August 2010 Issue

In this issue:

Photographers Declare War

VB Offers Layaway Finance Program!

VB Joins with Pounds Photo Lab: New Workshop Format Emphasizes Marketing!

Time to Schedule Your Tell Us What You Want Meeting

Let Us Help You

Check Out Our Web Site
We Always Adding
More and More

If you are interested in growing your business, take time to go to the Virtual Backgrounds Web site and spend some serious time there learning about Virtual Backgrounds and seeing what other photographers are doing with it to generate dollars.  The information you need is all there.  Yes, times are tough.  In tough times, the tough get going.  Virtual Backgrounds can be your very best investment.  Find out why.  With our really unique finance program, you can get into Virtual Backgrounds for far less than you think.

Refurbished Virtual Backgrounds Systems

We have some refurbished machines available at a much reduced cost from a totally new system.  We have an older two power projector for only $500 plus a rotator for your digital camera.  That’s the cost of one single canvas background!

Contact a VB consultant to get the scoop on new deals! 

A Trade Up Program
that Can’t be Beat!

VB offers a simple plan to help professional photographers acquire a Virtual Backgrounds system and then at a later date, trade up to a higher level system when they are ready.  A VB projector, new or refurbished, can be traded in for a higher level projector at any time during the first year of ownership with a guaranteed 100% value for the first 90 days and 80% value for up to a year assuming the equipment is well maintained. 

If the photographer starts off with a small background screen, such as a 4’ x 6,’ the screen can be traded for a larger new screen with 50% of the cost of the small screen applied to the larger screen and the photographer gets to keep the small screen for location work such as for school photography.

This is a perfect way to get started in the world of Virtual Backgrounds for a very minimal cost and then as the investment pays off, the photographer can go to a higher level projector and a larger screen.  Remember, Virtual Backgrounds will finance the VB equipment you need on the 50/50 plan.

Contact your VB consultant for more information.

Richard Sturdevant’s
July Workshop Recap

A full class of 22 professional photographers from around the country enrolled in Richard Sturdevant’s July class on how to create Lifestyle Composite Art portraits. 

Lifestyle Composite Art Portraits represent a brand new product for professional photographers that will soon be in high demand.  The portrait involves a unique combination of images that are presented in one large image created for wall mounting.  Most photographers accept jobs on a commission basis - a single price that includes consultations, one or more portrait sittings, and the creation of the final print, usually 16' x 20' or larger.  

Sturdevant describes the process as the closest thing a photographer can do to brush artistry.  In fact, he feels that the most successful photographers in the future will be portrait artists, not photographers.

The beautiful thing about Sturdevant’s concept, besides being a great and profitable photographic product is that amateurs and other professionals can’t do it.  It is a true professional product.

The next Sturdevant workshop will be held at Virtual Backgrounds' Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos October 14-15, 2010.  It immediately follows the regular Virtual Backgrounds class which will be October 11-13, 2010.

Attendees may want to attend the VB class first and then the Sturdevant class.  If your business is hurting, here is your chance to really offer something exciting and different to generate new dollars - a lot of them.  Amateurs can’t do this!

What Do People Hear
When They Call You?

When a potential customer calls your phone, how are they greeted?  Do they get a professional greeting from a real live person?  Or do they get voicemail? Is your phone answered in a highly professional way or is it the other way around? 

Take a good look at how prospective customers perceive your business by the way your phone is answered or not answered.  A business phone line with a quality recording machine is not expensive.  Better yet, in many areas, it is still possible to hire a phone answering company where a real live person answers your phone when you are not available.  Callers think that the person who answered the phone is your receptionist when in fact the individual may answer dozens of lines.  The important factor is that the customer feels that a real live professional sounding person answered the phone and not kids or a machine.  How your phone is answered could be costing you or giving you a lot of business.

How Does Your Place of Business Look to
Your Customers?

First impressions are important.  What kind of judgments to you think your customers make about your studio business as they walk into your door for the first time?  Does your place look cheap?  Does it look like an ordinary house where someone takes some pictures once in a while?  How are you dressed?  Do you look professional?  Do you have a studio area?  Does it look professional?  Even if you have your studio in your personal residence, it doesn’t have to look like an afterthought.  It is very possible to integrate a professional studio in a personal residence.  Keep these thoughts in mind as your customers walk through your doors!

Digital – Angel of Mercy or
Kiss of Death?

