The shutterbug’s paradise

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Inside the ShutterMaster Pro, a retail shop for photographers

By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

In 2002, two friends, Frank Tsai and Crispin Lee Jr., who both had a mutual passion for photography, saw an opportunity. The Philippines was beginning to see a trend that put photography in the spotlight, and the number of enthusiasts of the art were growing. Settling down in a small office in Banawe, Quezon City, the two built the ShutterMaster Pro, a retail shop for beginner and veteran photographers alike. Even today, the shop holds the claim to being the first online professional photo and video store in the country.

“It’s a one-stop shop,” owner Jenifer Tsai told BusinessWorld in a phone interview. “We cater to anything and everything photographers could want or need. Whatever they want, for hobbyists or professional equipment.”

Trading under the registered name of Aperture Trading Corporation, ShutterMaster Pro is a distributor, wholesaler, and retailer of professional photo and video equipment and accessories. It aimed to provide complete solutions for photographers, videographers, and film makers, and it did so for 12 years, growing its business until the owners decided to relocate in 2014. Now, the shop stands at Number 118, Scout Dr. Lascano Street, Brgy Sacred Heart, offering a new treat for its customers.

Shutter Café offers diners cameras and lighting equipment to take a perfect photo of their food and drinks.

Shutter Café, Ms. Tsai explained, was born out of a desire by the ShutterMaster team to provide a lounge in which photography lovers and enthusiasts gathered to talk about their craft. Noticing the surging popularity of photography through social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, Shutter Café sought to join in.

“One attraction in our café is the hands-on experience,” Ms. Tsai said.

Not only does Shutter Café offer attractively presented and “Instagrammable” food, the shop also provides the diners cameras and lighting equipment to allow them to take that perfect shot.

“We adopt to innovations. As the technology develops, we have to follow,” Ms. Tsai said.

To her, Shutter Café was the result of the natural growth of ShutterMaster Pro and the flourishing community of photography, video, and film lovers. As the community expands, with the craft becoming ever more popular, so too does ShutterMaster. The growth of the company is inextricably linked to its relationship with the community, whether they be young hobbyists, professionals, or simply people with an interest in the field. Which is why a big part of the company’s business is now involved with holding workshops and lectures for them.

“We encourage people through education,” Ms. Tsai explained. “There are a lot of young people who are interested and we hold workshops to educate them. They are there. They are the market.”

Shutter Café’s workshops cover everything from teaching basic photography principles and camera operation, to discussing composition and giving shooting tips. The most recent one was held last July and was conducted by esteemed photography mentor Jonathan S. Avila.

“We are a solution provider. As we go along with the business, we need to add more to it in order to grow. And we’re still growing,” Ms. Tsai said.

As photography continues to attract young people, the need for stores like ShutterMaster Pro and Shutter Café, which offer a complete range of services and equipment, from photo printing to a comfortable space where enthusiasts can gather and talk, will only grow greater. With that in mind, Ms. Tsai hopes that they can grow with it, becoming an active contributor to the country’s photography scene in the process.

Shutter Café is located with ShutterMaster Pro on Scout Dr. Lascano, Brgy Sacred Heart, Quezon City. ShutterMaster Pro has another branch inside of the DPI-XL compound at 2227 Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati.