Aye Zaw Moe has been running Phyo Moe Theinkhan photo studio since 2000 and has seen many photo studios come and go during his career.Interest from a new generation of digital photographers has given rise to a number of new photo studios in recent years, but things are far from picture perfect for the industry as a whole.
“It’s a long term project. Only those studios that are eager and patient will last a long time. To run a photo studio as a business you need initiative, an artistic sense and photographic and business knowledge. There are a lot of young people entering the photo studio business, but some last only a year,” he said.
Currently, there are around ten very well known studios in Yangon and many smaller, less known studios, according to Aye Zaw Moe.For aspiring models, it pays to have their photos taken at a well known studio because of the photographer’s contacts and established relations with print publications.
Aye Zaw Moe said “If a photographer establishes a good name, the models they photograph automatically get recognition, after which they can get contacts and offers in the modelling and movie industries”
Although digital photography may have cut the costs of entry into the photo business, growing competition puts financial pressure on all studios, forcing them to take on all types of work, argues photographer Nagora Zaw Myint, who studied photography in Japan.
“If you are planning on opening a photo studio you must first think about what kind of studio you will run, will it specialise in portraits, commercial products, weddings, children or everything. Studios in Myanmar cannot survive as specialist studios, they have to be able to do everything,” he said.
The photographer also points to the creative limitations placed on photographers resulting from a trend towards over-processing photos using digital manipulation.
“I find that many photo studios edit their photos to make them look perfect but in so doing lose the naturalness. After editing, old people do not look old, ugly people become beautiful and dark skin changes to white. The edited photos do not look real. I want to suggest to young photographers to study more what is happening in photography internationally,” he said.
However, in over-manipulating photos, many photographers are simply responding to customer demand believes Phone Myint, who runs Ngwe Taung Tan studio. Photographers may not like it but they have no choice if they want to run a successful business.
“Most customers here don’t have knowledge, they just want their photos to be perfect. I learnt photography in Thailand where people don’t accept such unnatural editing,” he said.
“After shooting, we can see the image at once, which saves a lot of time. If you take images in RAW format then if you find something wrong [with the image] you can correct it,” said Nagora Zaw Myint.