May 2010 Issue

In this issue:

The Ace in the Hole for Professional Photographers

The VB No Spin Zone

VB Slide Cabinet Holds over 600 Backgrounds!

How the Scene Machine can Generate Amazing High Key Images

Craig Weiglein Share Some New VB Images

Great News! 
Business is Up!

After a long lean period, professional photographers from around the country are reporting that their phones are starting to ring again and clients are scheduling appointments.  This could be the long awaited economic turn-around. It’s a welcome change.  However, what will not change is the digital revolution which has enabled amateurs to do so much of their own photography.  The real trick for the professional is to offer services and product the amateurs cannot do on their own but still want.  Those who can do that are the ones who will see the greatest increase as the economy improves. 

It will never again be business as it was before the digital revolution.  Virtual Backgrounds plays a key role in helping professional photographers be more creative and deliver unique images that will catch the public’s eye. Amateurs and low level photographers do not have the advantage of having Virtual Backgrounds  

It also means that now is the time for cost effective advertising and promotion.  Brighter skies lie ahead for those who reach out to best serve their clients. 

Trevon Baker's
Portrait Workshops

Click here to enlarge.

Master Photographer, Trevon Baker, will teach two workshops this summer at his new studio in Somers, Montana, just outside of Kalispell. Trevon is a long time user of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds System. 

The workshops will cover a wide range of material, ranging from achieving the perfect custom white balance to light patterns and ratios, posing children, seniors and families, getting great expressions, backgrounds and conducting portrait sessions that yield maximum variety.  Special emphasis will be on the four dimensions of a professional portrait. 

Models will be provided for both indoor and outdoor photography and there will be lots of hands-on work for the ten participants in each class. Workshop attendees will enjoy an optional extra day with Trevon doing a photo safari in nearby Glacier National park (at no extra charge).  The workshops are scheduled in both June and September. Click here for more information.

Does Using Virtual Backgrounds Really Make Money?

Many VB system owners have found Virtual Backgrounds to be so successful that they would not want to work without it.  It is that important to their operation.  Some owners are not so sure.  Most non-owners just don’t know.  What’s the real story?

Virtual Backgrounds is a tool just like a camera.  It doesn’t work entirely on its own.  It requires a knowledgeable operator to use it properly.  When VB is properly used and marketed, it can be the photographer’s most powerful tool to help separate their product from what other photographers, including amateurs, can produce.  More than ever before, professional photographers need to distance themselves as much as possible from other photographers and especially from the amateurs who are today taking away so much of the business.

Virtual Backgrounds is the only significant tool that is exclusive to the professional photographer.  Amateurs don’t have Virtual Backgrounds, although they are now getting into using green screen which has many limitations when used for portraits. 

The VB process is as much a technical tool as it is a promotional tool.  It cannot only be a key reason clients come to you but the results it helps the photographer create causes clients to buy more because of the uniqueness and variety.  There is a simple formula.  More variety equals more sales.  Used properly, it can work like a steroid for your creativity and your sales. 

Great Workshops Coming to the VB Learn and Earn Center this Summer!

The next few months will bring some really special workshops to Virtual Backgrounds.

VB Workshop:  June 21-23, 2010.  If you are looking for a way to be truly different and stimulate more sales, this is the workshop for you!

Greg Stangl’s The Business of Photography:  June 24-25, 2010

Richard Sturdevant’s Photographic Art Composites:  July 22-23, 2010

Any Amateur Can
Take Good Pictures

That is the core of our problem!  When a photograph made by a professional photographer for money looks like a photograph that any rank amateur could have done entirely on their own, then we have a problem - a big, big problem.  When this happens, they no longer need the professional because they will just do it themselves.  We see this in our wedding photography.  We see it in our portraits.  We see it everywhere.  We’ve dumbed down our profession when amateurs can do what we the professional does.

Dumbing down has even moved into our professional magazine covers and articles which are supposed to serve as examples of the best work for others to try to emulate.  We wonder why we are losing business. Many photographers do not even want to admit that we are part of the problem.

Yes, the digital revolution has put phenomenal tools in the hands of everyone.  We can’t help that.  However, when professionals use these tools much like any amateur, then we are responsible for the results.  Joseph and Louise Simone presented a program for PPA Imaging USA in Nashville, titled “Where Have All the Artists Gone?”  They pleaded for their colleagues to rise up to a higher level.  We will present a synopsis of their presentation in the next issue of The Backgrounder.

