Taiwan exports its wedding photographers
The sand at Shalun beach is rough, the waves are too small for surfing and the beach is bounded by rocky outcrops that restrict swimming.沙仑海滩上的沙子粗糙硌脚，海浪小得无法冲浪，海滩边上有许多露出地表的岩石，也不适合游泳。
But at dusk each day, minivans converge outside the beach in northern Taiwan, disgorging photographers, assistants and soon-to-be married couples dressed in tuxedos and bridal gowns.
Even on a slow day, there are usually about 20 couples at Shalun. Each couple stakes out their own patch of sand, making their photos look as if they had the beach to themselves.
Thanks to its diverse landscape and competitive pricing, Taiwan has over the past two decades developed into a destination for couples from Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian cities for these pre-wedding photo shoots.
Like many other industries, however, wedding photographers were hit hard by the global economic downturn, with most businesses losing as much as half their trade last year.
Michelle Chi is the director of Western Design, a wedding services company now based in Taipei but originally founded by her family in Brighton, England, as a bridal gown design shop.
She says sales of the shop's top-of-the-line T$320,000 (US$10,088) package, which includes use of a Vera Wang dress and a hand-made, leather-bound, wooden 18-inch photo frame to keep, fell from 10 customers in 2008 to just three last year.
“It started to stabilise about three to four months ago but business is not yet back to [pre-crisis] levels for most companies,” Ms Chi says.
The practice of separating the photo shoot from the wedding itself was born during Taiwan's economic boom in the 1970s and 1980s and spread to Hong Kong and mainland China, and later to the Chinese diaspora further afield.
During the industry's heyday in the mid-1990s, before digital cameras caught on, Taiwan was the world's biggest importer of Kodak film, according to Lee Yu-ying, an associate professor at Fengchia University.
“Chinese tradition dictated that couples had to be married not only on an auspicious day, but also at an auspicious hour. So photo-taking used to be squeezed into a very rushed ceremony,” says Prof Lee. “Eventually, photographers convinced their clients that they could have better and more comfortable service if photo-taking and the wedding could be separated.” Having the photos taken first also means that the couple can show them off to guests at the wedding.
She estimates annual industry revenue at about T$5.8bn. Most couples pay at least T$40,000 for a full day's shoot in different locations to produce a large-sized book with 30 or more full pages printed with the photos.
However, Ms Chi says photographers have had to look beyond Taiwan for growth because fewer people on the island are getting married and the population is ageing.
Many have looked to mainland China as their biggest potential market. Travel restrictions across the strait mean few mainlanders come to the island for their wedding photos but Taiwanese studios have opened branches in mainland cities and stationed their own photographers there.
“Much of the industry in China – the photography techniques, the services, and all that – were originally introduced by Taiwanese companies,” says Ms Chi.
Mai Tsan-wen, an industry veteran who runs a company called Julia, regularly rotates his photographers between Taiwan and his branch in Beijing.
However, he says Taiwanese businesses have struggled against cheaper local competitors, says Mr Mai.
“Twenty years ago Taiwan's wedding photographers were on top of the world. But now [mainland Chinese companies] have learnt the tricks of the trade,” he says. There are between 1,000-2,000 wedding photography companies in Beijing and Shanghai running on very slim profit margins, Mr Mai adds.
So Taiwanese companies such as Julia and Western Design, which has about 30 staff in Taipei, are now looking further afield. Julia is stationing photographers on the shores of the Aegean Sea, not to attract Greek couples but to lure wealthy Taiwanese and Asian newlyweds to take up a T$98,000 four-day package.
Western Design's Ms Chi also hopes to start offering the service at her family's Brighton store this year and perhaps expand to London.
“I've always felt that it is possible to bring pre-wedding photography to the west, even though people there are not very used to this concept,” she says.
纪懿倢(Michelle Chi)是西敏艺术婚礼策划有限公司(Western Design)负责人。这家婚礼服务公司的总部现在设在台北，但它刚开始是一家婚纱设计公司，由纪懿倢的家族在英国布赖顿(Brighton)创建。
据逢甲大学(Fengchia University)副教授李玉瑛(Lee Yu-ying)表示，在上世纪90年代该行业鼎盛时期，数码相机尚未开始流行时，台湾是世界上最大的柯达(Kodak)胶卷进口地区。
李 玉瑛表示：“中国的传统要求新人不仅必须要在吉日，而且还要在吉时结成夫妻。所以，拍照过去常常被压缩成一个非常匆忙的仪式。后来，摄影师终于说服他们的 客户相信，如果把拍照与婚礼分开，他们能享受到更好、更舒适的服务。”先拍结婚照，新婚夫妇还可以在婚礼上向他们的客人展示照片。
A portion of bedrock or other stratum protruding through the soil level.
intr.v., -cropped, -crop·ping, -crops. (out-krŏp')
To protrude above the soil, as rock formations.
v., -gorged, -gorg·ing, -gorg·es. v.tr.
- To bring up and expel from the throat or stomach; vomit.
- To discharge violently; spew.
- To surrender (stolen goods or money, for example) unwillingly.
To discharge or pour forth contents.
[Middle English disgorgen, from Old French desgorger : des-, dis- + gorger, to pack (from gorge, throat; see gorge).]disgorgement dis·gorge'ment n.
Keep an area or person under police surveillance; also, assign someone to conduct such a surveillance. For example, They staked out the house, or He was staked out in the alley, watching for drug dealers. [c. 1940]