December 2011 Issue

In this issue:

It Really Works - Help Others Make Money so you can Make even More Money!

Santa Photography can be Profitable

Location Photography can Land You and Your Customers in Trouble with the Law

Featured Photographer: Mark McCall

Feast Your Eyes on Our New
Virtual Backgrounds Website!

We’re still working on it but we invite you to take a peek at the new Virtual Backgrounds web site. You’ll see a lot of differences. The new web site will be very fluid and will include a great deal of information that will be changing as new developments occur. So, take a peek, and please tell us what you think. The web site is for you. We want your input.

Are you Working Harder than Ever and Still not Making Much Money?

Ask most any professional photographer today if they are busy and most likely you will get the answer that they are more busy than ever.  Ask any professional photographer if they are making more money today than a couple of years ago and they will tell you (if they are being honest) absolutely not.

This is crazy.  Photographers are more busy, even overwhelmed, than ever but many are making little to no money.  This doesn’t make any sense - or does it?  Much of the problem may lie within the photographers themselves.

In the days of film, photographers took photographs and had a pro lab process and print their images.  When retouching was necessary, they had their lab do it.  The photographer spent time either shooting subjects, managing and promoting the studio, or they were at home with their family.

Today, most photographers are taking hundreds or even thousands of images, then spending an enormous amount of time behind the computer,  sorting images, retouching, and then in many cases printing their own work and then preparing the results for sale and delivery.  No wonder they are so busy.  They are doing work that they would be better off if they farmed it out to specialists.

As a professional photographer, you are by far most valuable in the camera room and in promoting your business.  In most cases, you should not be doing your own retouching, printing, and print finishing and packaging.  There are others who can and should be doing that for you far more cost effectively than your doing it.

Constantly ask yourself, “Is this something I should be doing or would it be smarter to let my lab do it for me?”

Pro labs are ready to service your production needs.  There are album companies that professionally lay out wedding albums.  There are people in your community who will work for minimum wage doing the odds and ends around your studio. 

By not hiring the specialists and doing the work youself, you are saying that your time is only worth minimum wage or less. How could that be? Simple. If it takes you much longer to do something than what it would take the specialist, you may be working for almost nothing.

Some say that it is just a matter of raising your prices to justify your time. That’s the wrong way to think about it. The real answer is using your time more effectively so you can concentratre on running your business and not trying to do everything yourself.

You are a photographer, studio manager, and marketer. It's really difficult to successfully be the retoucher, the album assembler, the printer too!

Richard Sturdevant Sees Recovery for Storefront Studios

Many storefront professional photographers have either closed entirely or moved their storefront operation into their home as a result of what we have called The Perfect Storm.  Texas photographer, Richard Sturdevant, sees a change taking place with a resurgence of the storefront.  “There aren’t many storefront studios left any more but some of those that do exist are seeing a return of business.  People don’t want to meet a photographer in McDonald’s or in the photographer’s living room.  They are looking for a “real”  professional studio located in a commercial space.  I know I have seen a return of interest in my studio which is in a strip mall in Garland, Texas.”

Labs Go Directly to the Consumer

It may irritate you but it is just Survival 101 for labs. As the business they get from the traditional professional photographer goes down, many pro labvs are now actively seeking amateur work to keep their machines running.

A prime example is Millers Professional Imaging which some years ago opened their M Prints division what was meant primarily for amateurs  and then more recently they started M Prints Pro. 

Don’t blame the labs - they have to do what they do to stay in business.  In many cases, the pro labs would not be seeking amateur work if their professional customers continued to use them to fulfill all of their professional needs.

International Photographers Attend VB Workshop in Texas

Professional photograpehers from Austria, Nigeria and Chili all traveled to San Marcos Texas to attend the November Virtual Backgrounds workshop presented by Trevon Baker.  The VB workshops attract professionals from all parts of the world who come to learn how they can implement the Virtual Backgrounds process in their studios.

Pictured above left to right are Renigus Okoroafor (Nigeria), Paula Arancibla (Chili), and Elli Schober (Austria).

A large group attend the November VB workshop in San Marcos, Texas

Taught by
Master Photographer, Trevon Baker

Last Chance to Take Advantage of IRS Rule 179

Use it or lose it!  This is your last chance to take advantage of IRS rule 179 that lets the business person take a total deduction for new equipment purchased on this years federal taxes even if you have only paid for a small part of the purchase.  You can still deduct the full amount.  For example, if you but $10,000 worth of equipment and have paid only let’s say $1,000 by December 31, 2011, you can still deduct the full amount this year.    If you are going to make an equipment purchase, now is the time to do it if you want to lower your 2011 tax bill.

