Self-photo studios are all the rage in Korea and this experience can now be had right here in Singapore thanks to Kevin Chu.
The graduate of the Hwa Chong Institution previously completed an internship at GovTech, where he worked on Form.gov.sg. He then joined the Air Force in 2018, where he worked in the SWiFT office solving coding problems.
After his military service, he worked on his own software projects and worked as a freelance software developer for customers all over the world.
He will be studying at Singapore Management University this fall, but two months ago he also took the plunge to become an entrepreneur.
Name your own shots
Fotomat recently started operations on April 2, 2021 amid the Covid 19 pandemic.
I enjoy programming and creating new systems. My sister has a hobby in film photography and so I had the idea to use her knowledge in photography and combine it with my interests.
I wanted to create a new photography experience in Singapore by letting people take their own portraits with a camera shutter.
– Kevin Chu, founder of Fotomat
That way, portrait photography was more fun. By taking the photographer out of the equation, he hopes he will encourage bolder, more expressive, and more innovative poses that come to fruition when people are given private space.
Room for self-photo shoots / Photo credits: Fotomat
Fotomat only offers black and white photography and is aimed at all age groups.
“For the older generation, black and white photography would remind them of the time when formal portraits with family members, especially on important occasions, were often taken in studios. For the younger generation, Fotomat might be reminiscent of the 'Neoprint' machines that were in vogue at the time, ”says Kevin.
“For the youngest of all, these exclusively monochromatic images may seem unusual. Whatever it is, everyone can enjoy the Fotomat experience. "
More than just a "photo booth"
Fotomat interior / picture credits: Fotomat
Fotomat is located in the Stamford Arts Center in the Bugis neighborhood, an incubator for art projects.
"We are grateful to the National Arts Council for accommodating us … This has allowed us to focus on developing this new concept of visual art and to innovate continuously," said Kevin, adding that Fotomat has made a lot of effort have undertaken to improve the user experience.
He also emphasized that Fotomat is more than just a photo box.
When I first came up with the idea of Fotomat, I wanted to make it accessible and affordable for everyone, especially students and young adults.
In the past, professional studio shooting was reserved for special occasions like weddings and graduations, but that's no longer the case with Fotomat as we're the first in Singapore to offer an artistic, unique and fun photo shoot experience at a low price.
– Kevin Chu, founder of Fotomat
Prices start at S $ 30 for a 15 minute shoot (unlimited shots for two people) that comes with two prints. Additional prints and digital copies are available at an additional cost. In addition, students and active military personnel enjoy a discounted rate.
When Fotomat first came on the market, Kevin said that his customers "fully praise" Fotomat and said they enjoyed the unique experience.
"They liked the space, the private experience, taking their own shots, seeing the product of the shoot and the personal interactions with me."
Be the boss at just 22
Kevin Chu (right), founder of Fotomat / Image source: Fotomat
Although he founded the company at the young age of 22 and launched a very novel business idea, his family and friends never doubted or criticized him.
“My father was an entrepreneur in his early career and encourages me to be curious and adventurous. I have always developed entrepreneurial ideas from an early age and have developed some personal projects since I was at school, ”he explains.
He added that everyone around him always supported his ideas and he often bounced his ideas off his family and friends.
Kevin also has a unique perspective – running Fotomat as a company is his secondary priority. Instead, his main goal is to use Fotomat as a platform for others to express themselves freely and have fun.
"We enlisted the help of arts and media students from National Technological University (NTU), Polytechnics, and La Salle to run the studio," said Kevin.
“The Fotomat not only offers young people job opportunities, but has also developed into a platform to teach students who are interested in studio photography how to use professional studio equipment. We also give them a platform to share their artistic ideas with us and to work with us on collaborations. "
As a team of young adults, he sees Fotomat well positioned to set new trends and better adapt to the changing markets.
High growth since it was founded
Covid-19 has harmed many companies, and Fotomat is no exception. Immediately after the announcement of the tightened measures, they received some booking cancellations.
“To ensure the safety of our customers, we limited the group size to two per session and disinfected our equipment before and after each session. We had to reject bookings with more than two people (but) we are reassured that everyone supported Fotomat. "
Image source: Fotomat
According to Kevin, their seats filled up quickly, especially on the weekends. Although Fotomat has grown rapidly since it was founded, it is not resting on its laurels.
“We will invest our income in the expansion of Fotomat so that everyone can experience this entertaining photo concept. We will continue to innovate and test new concepts, ”he said, adding that they are looking at collaborations with strategic partners to accelerate growth.
“My philosophy is great customer service. I enjoy personal contact with customers. I am confident to say that every single customer left with a smile on their face. "
Highlighted image source: Fotomat