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November 23, 2011

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Final shot as popular studio to shut down

"MAGIC Studio," one of the city's most popular photography workshops known for its high-quality job-seeking photos, will close this weekend after nearly two decades in business, under pressure from rising costs and the prevalence of digital cameras.

Qunlin Photography Workshop, the real name of the famous studio, is on a small street near several universities in Hongkou District.

It attracts thousands of people lining up for shots every day, mostly college senior job seekers hoping to impress prospective employers with a good physical appearance.

Students nickname the workshop "Magic Studio" for the good makeup and photography skills of its owner - Chen Zhongqun - who worked in a state-owned photo studio for nearly three decades before launching the studio on Guangling No. 1 Road in 1993.

Over the past 18 years, Chen's skills have earned him a big reputation across the universities in Shanghai, and he hired seven employees to help him handle the booming business.

One student surnamed Zhao traveled from her college, Shanghai Business School in Xuhui District, to the studio to take the job-seeking pictures yesterday.

"I have heard a lot about the studio," she said. "I specially traveled to visit the long-expected photo shop. I deeply believe the picture will come out well."

But Chen, 66, has decided to close his studio after years of higher rent and employee costs. The fee he can charge for a set of photos has gone up only 20 yuan (US$3.10) - from 60 yuan to 80 yuan in the past seven years.

"We cannot raise the fees too much because people are not willing to pay much for photos," he said.

The prevalence of digital cameras and Photoshop software has weakened his competitiveness in the industry. People are now able to take pictures of themselves at home or have friends take them. Meanwhile, lots of similar businesses have been popping up around local campuses, siphoning off Chen's customers.

Though Chen gave up the traditional film camera and adopted the digital camera and PS skills, he is still more accustomed to and fond of the traditional way.

Moreover, he couldn't find an eligible apprentice to inherit his business. Many employees left his studio after learning basic skills from Chen to work in more lucrative photo businesses such as wedding pictures and shooting albums for people or industries, Chen said.

The photo studio put up the closure notice on its door early this week.


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