One of the best things I did in China was a photo session in different Chinese outfits.
I did something similar in Japan in Geisha and Maiko outfits, and I must say; it is a great experience and souvenir!
So when I got addicted to Chinese novels in ancient settings, photoshoot in traditional gowns was the first thing that popped in my head. At the same time, I have started planning a trip to China, so I searched for a place to do it.
I was pretty hard; there is not much info on Google, I guess I could find more on Baidu if I spoke Chinese. But after a while, I found a studio called: 盘子女人坊 (Pretty Venus Town Photo Corp).
How to contact them
I used Chrome to browse through their website. It has auto translate enabled so I got the content more or less translated. I navigated through the site and discovered they have offices in almost all big cities in China. So I just picked one in Beijing.
Afterward, I found a QR code on the website for official WeChat. If you haven’t installed WeChat and you’re going to China, do it now! And I just wrote to them 🙂 They have forwarded me to a personal assistant that helped me with booking the time, gave me the offer, sent some sample picture to check out and answered all my questions 🙂
It was not the cheapest. That I can say, but I have no regrets! The pictures turned out amazing, and for that, I can eat cereals for dinner any time!
There are several offers, and the price depends on the number of costumes, team and what kind of outfits you want.
3698 ¥ for four outfits, 24 negatives, 12-inch photo album, senior team
5998 ¥ for five outfits, 32 negatives, 16-inch photo album, chef team
8998 ¥ for six outfits, 36 negatives, 16-inch and 12-inch photo album, director team
Additionally, you can purchase additional photo albums, extra negatives (picking out 24 pictures out of 200 is way to hard! I ended buying a couple more because I couldn’t decide)
When I arrived at the location, they gave me a photo album and told me to pick four costumes. Gosh, it was so hard!! I think I have spent an hour before I have decided what I want. They were so many costumes, and each and everyone was better than the previous!! I finally ended up picking a fairy, courtesan, a princess, and an empress.
Let’s say it like that when my parents saw the courtesan pictures they had some funny comments 🙂 Something along the lines of “I think I’m too old for that” to “Where from did you inherit this interest in photo shoots.” Let me show you some pictures that are presentable for wider audience 🙂
After picking the costumes, they led me to a room I was sharing with two other girls. I had two stylists that helped me with putting the dresses on and made my hair. They impressed me! I had super short hair, and I could not tie it up in any way. They did some miracles on me, and I ended up with waist length hairdo!
Some of the hairdos were so complicated but looked terrific! I think I ended up with 10 kg of extra hair and ornaments on my head!
While I was doing pictures, the other girls got their costumes. So we rotated in that way. There was basically no waiting time. And if there was some, all the girls were busy taking selfies with each other! Again you need WeChat to share all of them!!
No one spoke English, though, and I was the only non-Asian person there. But that was not a problem at all. My stylists and other girls were using translators, so we chatted quite a lot. My photographer knew two sentences in English: “look at me” meaning anything from “look here”, “look there” to “face in this direction” and “hello, hello” translated into “close your eyes” 😀
But even though she couldn’t say anything in English, she gestured enough so I would understand what I needed to do. That was another great thing about this shoot. I didn’t need to do anything except listening to the directions, and they did all the poses for me. I just had to stay still 😀 They told me how to position my body, what facial expression to do, where to look, everything!
Two of my costumes were pretty revealing, but they created an atmosphere where I did not feel awkward even though I had a couple of people around me. I think the funniest part of it was when they gave me a strapless stick-on bra and then duct-taped my boobs so they would look bigger than in reality:D Damn, that worked miracles:D
The whole photoshoot took a total of 9 hours! But I had so much fun that I would repeat it any day.
The photo selection
Usually, you have to wait a week so they can lighly touch-up pictures, and then you come and can pick the ones you want. But I only had three days in Beijing, so I asked them if it is possible to do it faster and they agreed.
As I mentioned before, my package had 24 pictures included in the price. They showed me ~200 and then I had to choose what I want. Yeah… I picked more than 24 😀 They turned out so gorgeous that I had a hard time deciding.
They also managed to convince me to get a separate album for courtesan pictures. It was the right choice because now I can decide if I want to show revealing photographs to my friends or not.
This is where it started being complicated. When I booked a session, they told me it is possible to send everything to Denmark, and it would cost 200¥.
My first obstacle was the assistant I got while picking out the pictures. He was not the brightest, and at some point, we had to get my non-English speaking photographer to translate between us:) Yup, that’s how bad it was! But she was great! With her help, I managed to get somewhere.
I was told that after 30 days, the pictures would be sent via post and email. And this is where the fun started 🙂
It took a month and a half to get the link to the pictures. The problem was that they were stored on Baidu drive (Chinese Google drive) and I needed an account for that. To make one, I needed a Chinese phone number. Found out they allow some foreign numbers too but no phone numbers I had access to, were eligible. So I had to ask a friend in China to download them for me and put them on my Google Drive.
During two months of talking with them, the price for the package with albums kept increasing to 2000¥. When they asked me to pay for it, they gave me bank details. Except they didn’t give me IBAN for international transfer, and when I asked for it, they didn’t know what it is. So they asked me to make a transfer with AliPay (an app you can pay with), which for obvious reasons I don’t have 🙂
I was lucky though, my mom’s friend’s daughter was studying in Beijing, and she took over the mission of getting my photo albums out of China 😀
As the price for package kept increasing, together with my new found friend, we decided to ship it to her place so that she could send it herself.
Everything went well except, the fact that China post does not ship glass photo frames 😀
Overall, after three months, I managed to get my photo albums, but my photo in a frame is still stuck somewhere in China, waiting for a friend to go back home. So I hope one day I will get my hands on it!!
I had a lot of fun! And I would definitely try it again if I ever go back to China. The studio was super professional, and even though there was a language barrier, they tried everything to understand and accommodate all my requests.
It took a lot of time and money, but I think it was worth it. It was unforgettable, and I love my pictures, which are a fantastic souvenir!
The problem with sending my albums back was a little annoying, but it gave me two months of fun at work when I was narrating the progress of retrieving my albums from the middle of China 🙂