First came the selfie. Then the selfie stick. Now, in Naperville, there's the selfie studio.
Selfie Party Fun at 582 S. Route 59 offers three studios with professional backdrops, lighting, props and cameras all controlled in selfie style.
"The real cool thing about this is the participants actually take the photo themselves with a remote control button," said Joseph Man of Naperville, who owns the studio that he hopes will become the first in a chain. "My son, he just turned 5, and he can take perfect studio photos himself."
Selfie Party Fun combines an evolved version of the typical photo studio with a party place where families, companies or clubs can rent space for photo-fueled celebrations. Offering party rentals is one way Man differentiates his shop from other places that have turned the art of the selfie into profit.
"The selfie studio business is already a phenomenon in Asian countries and throughout the world," said Man, who is from Hong Kong.
But most don't offer parties. And during his research, he couldn't find any other such studios in Illinois.
Man, 45, has a background as a creative director and wedding photographer, so he thought he could translate the Asian popularity of the selfie studio into an American thing in his new hometown.
The idea is to infuse some fun into the photo studio experience -- something he called "a pretty boring process" for kids -- by allowing customers more control and playful options.
Selfie fans can choose studios with Hollywood, superhero or family themes, each with four backdrops that can be changed using a motorized system. Plenty of props can spice up the photos, too.
Groups of two to eight can rent one of the studios for $38 to $88 an hour, depending on the number of people. Man said customers can take unlimited photos during the hour and have the digital images loaded for free onto a USB flashdrive at the end of the session.
Next week, the studios will be equipped with projector game systems, which create images on the floor and sense players' movements. The systems will make it possible to play digital soccer, for example, by kicking a projected image of a ball at an image of a net past an image of a goalie trying to block.
The studio also plans to launch a program called Photo Fun Play Shop, allowing parents to bring their kids for open photo time. On weekdays, when business has been slower during the shop's first three months, parents will be able to pay $10 per child to give the little ones freedom to snap selfies, have fun with props and play projector games, Man said.
Each day will be themed, too, inviting princesses one day, pirates another and superheroes a third, for example.
With the popularity of smartphones and their self-directed photo feature, Man thinks his business has the potential to expand. He's already heard from party customers in Naperville and entrepreneurs in Wisconsin who are interested in opening their own locations of Selfie Party Fun, a prospect he welcomes.
"The selfie is definitely a universal phenomenon throughout the world," Man said. "I don't think anyone can doubt that."
Selfie Party Fun usually is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but on Monday it closes at 2 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday it remains open until 8 p.m.