If you've ever seen a photograph of yourself and wished you'd fixed that one piece of hair or stood up a little straighter or tilted your head a bit more, then you've got to try FotoLab, New York City's first self portrait photography studio.
At FotoLab, which just opened in Chelsea, you're in control. Using a clicker, you'll snap your selfie and see it on a large digital screen next to you. You can make those tiny adjustments, then snap again and again until you get the perfect shot.
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But it's not just about perfection. FotoLab is also about fun, whether you're in need of a new professional headshot that stands out from the crowd or just looking to snap some cute pictures with a friend.
After living in many cities across the U.S., Jamie Kim and Alan Li decided to move back to New York City and opened FotoLab in January. They wanted to introduce New Yorkers to the selfie portrait studio concept, which has long been popular in Korea.
“Koreans have always been very interested in self-photography. People say Koreans invented the selfie before Paris Hilton,” Kim tells Time Out New York. “We came to New York, and there weren’t any [selfie studios] here; this is the first in NYC.”
It's not the kind of selfie you might be thinking of, the kind where you hold your phone up in the air and can see part of your arm in the photo. Instead, these selfies are studio-quality professional portraits—just without a photographer. Li compares it to the photobooths in the mall but elevated.
At FotoLab, you’ll get a private studio space complete with lighting and a high-quality camera, all yours to use for 20 minutes. One studio option offers full-body portraits against a white backdrop; the other option provides half-body portraits against a colorful backdrop. After 20 minutes, you’ll get to select your favorites for prints. The experience costs $80. You can also add on the option to get digital files of all your pictures (an extra $30). If you want a timelapse video of your shoot, they’ll throw that in, too.
When you're in the studio, you'll see a live look at your image, then once you click the shutter, you'll see the actual picture. From there, you can try new poses and snap as many pictures as you want in the 20-minute time limit. There's music pumping through the studio to keep the experience upbeat and relaxed.
“A lot of people who say they’ve always been camera shy, say ‘I look so good in these,’” Kim says.
We tried out FotoLab and have some first-hand tips to make the most of your experience.
1. Book online in advance
Think about the look you're going for. Do you want the aesthetic of a sharp white background or a more colorful backdrop? Current backdrop colors are green, pink and gray, and the FotoLab team hopes to add more in the future. Whichever one you choose, you can book the studio session in advance on a date that works for you.
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2. Do some research
It may seem like some people are naturally photogenic, but spoiler alert: The pros have done their research in advance to know how to pose. You can google something as simple as “best headshot poses” or consult myriad social media videos (here's a good one) with tips for how to pose for your best look. Come prepared so you can make the most of your 20 minutes in the studio.
If you still need some inspiration, Li said the team is happy to jump in and offer guidance.
3. Bring a pet or a prop
Pets are welcome at FotoLab, so you can bring your dog or cat for some precious pics. Or bring along a prop—a plant, a purse, a hat, whatever makes you feel comfortable.
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4. Have fun
Even if you get nervous in front of a camera, we bet you'll loosen up pretty quickly in here. The staff will teach you how to use the clicker (which you can creatively hide in the photos), then you're on your own to create photo magic.