August 2009 Issue

In this issue:

Get the Equipment You Need
to Fight the Storm!

The Importance of Being Unique

Featured Photographer:
Cindy Cofer

Read or Re-read The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm

One of the most important publications written in recent years for photographers was The Professional Photographers Perfect Storm.  It was first written more than four years ago, and it clearly predicted the coming of the great storm.  This storm was caused primarily by the digital revolution and was made much worse by the economic collapse that is affecting just about every photographer anywhere in the world.  When Perfect Storm first came out, many laughed.  Not many are laughing today as the storm turns out to be worse than predicted.   The Perfect Storm also provided a wide variety of suggestions for how to fight the storm and win.

Now you can read or re-read the Perfect Storm along with an update by the author.  It’s free!  Hard copies are still available at Virtual Backgrounds and will be sent free of charge upon request while quantities last!

Click here for the PDF of The Professional Photographers Perfect Storm.

A Rob Provencher Interview
with Diane Wilson

Canadian photographer and publisher, Rob Provencher, recently interviewed fellow Canadian photographer, Diane Wilson, the enchanted and fantasy specialist, for his Internet constituency.  In this interview Rob takes a very candid approach to looking at the fundamentals that have made Diane so successful. 

Sit back, relax, and click here to listen
to this outstanding hour-long interview!

Who the Heck is Rob Provencher Anyway?

Known by many Canadian photographers for his work as a photographer, seminar leader, and writer, the American photography world is now coming to learn more about this very interesting individual!

Rob is definitely not your normal everyday photographer.  Rob is the author of the popular book, Exposed:  The Naked Uncensored Truth to Running a Successful Photography Business.

Rob tells it like it is with no ifs, ands, or buts.  Many of his concepts are controversial but that is to be expected.  Rob is beholding to no one.  He is what he is, and he says what he thinks.

Rob is very active online.  You can check him out by clicking on the following:

The professional photographer badly needs new ideas and new ways to fight the Perfect Storm.  It will do you well to take a serious look at what Rob has to offer.

Ferro Workshop Report

In July, Florida photographers and international speakers, Rick and Deborah Ferro, conducted a two-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds titled Making Money the Ferro Way.   Rick concentrated the first day on his exceptional techniques of dynamic lighting and posing.  Deborah spent the entire second day on image enhancement with Photoshop and Painter.  It was a great success!  Keep an eye on our upcoming events page to find out when the Ferros will return to VB for another workshop!

Where Do We Go from Here?

In last month’s edition of The Backgrounder, we talked about the importance of moving away from the KISS concept and instead, getting more involved in providing clients with products they cannot do on their own.  It seems today that a growing number of amateurs own cameras more expensive than what the professionals own, and they are getting better and better at using those cameras.  While they are catching up to the professional who hasn’t changed much in years, the real winners are those professionals who charge ahead in their marketing, advertising, displays, sales, and actual style and variety of photography they produce for their clients. 

Snap shots, often called photojournalism, are not going to cut it anymore!  The end product can be duplicated by amateurs.  The professional must produce what the amateur cannot, using technology the amateurs do not possess.  If the public wants it, they should have to hire a professional photographer to get it, and not do it themselves.

As it has been said so often before, one cannot expect to continue doing the same things and expect a different result.  If you want a different result, you need to try new and different things!.  Those photographers willing to change with the times and who stay as far ahead of the amateur as possible are the ones who will continue to make good money. 

This is not the first time and it won’t be the last time that business providers have to modify their operation in order to stay alive.  Nothing is forever.  Fortunately professional photographers have solutions to the problems we face, if we are willing to do what must be done.

Is Your Camera Lens as Sharp as it Should Be? 
Maybe Not!

When you buy a new camera and lens, it is only natural to expect that image sharpness is going to be the best that you’ve ever seen.  You may even choose to buy a lens made by the same manufacturer that also made the camera just to be sure of maximum compatibility.  However, when you begin using your camera, you may very well start to have some doubts.  You feel that you are not getting the sharp crispness that you were expecting and that maybe your older camera that you are replacing was even better.  If you are like most photographers, you eventually accept the quality you are getting as normal because you think that perhaps you might be expecting too much. 

Maybe you should not be so accepting.  Bill Hedrick, professional photographer, and editor of the Texas Photographer magazine wasn’t willing to just accept what he saw as a lack of sharpness in his new camera and decided to do his own research project to get to the facts.  What he found will surprise you.  This article is a must read for every professional photographer.   

Click here to read this eye opening article.

Beware of Used Scene Machines Not Sold by VB

Occasionally a Scene Machine system can be found for sale on eBay or some other equipment exchange list.   We are often asked by photographers our opinion on such sales.    Our advice is this:  when considering purchasing such items, you need to be very careful!   There are many factors to consider and there is still a substantial risk.

