Capturing beauty on print


Ooi showing the compact photo printer he uses at his studio in George Town.

GEORGE TOWN: Once part of a thriving business in the 1990s, photo studio owner Sam Ooi now prints only about 500 photographs daily, a far cry from the heyday when he was required to do at least 5,000 a day.

Back then, his machine costing RM200,000 in 1993 was fully utilised from day to night, receiving roll after roll of film from customers who wanted them developed at his shop here.

Schools, publishing companies and many others sought his services.

Today, the 56-year-old is one of the few who have survived the onslaught of the digital revolution. Even so, he has had to close down two of his three outlets here.

But Ooi remains optimistic, believing that he can still stay in the business with his experience and photography skills.

“There are still those who want to develop photos although customers like these are few and far between.

“They still appreciate hard copies and keep them for remembrance.

“Seeing photos via digital displays versus a printed copy yields a different experience.

“Some industry experience is needed to bring out the natural tones and colours of photographs and we are still able to provide that.

“There is still hope for this trade,” said Ooi, who has been operating for 30 years.

Besides developing photographs, he is also skilled at taking glamour shots or professional family portraits.

His studio is also equipped with all the gear and props.

With technology evolving rapidly these days, the big machine that requires regular usage and maintenance is no longer in use.

He now uses a computer and a small printer, which are easier to operate. He is still able to produce photos of fine quality with vibrant colours.

“If clients want the photos to be retouched or enhanced, we are also able to do it using the computer.

“Maintaining a big machine is costly as it runs on many mechanical parts, and the prints use several tanks of chemical solutions.

“After all, most people prefer to store their photos in soft copy. They only print out photos they wish to display,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Picture perfect: Leong cleaning the lens of a DSLR camera at his outlet in George Town. — CHAN BOON KAI/The StarPicture perfect: Leong cleaning the lens of a DSLR camera at his outlet in George Town. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

Camera shop owner Leong Chee Kheong, 56, said demand for cameras, especially those in the point-and-shoot range, had dropped by about 30% compared with several years ago.

He, however, believes that the larger and sophisticated ones such as digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras would still be in demand among photography enthusiasts seeking quality results.

“For enthusiasts and those seeking better image quality for editing, speed, accuracy and to produce larger prints, DSLRs, although costlier and bulkier, are still the go-to choice.

“Thanks to improved technologies that incorporate WiFi features and video recording capabilities, we now focus on cameras for professional use,” said Leong, who still operates from his shop here.

He said he often organised outings and workshops for his customers to improve their photography skills.

“With camera phones, everyone can take photos now.

“But for them to appreciate the true beauty of photography, we in the community continue to learn and improve,” he said.

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