Years ago when digital was first entering the market we wrote an article with this title:  Digital-Angel of Mercy or Kiss of Death.   At that time, a growing number of photographers were paying $27,000 for a Kodak 460.  Before they learned enough to start using it, it was worth less than half.  Today it’s worth nothing.  Sometimes it is possible to move too fast and make poor investments.  Even today, many photographers are spending their limited resources on repeatedly buying the very latest new digital camera.  Digital cameras have come so far that the latest newest camera often offers no new benefits that the public ever recognizes.  Consequently it doesn’t bring in new dollars.  Before buying a brand new camera, make sure they will provide you with features that will definitely generate revenue.

Of course, the biggest problem is the fact that digital cameras make the amateur photographer so much better at doing photography that they feel they no longer need the professional.  On the other hand, the professional should take digital and search for ways to produce results with it that the amateurs find attractive and cannot do on their own.  That is where the real money resides.  Set your goals to use digital technology to get to the treasury.

Digital is a double edged sword.  It can put you out of business or it can be the reason you stay in business and generate big dollars. 

Exceed Expectations

Exceed customer expectation and they will return again and again.  This expression is on the wall of the employee entrance at Sam’s Club.  Not bad advice for professional photographers. 

Today, with the ability of amateurs to do much better photography on their own than ever before, the professional photographer must rise to a higher level and deliver results that exceed their customer’s expectations.  Customers like to be treated well and they like to get their money’s worth.

As you start each day, think about this expression.  It’s works for Sam’s.  It will work for you!

VB at PP of Louisiana
and Florida Shows

Virtual Backgrounds recently displayed their products at both the Louisiana and Florida trade shows.  The response from attendees was highly enthusiastic as more and more photographers come to recognize that they have to offer really special products that are distinctively different from what their customers can get elsewhere.  The Scene Machine is a major tool to help professional photographers be clearly and significantly different.  Amateurs and many other professionals do not have the advantage that come with using Virtual Backgrounds in their studio or on location.

Cindy Cofer Shows VB at Chris Wunder’s Bootcamp

Kentucky professional photographer, Cindy Cofer, showed how the Scene Machine can be a very effective tool for school photography at Chris Wunder’s bootcamp held in July at Hallmark Institute in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts.  The week long workshop even included live shooting sessions.  Cindy emphasized the importance of being truly different as the photographer who offers products the customers cannot create on their own.  This is what comes with using The Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system. 

Coming Up in the
September Issue

In September, we’ll highlight a special article on capturing local backgrounds centered on all of the excitement of high school or college football.  It’s an opportunity you should be capitalizing on right now!

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!

Declare War!

War is breaking out across America between established legitimate professional photographers and the tens of thousands of newbie shutterbug photographers who call themselves professional and sell their pictures to the public.  The newbie shutterbug type photographers, armed with their new digital cameras, have been increasingly raiding the treasury of the established studios.  At first the losses didn’t really matter all that much and the established professionals tolerated the newcomers.  Now, the newcomer raids are seriously hurting the established studios.  Although generally a peaceful bunch, the established studios have decided it is time to strike back hard at the raiders.

It has been learned that a number of the raiders are vulnerable because they were working outside the law.  Many of the newbies do not pay state sales tax although some even collect it just to make themselves look more legitimate to their clients and then pocket the extra money.  It is suspected that some are not paying state income tax and many may not be paying the IRS either. They think they are small and will fly under the government's radar.  In addition, many of the raiders work out of their homes in neighborhoods where zoning regulations strictly prohibit homeowners from engaging in business activity out of their residence.  To further tilt the playing field, many of the raiders do not have liability insurance, do not pay workers comp to their helpers, and may pay employees under the table in cash.  They are not paying the employees’ social security, withholding tax, workers compensation, state income tax, and so on.  Where a local business license is necessary, the raiders often do not register.   Cheating in some or all of these ways provides the raiders with a huge monetary advantage, much larger than you may initially think.

The established professionals are finding that they can use the power of the law as their major war tool to severely cripple the raiders, either driving them out of business or causing them to operate within the parameters of the law of the land so as to level the playing field.  The established professionals really had no choice but to go this route to fight back, as unsavory as it may initially seem.  With all these things considered, the playing field is definitely not level so professionals are striking back!  A single bee sting may not be fatal but a hundred or more could be.  That’s what we have today with so many people turning to photograpy to make extra bucks.  It’s all part of what we have called The Perfect Storm for photographers.  Reporting the violators to the government becomes a reasonable line of defense for legitimate business operators, especially in these difficult times.  This is exactly what is happening more and more across the country.

There have been reports that that the government tax people are taking aggressive actions by picking up the registration lists for photographers who attend a convention/trade show and then checking them for proper documentation.

It is important that everyone selling photography, whether they are a full time studio or a once in a while weekender, operate on the legal side of the law and adjust their pricing accordingly.  Getting caught cheating can result in fines and jail time!  Everyone needs to follow the rules or face the consequences!