First, consider the age of the equipment.  There have been many improvements in the equipment since the Scene Machine was first introduced in the 1980s.  For a long time, Scene Machines were designed for use with film cameras.  For use with SLR and DSLR cameras, a special rotator had to be developed.  If it is an older machine, the purchase of a rotator will be necessary.   There have been a number of changes in the power supply with many improvements.  The beam splitter on older machines must be specially aligned by the user for optimum performance.  There is also the risk of the machine structure being out of spec.   The new machines are smaller, have factory fixed alignment, and are built around the camera rotator.  The rotator is fundamental.  It is not an accessory.

Secondly, getting a bad projector can be costly to fix.  The bigger problem is the screen and Blackscreen.  Over the years we have made many technical advancements making the system far more effective and easier to use.  The biggest problem is screen damage.  Scratches and stains are permanent.  Sometimes problems with the screen can be minimized with a special in-factory cleaning process. 

Thirdly, there is the possibility that the machine may not have been fully paid for or even stolen.  Be sure to insist that the seller supply proof of ownership before sending money.  Also, be sure that the seller is sending the system with the original packaging which protects the equipment during shipment!

Used background projectors and screens not purchased through Virtual Backgrounds have not been reconditioned.  They do not have a warranty.  They do not include our training workshop.  They do not come with customer service and technical support.  Often, they do not even include all the parts.

Virtual Backgrounds often has reconditioned systems available for sale.  Yes, the price might be somewhat higher than you see on eBay or the like, but each projector has been carefully reconditioned to meet factory specs.  The screens have been thoroughly examined, cleaned when necessary, and documented with special notes about its condition before it is sent to a customer in the proper packing containers.  If a screen has some defects, the prospective buyer is told exactly what to expect.  Furthermore, the buyer of a reconditioned system from Virtual Backgrounds automatically receives the $495 workshop, full customer service, and technical support

When looking for a way to save money by purchasing a previously owned Virtual Backgrounds system, be sure to first check with your VB consultant.  If possible, give them the serial number of the projector so they can check the records.   Virtual Backgrounds is such an important tool for your studio that we want to make sure that you are working with a quality product so you can get optimum results.

Send Us Your Thoughts!

If you have any experiences with Virtual Backgrounds that you would like to share with the readers of The Backgrounder, please write to us at [email protected]

Perhaps you have had an especially successful experience, or perhaps you solved an issue that would be helpful to others.  Let us know and we'll share it with the readers of The Backgrounder!

Same as Cash!
No Interest!

Get the Equipment You Need
to Fight the Storm!

The public will buy photographs if the photographs are really special.

Banks and leasing companies are not lending much money today - especially not to photographers.  As a result, photographers are often not able to acquire the technology needed to survive and prosper.  Virtual Backgrounds has so much confidence in the ability of its equipment to help the enterprising entrepreneurial photographer be successful that we offer our own in-house financing program.  The Virtual Backgrounds financing program is a form of partnership.  We help you acquire the VB equipment you need to grow. We also help you with technical support so that you can quickly begin seeing the benefits of using Virtual Backgrounds.  It’s a partnership where we both win!  After the equipment is paid off in just one year, you continue to grow your profits with the new variety and creativity you can offer.  That’s the key to your success, even in these tough times.  It is our contribution to the economic stimulus program.  We want to help you stimulate your business!

The key to success in today’s tough environment is to offer your client exciting new styles of photography they cannot get elsewhere and cannot do themselves no matter what fancy automatic digital camera they may own.  This is exactly what Virtual Backgrounds helps you to do.

This program is open to legitimate professional photographers in the US, Canada, and Mexico.  Contact your Virtual Backgrounds consultant for details on this unique program direct from the manufacturer. 

The Importance of Being Unique

Images by Trevon Baker

What is the single most important characteristic of your photography?  The answer:  you must be unique and different from other professionals and from the amateurs as well! 

The road to success today is to offer methods, products, and a total experience that other professional photographers and amateurs cannot create.  Today there are tens of thousands of new photographers who call themselves professional.  You must clearly separate yourself from these newcomers. On top of that you continually have to fight the thought that good enough photography can be done by the amateurs with their new automatic digital cameras.  This must be high on your list of priorities!   Continually ask yourself, what can I do to truly make myself different in the eyes of the customer?  What can I do to create really exciting products the amateur and even other professionals cannot duplicate? 

We must use professional posing and professional lighting.  We must use our studio environments even if it is in your home.  We must use tools like Virtual Backgrounds and specialized software tools to their fullest to create maximum variety in minimum time.  This does not mean that every other method of photography is inappropriate, but when we rely too much on methods that amateurs have full access to, we are setting up our own demise.  Dare to be truly unique and see the positive results that come from it!