Tight on Cash?  Leasing can get you into a VB System for Very Little Down

If you have reasonable credit, you can get into Virtual Backgrounds for surprisingly little money down and 24, 36 or even 48 months to pay the balance if you use leasing.  Many of our VB customers do not use leasing because they expect to pay for their entire VB system in just a few months with new business it helps them generate.  But if you don’t want to take that risk, then leasing is your answer.  Virtual Backgrounds works with United Leasing, the only leasing company approved by the Professional Photographers of America.  Virtual Backgrounds also offers a variety of other types of purchase plans.  Contact a VB consultant for further information.

Mark McCall Talks about His Experiences with Virtual Backgrounds

More Santa Photos
by Trevon Baker

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!

It Really Works!
Help Others Make Money So
You Can Make Even More Money!

There is a bright side to a bad economy.  The bright side of a bad economy is that everyone is scratching to bring in money.  As a photographer, you can use this fact to significantly grow your business. 
Here’s how: Fundraising! 

Most non-profits including schools, clubs, and various groups engage in some kind of fund raising.  It seems that everyone is out there scratching to make a few bucks buy selling trinkets: candy, popcorn, magazines, coffee and so many other items.  These people really have to really scratch to make much money.  What if, however, the organization were selling a special kind of portrait package that you would create?  The organization could make a lot of money and the photographer could have a whole lot of sittings lined up which can lead to significant new profits.

Here’s how it can work.  The organization’s members sell vouchers for studio sittings for perhaps a $25 donation.  The organization turns documentation over to the photographer so they can call the buyer and schedule a sitting, a sitting they have already paid for.  Usually the customer gets one free print in addition to the sitting.  Any additional sales are for the photographer.  This fundraising effort serves to get the subjects in front of the camera.  Then it is up to the photographer to make hay.

Photographers often balk at giving away anything including the payment to the fund raising organization.  These same photographers are often the ones that are nearly broke and whining about a lack of business.  Sometimes you have to give something to get something.

Read the article in last months Backgrounder about Dallas professional, Daniel Gutera.  Click here to read. Daniel’s business has skyrocketed since hooking up with Safe Kids of Dallas.  It’s a win win win.  The organization wins, the photographer wins, and the customer wins. 

Virtual Backgrounds plays a key role in such ventures, enabling the photographer to produce work and variety the customer cannot do themselves and cannot get elsewhere.  That’s the key.  Produce regular photography, even pretty good regular photography, and the potential profits aren’t there.  But, the use of Virtual Backgrounds enables the photographer to produce exceptional results that generate large orders.  Gutera averaged orders that were several hundred dollars each.

There are many ways for the enterprising entrepreneurial photographer to make a good living, even in today’s difficult economy and the do it yourself craze.  One just has to be innovative.  It’s an investment that can pay big returns.

Santa Photography can be Profitable!

With seemingly everyone doing Santa photography, sometimes even for free as a promotion, one would think that Santa photography would not be something that would be of interest to any professional photographer.  Not only is that not true, but it also demonstrates why professional photographers can still prosper even with overwhelming competition by producing a unique quality product clearly above and beyond what all the others are doing. 

For several years we have featured the Santa special run over Thanksgiving weekend by Trevon Baker in Montana and Jim Richard in Houston.  They take the time to create high quality timeless portrait quality photographs of children with a very real looking Santa and their resulting sales justify the extra effort.  Their products are far from the simplistic low level snapshots that are offered by the store photographers and as a result, it sells and brings a handsome profit.

Jim Richard Santa Photo

Houston, Texas photographer Jim Richard is again offering his timeless Santa photography using his Virtual Backgrounds system.

Lori Lens Nuts & Bolts

Virtual Backgrounds is not just for photographing people. Lori DeRoulen of Lori Lens Photography used her Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system to create this Christmas greeting for Texas Nuts and Bolts.

Trevon Baker's Annual Santa Event

Montana Master Photographer, Trevon Baker, once again proves that there is room for the quality-minded professional photographer producing Santa portraits.

Location Photography Can Land You and Your Customer in Trouble with the Law!

Many photographers today are seeking the natural look and are taking their clients to a variety of locations.  One popular location is a local railroad track.  They don’t realize that the railroad police are not very happy about having anyone trespass on their land.  Don Dickson learned that the hard way.  He got caught by the railroad police while photographing a client and got fined and has the incident on his police record.  In addition, his client could be charged as well!  Needless to say, Don Dickson won’t be taking any more clients to the tracks.