VB Offers Layaway Finance Program

In order to make a Virtual Backgrounds system accessible to professional photographers, we have developed a new lay away finance program which can be coupled with our 50/50 payment plan.  Under the new program, photographers can choose the Virtual Backgrounds equipment they need, new or refurbished, and place it on lay away for a period of up to one year with a down payment of only 10% of the total value.  Payments are made monthly until 50% of the equipment is paid for.  At that point, the payment plan is converted to a lease and the equipment is shipped to the photographer.  The photographer then makes twelve equal monthly interest free lease payments.  When the last payment is made, an additional payment of $1is made and the photographer then owns the equipment!

The photographer can start a marketing program while the equipment is on lay a way and then when the system is received, they can quickly put it into service and begin earning new money that should more than cover the subsequent payments.  In some cases, photographers have paid off the balance on their system in just a few months.  The purpose of lay away and the special zero interest payment plans is to help photographers be able to put Virtual Backgrounds to use so increase their sales.

Contact a VB consultant for more information.

VB joins with Pounds Photo Lab:
Tests New Workshop Format

Emphasizes Marketing

In cooperation with Pounds Photographic, Virtual Backgrounds tested a new workshop format in August called Innovative Solutions to Generate Dollars. It has added emphasis on marketing to get the customers in front of the camera.  If you can’t shoot them, you can’t sell them!

In addition to the normal presenters (Montana Master Photographer Trevon Baker and Photographic Craftsman, Jim Wilson) the new workshop was also led by Henry Oles, VB founder and author of The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm and BACKGROUND POWER!  Colorado Master Photographer, Rick Avalos also presented.  Henry discussed how the Perfect Storm has forever changed the photographic industry and presented a number of suggestions for successfully fighting the storm, not only to survive but also thrive.   Rick presented his unique marketing methods that are bringing him both customers and dollars.  Unlike most photographers today, Rick’s sales are strong.

The next regular Virtual Backgrounds workshop is scheduled for September 13-15, 2010.   The next Innovative Solutions to Generate Dollars workshop is scheduled  for October 11-13, 2010.  Contact VB for further information.

Time to Schedule Your
Tell Us What You Want
Meeting with Seniors

Want to score big points with high school seniors whether or not you have the senior contract - especially if you don’t have the contract?  School is opening!  When was the last time you invited a group of seniors in to help you understand what they are looking for in their senior portraits?  Most professional photographers just dive in offering what they think their clients want.   Often they are wrong.  Trends change and you may not know it.

Another benefit of holding such meetings is that seniors like to be asked what they want.  You can schedule a pizza party and invite perhaps a dozen seniors to your studio for an hour to talk about what they like and do not like in professional photography.  Make them your advisory committee.  Make them feel important and that their opinions count.  You can ask them to look at samples of your work and express their opinions.  They are going to have their opinions whether you know them or not.  It is better that you know them.  People like to be asked.

You can give them a tour of your studio and your camera room and impress upon them the importance of professionally taken senior portraits.  You could show them a short video that clearly shows all that you do.  If you are using a Virtual Backgrounds system, you can demonstrate it for them, perhaps capturing a few sample images. Emphasize the magic and professionalism that your studio offers.  Mention the problems with amateur type photographs. 

You may only be meeting with a dozen seniors but seniors talk to each other.  If you do it right, word will get around.  If it goes well, you might want to have more than one advisory group.

What do you do if the seniors tell you that they don’t like what you produce?  The answer is simple.  Thank them for their advice and ask them if they would like to come back in a month for a follow up meeting where you can show them how you are working to follow their advice.  They will love you for it. 

Many photographers bemoan the fact that their senior business has gone to the dogs.  You can join them with the dogs or you can take action to get the business in your door.  It doesn’t cost much at all - just a little time.

Let Us Help You

Do you have a Scene machine sitting around not being used as much as it should be?  A Scene Machine sitting unused isn’t going to make any money.  In these difficult times, photographers need to put their tools to work to generate dollars. Let us help you make more money with your Scene Machine. 

If you have a Scene Machine, be sure to study our entire Web site.  Call to arrange to come to the next workshop.  Our workshops offer much more than just technical advice on how to use your Scene Machine.   If you have questions, call for customer support.  Experiment with new local backgrounds that you have captured.  Promote to the public what you can do with your Virtual Backgrounds system.  You should be actively developing your background library.

We can make the product and we can help you, but in the end, how much money you make with Virtual Backgrounds is up to you!

If you don’t have a Virtual Backgrounds system, then maybe it is time to discover why so many of our system users would not want to operate without it.  They consider it their most important attrition to their studio.

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.