Featured Photographer:
Cindy Cofer

WOW-ing Her Customers with Creativity and Variety

Just like so many women in professional photography today, Cindy Cofer had no intention to be in the business.  She was a stay at home mom, raising four kids in Williamstown, Kentucky, a one stoplight town with 3,500 people.  As the kids grew older, Cindy began taking more and more pictures of them, first with a cheap camera and then with a Nikon N90S.  In 2001, she began taking photographs for friends and that is when she discovered how much she really loved taking quality photographs and that she was really good at it.  This is when she began to seriously work to improve her methods.  Within two years, she had purchased a home in town to be her dedicated studio location.  The home had served for years as a doctor’s office and residence and was, therefore, a location well known to the community.

Cindy was first introduced to the Scene Machine at the 2001 WPPI trade show. Cindy now uses her Scene Machine for more than 80% of her work.

In her own words:

Having the Scene Machine in my studio was a huge investment for me at that time, but I knew it was going to be some of the best money I spent for my new studio.  I knew right away that my clients would love having unlimited background variety.  It helped to make my photography really different, and that this would quickly increase my sales.  That is exactly what happened!

I love the total control and creativity I get with the Scene Machine.  It saves me time and money and has allowed me to offer so much more and sell more and to have satisfied repeat clients.  My clients come back again and again, because they know I can always do something really different each time.  I will never be stuck with just a brown or blue canvas or muslin.  My photography is always changing.  My customers know that they will receive photographs above and beyond what they can get anywhere else.  I always keep trying to come up with something fresh, new, and different.

I customize my backgrounds for my customers to complement their personality.  Giving them the looks they want is something they absolutely love.   I sell more large prints because the portraits include wonderful complementary backgrounds, and I provide them with so much variety to choose from.  I'm never at a loss for coming up with something that works perfectly for their portraits.

When I schedule a senior session, I may actually use as many as 10 to 20 different backgrounds, depending on the client and the clothing they bring.  I want to make sure they are absolutely wowed with the results.   For non-senior sessions, I will typically use three to six different backgrounds, making sure that I change as much as I can with each exposure.”

There seems to be a simple rule.  The more backgrounds that I offer, the more variety I create, the more my average sales go up.  The more I offer, the more likely the client is going to want to purchase multiple images.  Something must be clicking because I have customers who come to me in little Williamstown from Cincinnati, Lexington, and Louisville.  They come the extra miles because they want what I am able to produce and they can’t get it elsewhere.  

While the Scene Machine is a really important tool for me, I must say that my posing, lighting, and professionalism with my clients is also critical.  I work hard to make my sessions fun and exciting.  In today’s market, people want quality and variety, and they are willing to pay for it.

It's so easy for me to be positive when I share what I do and how successful the Scene Machine has made me in my business. I love sharing with others. I invite other photographers to come to my studio for a hand-on demonstration.  When you love a product, you will always share.

If I can do it, so can you!

Cindy has been a featured photographer in the book, BACKGROUND POWER!  She won first place in the 2005 Virtual Backgrounds print competition.  She also shares a section the Virtual Backgrounds promotional DVD, Imagine the Possibilities.   A strong believer in the power of Web promotion, her Web site is continually changing and is packed with action!  After viewing her images, one has to be impressed with her exciting new ideas. 

Click here to view Cindy’s web site

Watch Cindy Cofer's Senior Video

Watch Cindy Cofer's Fairy Video

Three Career Changing Workshops

Making Money with Virtual Backgrounds
with Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson

September 14-16, 2009

There is no other tool that can add more of a jolt to your day to day studio operation. Get the facts! Learn to use the system. Discover how it can become a key part of your marketing. Develop new business and high profits. Amateurs and low level professionals do not have Virtual Backgrounds! Presented by Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson.

Making Money with Enchanted and Fantasy Photography
with Diane Wilson

October 28 - October 2, 2009

One of the hottest and most profitable new areas in professional photography that is so much more than just angel wings. The public loves the results, and they cannot do this on their own. The class is taught by Canadian photographer, Diane Wilson, who pioneered the concept in a total area of just 15x18 feet in a flea market.

Making Money with Classic Portrait Photography
with Joseph and Louise Simone

October 12-16, 2009

World renowned photographers, Joseph and Louise Simone, return to Texas to teach their methods of creating truly timeless portraits. This course is so special that many photographers take it over and over again. Although this course is on the classic portrait, the methods that the Simones teach apply to all styles of truly professional photography.

Contact Virtual Backgrounds to learn about these career changing events!

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

Click here for our upcoming trade show,
seminar and affiliate school schedule.

Also click here for information on our
Virtual Backgrounds Training Workshops.