Click here to read the entire article.

We can't help but mention that having a Virtual Backgrounds system in your studio prevents the need to go on location. You don't put yourself or your clients in danger. You have total control of the environment around you! You stand to make a profit without blemishing your record! And you don't have to worry about the railroad police knocking at your door!

This article, originally run in the Feb/Mar 2007 issue, has been reprinted courtesy Texas Professional Photographer magazine.

Featured Photographer:

Mark McCall

Discovers the Magic of VB

Like most professional photographers, Mark McCall of Lubbock Texas did not start out to be a photographer. He got a degree in mechanical engineering while working for a fund raising organization. He stayed with his first engineering job for just 2 months before he realized that is was not for him. He did stay with the fund raising company for 22 years but photography was always his hobby which gradually turned professional on weekends. The business grew over a 6 year period until he had no personal time left.

On July 4, 1996 Mark he made the decision to go full time into professional photography. It was a difficult decision because he was making a very good living and already had a child but he knew what he had to do. Initially he worked out of his home until he opened a commercial location in 2000 and then moved into a historic building in downtown Lubbock offering general photographic services including aerial, weddings, sports leagues in addition to general portraits. He climbed all the professional ladders including achieving the degrees of Photographic Craftsman, Master Photographer, and became a Certified Professional Photographer.

Mark never gave much consideration to getting a Virtual Backgrounds system until he heard about a photographer with a VB system who was going out of business and selling off everything. Mark explains, “I was not really in the market for a VB system but the seller dropped the price again so I bought it over the phone site unseen. I picked it up and stuck it in the corner of the studio for 8 months. I remember thinking, “What did I just do?”

“I finally called VB to attend a workshop and that is what really turned me on to Virtual Backgrounds. I had no idea just how powerful a tool VB actually is. I don’t get excited about equipment normally but this is the first time that I was absolutely blown away. There is so much potential in this machine...I just don’t know if I have enough hours in the day to get to do what I want to do.”

After learning the basics, Mark started doing images with his Virtual Backgrounds system specifically for competition. He submitted 4 prints created with Virtual Backgrounds and every one scored 80 and above. I got the Fuji Award trophy for one print at the Southwestern convention and “Best Image Of A Groom” at TPPA.” Mark is now suggesting that we rename the Scene Machine the “Merit Machine” because it has padded his already full trophy case.

Mark is creating special custom backgrounds to help him acquire and satisfy customers. For example one of his annual jobs is to photograph the incoming president of the Texas Tech Alumni Association. Mark has created a wide variety of campus related backgrounds and now shoots the new president of the Alumni with a variety of campus backgrounds right in the studio. “Now I can do it so quick without having to leave the studio. It is so simple, so quick...bang bang and bang and its done!”

Recently Mark was photographing a cheerleader group with a custom background he created specifically for them from their logo. “While photographing this group, a mother came up to me and said she liked my photographs with the custom background so much that she wanted to schedule me to be the photographer for another whole group of cheerleaders. This second group generated thousands of additional dollars. It was the custom backgrounds I was using that really caught this woman’s attention. Without that custom background, I never would have had this job.”

“What is also critical is that moms can’t capture what I am capturing. When a mom stands right next to me and shoots a photo right over my shoulder, the background flashes so brightly, it looks like an atomic blast went off. They sometimes even ask me what is wrong with their camera. I just chuckle. They can’t create what I am doing no matter what they do. That is how Virtual Backgrounds makes me really special.”

I recently told a photographer that the Virtual Backgrounds machine helps me in many ways. It helps me get jobs I could not have gotten before because I am able to offer something special, such as for sports leagues, schools, and other events that are hard to get because the low ball people are always cutting price. But they don’t offer the many advantage of Virtual Backgrounds. With VB, I don’t have to be the cheapest to win the contracts. VB is helping me be successful while other photographers are going out of business.”

Mark loves the work of master photographer William McIntosh. He cherishes his copy of McIntosh’s book, Location Photography. He intends to incorporate McIntosh’s style in the creation of what might best be called personality portraits where the total image, subject and background, are combined together to tell a story about the subject.

Mark concludes, “My only regret is that I did not get started using Virtual Backgrounds sooner.”

We expect Mark will be doing a great deal of highly creative and profitable work with his VB system in his studio and on location. He has also agreed to be present at the Virtual Backgrounds booth at the upcoming PPA Imaging event in New Orleans so he can personally share his enthusiasm for the VB process with others.

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.