures of a deer that had failed at jumping a decorative fence and impaled its self on the top.”
“The most (in)famous was an obese couple who had no recollection of the coked out orgy they apparently participated in and photographed via disposable while in Vegas. That was fun explaining why we couldn't sell them the pictures.”
“During my time in a Walgreens Photo Lab years ago, the funniest thing I recall seeing was a roll of film from a party. The guy who dropped the disposable camera off appeared in one of the pictures in tighty whities wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and a belt with toy six-shooters while he was chugging a bottle of Miller Light.”
“I finally have an excuse to tell this story!
"About 5 years ago I worked at a Walmart photo lab. At the time I was by far the youngest employee and everyone else in the photo lab could have easily been my grandmother.
"There was a online order system at the lab where a person could submit pictures online, they would print out, and then the customer could come pick them up. When a person submitted an online order, a little label would print out with the persons name and how many of each size of picture they wanted.
"One fateful afternoon a label printed out with the name Jon Doe, which i remember laughing at briefly. I went over to the printer to grab the order as it printed and BOOM 8"X10" glossy of 'tub girl' [I'd advise you not to Google]. You haven't truly seen tub girl until you've seen it 8X10 glossy... Anyway about this time the label printer started spewing out orders non stop with names like "lolololol", "133713371337", and "fuck you". I ran over to the computer to see that about 100 online orders had been submitted and most of the pictures were either porn, memes, or insults.
"My 60 year old female boss then came to see what was up. I tried to explain to her that people were playing a prank on us and we needed to shut down the lab. She understood but insisted on seeing the pictures... Despite my warnings. You ever seen a internet noob exposed to all the filth of the internet in the span of 30 minutes.... Cause I have... It ain't pretty.
"Ultimately we shut down for a few hours and canceled any orders that came from the internet. We called the cops but since there was no CP they didn't really care to do anything. The thing was this went on for months. Not to that extreme but at least once a week for as long as I worked there. At one point someone printed off a screen shot that had a Web url in it, which lead to some board over at 4chan. I went and looked at it and it had some instructions on how to troll Walmart by submitting fake orders. The worst part was it didn't say to whatever walmart you felt like submitting to, it said to submit specifically to the one where I worked. All in all it wasn't that big a deal but I did get to explain what a Rick roll is to a bunch of old women, so that was neat.”
“Had a mother come in and develop a roll she found in a drawer, it was some family pics and the about 11 of her teenage son getting head from some chick.”
“I worked for Walgreens photo lab for a couple of years. By far the worst was a series of pictures that this old man came in to get developed. All of them were a close up of his junk, with a giant key chain (think janitors keys) tied to a rope hanging off his penis. All of the pictures were of him swinging it around like he was trying to make his d*ck a clock.”
"My favorites was this couple in their 50s and they always brought in pictures of themselves having sex while smoking crack."
"Did 1 hr photo at a drug store. Weirdest roll: 9 shots of Christmas with the family, 5 shots of two girls shaving each others public hair in a bathtub, then the rest of the roll was back to Christmas with the family."
“A 360 degree view of a naked girl on her knees. It was relatively softcore, but I thought it was so odd that the dude had shot 24 photos in a circle around her.
"Also! Pictures from a bachelor party. The party went sound, people were covered in vomit, there were strippers. I did about 500 double takes while processing that one.”
“I worked at a CVS photolab like, 14 years ago. Back then, the developed pictures would fall from the top of the machine into a shelf below, and a motorized arm would push pictures off to the side into a neat little stack.
"I threw in a roll for development right before lunch. Came back, and the photo on top was some dude's d*ck, clear as day. It had been sitting there in plain sight for at least 45 minutes.”
Some responses were pretty dark…
“A murder scene. I worked at a grocery store in the lobby, so I developed a lot of film. This was a picture of a man laying in bed missing the majority of his head, next to a shotgun. We called the police and they waited for the person to pick the film up, he was actually a detective and needed it processed right away so he gave it to me knowing full well what was on it, instead of using the police lab. I was young and it was probably one of the worst things I have seen.”
"The saddest one was a lady who was about 45-50 years old. She came in to get some pictures of herself printed. She said she was trying to choose pictures for her obituary because she'd just been diagnosed with some disease and doctors told her she may not live past another 6 months. I really had no words for that one. Completely caught me off guard. Most pictures I print are of vacations, family, friends, babies, pets, etc. But this one still haunts me. I'm pretty sure it's been over six months since I seen that woman. Makes me wonder how she is.."
"I worked at Ritz camera around 2000. One day a woman came in with a cop and explained that she had a roll of film with her stillborn baby on it. Cop was there to verify it wasn't illegal. She was beyond nervous . .. she asked if I could make it look like the baby was alive. The stillborn pics were bluish grey so I did what I could to "warm it up" since Ritz guaranteed the best colors possible. She was thankful, I took the next day off and the cop came back later to explain that the woman lost her uterus due to some complication during the birth. The lady just wanted to remember her only chance at having a kid."
While others had upbeat endings…
"Worst: lady with cigars stuck in her vagina at an orgy.
"Best: Guy I was sort of starting to date in high school had his little sister come in and develop a role of film with photo editing. That means I preview the photos and edit them before printing. Was just a bunch of photos of trees and shit until I came to pictures of pieces of paper on a picnic table that in each picture said... will... you... go... to... homecoming... with... me? He then came in to pick up the pictures himself for the answer and I obviously said yes. "
It made some Redditors question how their own negatives must have looked…
“Not saying that the sex ones were ok, but sometimes people don't realize how bad it looks. For example when me and brother were about 5 and 3 we were playing with our cocker spaniel in his cage and my brother had a genius idea to close the cage and pretend to be dogs and bark and stuff. My mom came in, thought it was hilarious and took a picture. When we got it developed it was 2 children in their underwear locked in a dog cage. Probably not fun for the developer guy hahah”
And if you were wondering whether staff have a good giggle at you photos…
“Used to work at Walgreens myself. Warning to all customers in urban locations: if you think we ain't noisy about your photos, we are. We really are.”
“[In response] Yes, exactly. I never shared customer photos with my coworkers but when I wasn't there I know the register girls and my manager would snoop through photos for crazy weird ones.
"There were certain people we all knew came in to develop their nude photos so I'd get girls hovering around my station within minutes of them dropping off film.”