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Mainland Photo Studios: A Rapidly Developing Commercial Sector

Career requirements and matrimonial flourishes have proved a shot-in-the-arm for professional photography providers.

Photo: Image conscious: The preferences of young customers are transforming China’s photo studios. (Xinhua News Agency)
Image conscious: The preferences of young customers are transforming China's photo studios.
Photo: Image conscious: The preferences of young customers are transforming China’s photo studios. (Xinhua News Agency)
Image conscious: The preferences of young customers are transforming China's photo studios.

Creating just the right image for career progression forms a big part of Beijing's ID photos market. A perfect picture – courtesy of a qualified makeup artist, a trained photographer and a degree of digital retouching – can make any applicant appear more professional, confident and appealing, ultimately boosting their chances of securing gainful employment.

With online recruitment ever more commonplace across the mainland, it is now accepted practice to post such an image on the more career-oriented social media sites, most notably LinkedIn or 51job. Inevitably then, demand for such photos peak during the prime job-seeking periods, with prices frequently some RMB100-300 higher than the cost of standard photos.

Demand for such images is also strong in the matrimonial sector. Beijing is home to a high proportion of younger residents, many of whom set high standards for the photos to be used on their official marriage registration documents. These pictures, although official, are subject to less rigid requirements than those specified for a number of other legally required purposes, such as passports or ID certificates. This allows marrying couples to submit more glamorous, professional photos, complete with make-up, formal dress and professional hairstyling. Again, given the memento nature of such images, the services of a professional photographer are often called on.

There are two primary options open to customers when choosing a photography studio in Beijing or in one of China's other major cities. First of all, there are long-established studios and, in Beijing, these include two well-known state-owned establishments in the Wangfujing area – Zhongguo Photo Studio and Dabei Photo Studio. Drawn by positive word-of-mouth, many have their family portraits taken in these studios, returning generation after generation.

One drawback of these state-owned businesses, however, is that they do not cater for advance bookings, only serving walk-in customers. Partly as a result of this shortcoming, a new generation of studios has emerged in recent years whose owners and photographers tend to be younger than their counterparts in the state sector. Typically, their style of photography and advanced booking facility are more in line with the preferences of younger customers. In keeping with this, they also offer a range of outfits and facilities that better meet the needs of this younger demographic.

Leila Liu, Beijing Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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