Though it may appear as a peculiar memento to have, many visitors to Korea in recent years have started going to local photo studios as part of their travel itinerary. Korea has long been renowned as the place to take perfect ID or passport photos due to the high beauty standards and the skill of their photographers. A standout characteristic of these photos, however, is the wide usage of photo-editing software to tweak the features of their clients. Though some clients have certain parts they feel self-conscious about and thus welcome slight changes to their pictures through editing, a few people think that this tendency leads to an overly-airbrushed look that seems inauthentic and almost fake.
Just as well, for Korean job applications have long been a point of contention amongst society. The compulsory addition of pictures to every application is said to sometimes result in lookism or unfairness in the job-seeking process, and has resulted in the more severe airbrushing of ID photos. What’s more is that the photographers will often correct the pictures they take on their own without input from the customers, though they normally correct them in accordance with typical beauty standards, and thus do not meet with much resistance or objection by less confident customers.
Enter Kim Sihyun, the head of popular photography studio Sihyunhada.
With 6 branches all over Korea, the professional photographer got her humble start in 2016 via an exhibition of portraits of a thousand people, all painstakingly taken by the photographer herself. They were all taken with the theme of ‘ID picture’, and was an attempt to break away from the typical beauty standards employed by most of society that had begun to reflect even in the ID pictures of individuals, resulting in people looking less like their actual, genuine selves. This small act of ‘losing oneself’ by letting society dictate even the way we look, although we were all already born with complete features distinct to ourselves alone and wholly beautiful, is the cause which the photographer aims to fight against with Sihyunhada, and she has been succeeding thus far.
Since opening the first branch of Sihyunhada Moment in Gangnam, the photographer has enjoyed considerable success and popularity, with many people coming to her to record the way they look at the current point of time in their life. The portraits taken by her are widely praised as being more full of life and more genuine, with some customers even gaining more confidence as a result of the photoshoot. The photographers at Sihyunhada have a strong respect for their customers’ natural features, and take photographs to highlight certain parts that their customer may dislike just because it ‘differs’ from societal standards. A lot of love and care goes into the shooting of every portrait – which must be the secret behind Sihyunhada’s steady increase in success.
After booking an appointment, which can be easily done on Naver, simply show up fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Each customer’s makeup, hairstyle and clothing should be prepared individually before the appointment. After arriving at the studio, the photographer in charge will consult with the customer about the background color they prefer – this background color is often chosen based on personal preference or according to the vibe the customer wants. After the background color is set, the shooting will commence for 30 minutes, after which the customer and the photographer will select the best cut and make minimal adjustments together, based strictly upon the customer’s wishes. The finished product takes about 30 minutes to be produced, and the service ends as the customer leaves with their completed picture.
A typical ‘final product’ at Sihyunhada Moment comprises a set of images in various sizes, including a full-frame card, a Polaroid-sized image, one large sticker, seven ‘Moment’ stickers, and 12 ID-sized pictures. The photographer will also transfer high-quality JPG files of the final product to each customer.
The prices of each picture is set through a unique ‘drawer’ system, in which photographers of different calibre are grouped together in respective ‘drawers’. Photos taken by ‘first drawer’ photographers, who are commonly rookies or less well-known photographers, are the cheapest, and are typically priced at 44,000won. The more experience each photographer has, the higher their ‘drawer’ is, with the ‘fifth drawer’ being the highest level achievable. A ‘fifth drawer’ photo is priced at 200,000won, with the subject of the portrait being given the right to the final picture – exhibitions are still held with the portraits of the people taken here, with only ‘fifth drawer’ customers given the choice to withhold their picture from the exhibition.
Sihyunhada’s warmth spills over in every picture they take, and truly brings out the uniqueness and beauty of every single person that passes through their studio. Look no further for a one-and-only kind of ID picture, special to you only.