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  How Technology Has Affected Professional Photography  
 
 

Monday, 03 September 2018

By Aishah Afandi

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 (Bernama) -- “It is difficult to run a business when technology out there is greater then what we have in here,” laments businessmen Lee Chi Meng, 68.

This veteran photographer, who has been running a photography studio under the name Dream Photo Studio since 1993 in the heart of the city, said it is impossible to compete with online photo services.




He said the most significant difference between today and two decades ago is that people do not need to come to a studio to print their photos or even take a family portrait.

“People do not print at photo shops anymore. They would rather print their photos at photo kiosks or just post them on Instagram.

“One reason we are still in business is that people still need to get a passport photo for purposes such as applying for a visa,” Lee lamented.

The digital boom has not only affected small players but also dominant industry player Kodak.  

Kodak, which dominated the photographic film industry in the 20th century, faced a financial struggle between 1996 to 1999 due to declining sales of photographic film and its slow transition towards digital photography.

In its attempt to turn around, the company shifted its focus to digital photography and printing.

However, embracing basic digital technology in today’s world is not enough as it has been advancing at a fast pace.

“The younger generation has switched from the traditional album book to Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social networking service over the past five years, and those who want a photo book would opt for the Photobook application,” Lee pointed out.

The main reason is the cost saving, as it can be done via mobile phone and is individually customised.

Not only have these old-time photo studios suffered a loss of photo printing customers, they have also had to face the challenges of online shops selling cameras and photography-related items.

“Cameras, flash, bags and other items are not selling well either. At some point, I asked my son to sell an item on his social media platform if it has not been sold in the store over some period of time,” he said.

Lee said it is still tough out there as many stores sell at lower prices and some bigger ones even offer payment in instalments.

With declining sales, Lee, who previously owned two adjacent shop lots, has had to downsize and operate a shop with his son.

“I could not hire people. It is a tough business and we are doing all we can to sustain it. Rent is also expensive,” he said.

The scenario faced by Lee is not unusual today as technology and e-commerce catch up.

As photography tools are advancing every second coupled with Artificial Intelligence, beautification mode, multiple lenses and filters, the younger generation are keener on getting their pictures online.

And many photo shops have had to either downsize or close down and venture into new areas.

As for these businesses, they either have to adapt or change their business model into something that can fit into the demand of today’s market.

A good example is dobiQueen, a 24-hour laundry self-service that started as a photo studio under the name of Foto-Zzoom, but today is one of the biggest laundry franchises with 39 outlets in Kuala Lumpur, the Klang Valley and Selangor.

While the place has been changed into a laundry service shop, it still maintains a small portion of the shop for those who want to print instant pictures.

This is a sample of business transition fitting into the latest market demand as fast-moving technology changes the landscape of the traditional businesses which we grew up with.

However, Chew Win Win, a professional photographer for about a decade, said even though technology is advancing rapidly, traditional or analogue photography should be conserved and never be forgotten.

“It is not just a picture, it's is a priceless beauty of art and is irreplaceable by digital photography.

“Nothing can compare with a traditional darkroom print as the quality and details of an optical print on photo paper are much finer than a digital Inkjet print,” she said.

-- BERNAMA



 
 
 
 
   
 
 

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