In Korea, auto-photo studios are all the rage and this experience can now be done right here in Singapore thanks to Kevin Chu.
The Hwa Chong Institution graduate previously did an internship at GovTech, where he worked on Form.gov.sg. He then enlisted in the Air Force in 2018, where he worked in the SWiFT office, solving coding issues.
After completing his national service, he worked on his own software projects and worked freelance as a software developer for clients around the world.
He will continue his studies at Singapore Management University this fall, but also took the step to become an entrepreneur two months ago.
Call your own shots
Fotomat recently opened on April 2, 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
I love to code and create new systems. My sister has a hobby in film photography, so I got the idea to exploit her knowledge of photography and combine it with my interest.
I wanted to create a new photographic experience in Singapore by letting people take their own portraits using a camera shutter release button.
– Kevin Chu, founder of Fotomat
It was his way of making portrait photography more fun. By taking the photographer out of the equation, he hopes it will encourage more daring, expressive and innovative poses, which stand out more when people have a private space.
Offering only black and white photography, Fotomat is aimed at all ages.
“For the older generation, black and white photography would remind them of the days when formal portraits with family members, especially on important occasions, were often taken in the studio. For the slightly younger generation, Fotomat might be reminiscent of the ‘neoprint’ machines that were all the rage at the time, ”said Kevin.
“To the youngest of them, these exclusively monochrome images may seem unusual. Either way, the experience at Fotomat can be enjoyed by everyone.
More than just a “photo booth”
Fotomat is located at the Stamford Arts Center in the Bugis district, which is an incubator for artistic projects.
“We are grateful to the National Arts Council for hosting us… It allowed us to focus on developing this new concept of visual arts and innovating continuously,” Kevin said, adding that Fotomat had done many trial and error to improve the user experience.
He went on to point out that Fotomat is more than just a photo booth.
When I first came up with the idea for Fotomat, I wanted to make it accessible and affordable to everyone, especially students and young adults.
Professional studio shots were once reserved for special occasions like weddings and graduation ceremonies, but this is no longer the case with Fotomat as we are the first in Singapore to deliver an artistic, unique and fun at a minimal cost.
– Kevin Chu, founder of Fotomat
Prices start at S $ 5 for a single draw, and go up to S $ 30 for a 15-minute shoot (unlimited shots for two people). In addition, students and active military personnel benefit from a reduced rate.
When Fotomat was first launched, Kevin said his customers were “full of praise” for Fotomat, sharing that they enjoyed the unique experience.
“They enjoyed the space, the private experience of directing their own shots, of seeing the proceeds of the shoot, and the personal interactions with me.”
Being a boss at only 22
Despite starting the business at the age of 22 and launching a very new business idea, his family and friends never doubted or criticized once.
“My father was an entrepreneur early in his career and encourages me to be curious and adventurous. I have always had entrepreneurial ideas from a young age and have developed a few personal projects since his school years, ”he explained.
He added that everyone around him has always supported his ideas and he often bounces ideas off his family and friends.
Kevin also has a unique perspective: running Fotomat as a business is his secondary priority. Instead, its main goal is to use Fotomat as a platform for others to express themselves freely and have fun.
“We enlisted the help of students from the National Technological University (NTU), Polytechnics and De La Salle who are studying arts and media to run the studio,” Kevin said.
“In addition to providing employment opportunities for young people, Fotomat has become a platform to teach students interested in studio photography the use of professional studio equipment. We also give them a platform to share their artistic ideas with us and work with us on collaborations.
As a team of young adults, he believes Fotomat is well placed to create new trends and better adapt to changing markets.
Strong growth since inception
Covid-19 has been detrimental to many businesses, and Fotomat is no exception. Immediately after the announcement of the enhanced measures, they received reservation cancellations.
“To ensure the safety of our customers, we have limited group sizes to two per session and disinfect our equipment before and after each session. We had to refuse reservations with more than two people (but) we were reassured that everyone supported Fotomat.
According to Kevin, their slots filled up quickly, especially on weekends. If Fotomat has experienced strong growth since its creation, it is not resting on its laurels.
“We will invest our income to expand Fotomat so that everyone can experience this fun photography concept. We will continue to innovate and test new concepts, ”he said, adding that they are exploring collaborations with strategic partners to accelerate its growth.
“My philosophy is excellent customer service. I like to have personal interactions with clients. I am confident that I can say that every customer left with a smile on their face. “
Featured Image Credit: Fotomat
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