I don’t go to shoots very often but I dread whenever I have to because of how lengthy and formal the process of portrait-taking can be. It’s pretty draining. To overcome that, the concept of self-control photography was born.
“Self-control photography is very big and trending in Korea right now. I’ve seen my friends back in Korea going for casual self-shoots for a while now,” shared Hyun Chae, founder of Self Ctrl Studio.
Hyun Chae is a Korean immigrant who’s been residing in Malaysia for about 13 years now with her family. Because they don’t visit Korea often, Hyun Chae thought of bringing this popular photography trend here for herself and Malaysians to enjoy.
Hence, in November 2020, she started Self Ctrl Studio in a residential duplex in Empire City close by where she lives.
For Awkward And Camera-Shy People
“I’m pretty sure most people are very camera-shy and awkward when there is a photographer around,” Hyun Chae shared.
“Letting people take control of their own shoots makes the photos so much better in a way, because no one needs to feel shy or awkward. They can just be themselves and more natural.”
Customers that choose her service are usually those who prefer casual and candid photos, be it family, friend group or couple shots.
As of now, Hyun Chae only takes bookings when customers want to have a photoshoot session. Each session costs RM100 for 20 minutes, with an additional RM20 added for an extra 10 minutes.
The RM100 only covers 2 people, but you can have up to 6 people at the shoot, though every extra headcount will cost an additional RM20 (including kids and pets, barring any promotions). So say if 3 people wanted to come in for a shoot, it’ll be RM120 for 20 minutes.
You can also opt to have Hyun Chae take the pictures for you, which will be an additional RM50.
These costs are quite below the market price of standard photography sessions in Malaysia. What she factors into costing are rent, overhead costs of the duplex, and printing.
“Sometimes I get inquiries from my customers about me taking family or baby shoots for them and I’ll charge them at this cheap price because I don’t have a background in photography,” she explained.
Take As Many Photos As You Wish, Plus Free Coffee
Before you begin taking photos, Hyun Chae will first explain to you how to use the set, props, and camera remote. As for how to pose, she won’t be directing her customers, though.
“I’m not a great poser myself. I feel like I’m the most awkward person on camera, but I print out photos of customers in the past for them to refer to.”
“Some of my customers can take up to 200 photos, whereas some take only about 50 per session,” she shared.
Afterwards, she’ll head upstairs and leave you with privacy to take the pictures. She’ll come back after 10 minutes to help change your photos to portrait or landscape if you’d like.
“There’s a kitchen and a dining table as well since it’s a residential studio. So once the customers are done with the shoot, I’ll make some coffee for them.”
Hyun Chae shares all the original soft copies of the photos her customers have taken with them, plus two 4×6 hard copy prints of their choice on the spot with a frame. Additionally, she also provides a time-lapse video of the whole shoot session for her customers.
“I know a lot of studios charge extra when customers want all the original files. Because I’m not a professional, I don’t want to do that since they’re the ones who took the time to take all their photos, and whether or not they like their photos is up to them to choose,” she explained.
Getting More Koreans Than Malaysians For Her Shoot
Although the whole point of Hyun Chae bringing this photography concept here is for Malaysians to enjoy it, in reality, she actually gets more Korean customers than locals.
“65% of my customers are Koreans. I don’t mind more Koreans coming in for a shoot, but I’d like locals here to enjoy this concept as well.”
On average, Self Ctrl Studio gets about 10 to 15 sessions per month, with a good mix of customers who want family shots, pet shots, or even couple shots.
Currently, her main challenge with the business is visibility. Because her studio isn’t located in shop lots but a residential area, it’s hard for Self Ctrl Studio to get exposed to people around or take walk-ins.
However, it’s not too bad of a situation as Hyun Chae has a full-time job and intends to only manage this business as a hobby.
During MCO, she had to close down her studio for a bit, but opened it back up when CMCO started.
Since It’s Self-Control, Can’t I Recreate This At Home?
“If someone thinks their phone and houses can do something similar to what my studio can provide, then I don’t think those people will come to my studio,” she explained.
While our phones these days can take high-quality photos, most people don’t have a high-quality backdrop or lighting in their houses.
“At most, maybe people have just a cloth or a really cheap backdrop, so I’d say it’s really different from an actual studio,” Hyun Chae added.
Since this was something she started out of passion, she’s yet to think about her goals for this studio in the long run.
In the meantime, Hyun Chae simply hopes she’ll be able to get more Malaysians as customers and bring in different types of photo prints like Polaroids to Self Ctrl Studio.
- You can learn more about Self Ctrl Studio here.
- You can read about other startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Hyun Chae, founder of Self Ctrl Studio