Imagine this: you have 15 minutes in a professional photo studio to take as many pictures as possible, but you have to take them yourself…how many do you think you could take?
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For me, it was 81. And it’s actually a lot easier than you would think, thanks to Say Cheese in South Lake Union.
Say Cheese is a do-it-yourself selfie studio created by Rina Kang, a Seattle-based dog photographer. Say Cheese is located at Say Woof, Kang’s permanent dog photo studio in South Lake Union. It’s the perfect way to get professional photos of yourself, you and your friends, a loved one or even your pup, without the pressure of posing in front of a photographer.
Kang has been doing photography since 2008, but she has specifically focused on dog photography for the past five years. She opened her first brick-and-mortar under the name Say Woof in Kirkland in 2019.
“My inspiration comes from the deep connection I feel between humans and dogs,” she told us in November 2023 when she was featured in our “Artist of the Week” series. “The unconditional love, loyalty and joy that dogs bring into our lives are incredibly inspiring. Additionally, I find inspiration in the beauty of nature and the unique qualities of each dog I photograph. It’s a privilege to capture these moments and share them with others.”
READ MORE: Artist of the Week: Rina Kang of Say Woof dog photography
While Kang is usually behind the camera and working primarily with four-legged subjects, she decided to launch Say Cheese in April of 2023.
“Say Woof is only for dog people,” she said, “and now we have Say Cheese, which is not just for dog people.”
Selfie studios like Say Cheese are a popular concept in places like Korea, she said, and since Seattle is a “very trendy city,” she decided we needed one of our own. She had the space. She had the equipment, so why not?
Kang said it was a slow burn for people to start discovering Say Cheese because she did not self-promote a ton when it began, and it all changed one day when a client came in and posted an Instagram Reel of their experience that took off.
Say Cheese can be used for many occasions, like friend photoshoots, couple photos, headshots, family photos, maternity photos, engagement photos, you name it. You can even bring your dog, too!
“It’s perfect for people who feel a little awkward with photographers,” Kang said. “Sometimes the photographer is expensive, it’s awkward, [there’s] pressure, but here, it’s much more affordable and fast.”
The process is simple. You book your session online. You arrive at the studio alone, with a friend or your dog, whatever you choose, and after a brief tour and explanation on how to operate the camera, you get 15 minutes to take as many photos as you can. You have a little remote you use to take the photo that then pops up on the screen to your left so you can see what it looks like.
There is also a mirror directly in front of you on the wall you can use to help set up your shots. Once your time is up, you get 10 minutes to pick all of your favorites. You can pick two that you will get printed out and put in a cute cardboard frame that says “Say Cheese,” and that’s it. And if you can’t just choose two, you can buy the entire digital file of photos for an additional $50.
Listen, I love a selfie as much as anyone. I take…a lot of pictures on the daily, but I honestly don’t take a ton of just myself. When Kang invited me to Say Cheese, I decided I wanted to use the opportunity to gather some cute, professional photos of me where I didn’t have sunglasses on or a drink in my hand, which is usually the content I get when I am out and about taking photos.
Kang said people, on average, take about 50 photos, depending. Being alone in the studio (without a dog, child or friend to add to the mix) contributed to my being able to take 81.
I have had professional photos taken of me before, and even though I am a very outgoing and confident person, it has always taken me a while to open up, no matter how comfortable and safe the photographers have made me feel. But at Say Cheese, after a couple of practice shots to get the flow of how it worked, I felt like I was able to dive right in without that added element of another person behind the camera.
And now, I have some stunning new headshots, a cute Instagram post and two professional prints I am able to give to my parents. A win, win, win in my book!
Say Cheese is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday at 2215 8th Avenue, Seattle. Prices start at $95 for up to two people with a black and white or color background. Additional people or dogs are $20 each. You can book online.