Professional photography was never supposed to be just a matter of taking snapshots of life.  It is an art form.  It involves a level of performance far above what just anyone can do.  Professionals use tools to assist them in their endeavors to produce results that can’t be done by just anyone.  Virtual Backgrounds is a perfect example of one of those tools.  It was never designed for the amateur.  It is a professional tool that enables the professional to stretch the possibilities to new levels of accomplishment.

The next time you look at your work, honestly ask yourself this:  Am I producing photography just like or similar to what any amateur could do?  It’s a painful question, but it must be asked and honestly answered.  Next ask yourself what you could possibly do to rise above.  When we offer really special work, that’s when the public will once again actively seek out our services and pay for them.

What Photographers can Learn from Other Businesses

Cafe Amore, Ogunquit, Maine

Business is business, no matter what the business is.  It is always helpful for business owners to continually observe what other businesses are doing to grow their operation.  The highly competitive restaurant business can bring professional photographers some great promotional ideas.  In a recent visit to the seaside city of Ogunquit, Maine, we experienced Café Amore which specializes in breakfast.  Much like The Magnolia Pancake Haus of San Antonio that we wrote about last month, Café Amore specializes in a wide variety of unique breakfast items.  For example they offer 14 different gourmet omelets, 4 different kinds of waffles and French toast, and 8 different varieties of Eggs Benedict.  They also have a variety of other more basic items.  They have been so successful that they are now in their 4th location because of their growth.

Also in Ogunquit, Maine is a seafood restaurant that offers Chowder Points to reward their frequent customers.  The restaurant offers points based upon the amount the customer spends.  To be a member of their plan and collect chowder points, the customer must register, provide their e-mail address, and be willing to receive e-mail notices about specials.  An e-newsletter for your customers can be a photographer’s best and most efficient marketing tool if they make it interesting, if they include specials, and if they don’t send it out too often.

No one single business owner can possibly have all the great ideas.  Instead, no matter where you do business, always be watching for something special that you can modify and bring into your marketing plan for promoting your studio. 

Did You Miss the April Issue of The Backgrounder?

A number of readers told us that they did not get the April issue of The Backgrounder.  If that happened to be you, you can read it now by clicking here.  You can read every past issue of The Backgrounder if you go to the Backgrounder Archives on the VB Web site.  It is our goal to put special emphasis on real issues and examples that the other print magazines do not cover.

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!

The Ace in the Hole for
Professional Photographers

Yes, many professional photographers have seen a major downturn in business as digital enables even rank amateurs to capture some pretty good pictures.  Some disenchanted professionals may even feel that it’s all over for the professional photographer.  They are wrong!  They must not know about our ace in the hole:  the simple fact that people want to look their very best in photographs, at least for special situations.  People still spend a lot on clothes, they worry about their hair, they spend tons of money on skin creams and makeup, and even expensive cosmetic surgery - all to look better.  When it comes to photographs of themselves, while they may not care about snapshots that are going to go into the proverbial shoebox or stay forever as a digital file locked into some hard drive, they do really care about how they look in a serious lasting image of themselves.  In fact, a major reason many people don’t go to the professional photographer for a portrait is that they fear how bad they are going to look!

Here lies opportunity!  If you can make a subject look better than they ever expected, would there not be business for you to do exactly that?  You may foolishly think the portrait market is dead, but it isn’t.  It’s dying for the snapshot professional photographer.  It isn’t dead for those who make people look really good in creating a photograph that they will be proud to share with important people in their lives.

Think for a minute about the phenomenal success of the Glamour Shots studio concept? They made women look good and they made tons of money.  Their biggest mistake was that they went too far with what became known as the frou-frou look, and they had a repertoire that was way too limited.  Glamour Shots was a victim of their own uniqueness, but Glamour Shots did teach us an important lesson:  make people look good and they will come.

The real problem lies primarily within the photographer.  Today, we are populated with herds of slap bang photographers, many still in the amateur class, who think that if they look on the Internet and take an hour long webinar, that they are professional photographers.  Real professional photography is an artistic career that takes years to learn, even when there is natural artistic talent.  Joseph and Louise Simone did not become who they are by looking at a few webinars.  Years and years of study and practice took place.

If you build it, they will come.  While professional photography has gone down in most respects, high quality and really special work that makes clients proud of who they are and how they look can still be highly profitable.  You just have to decide if you want to try to make it as one of millions of snapshot shooters or as a quality photographic artist producing customized unique products for clients.  It’s your choice.  The ace is still there. The ace is still there for those who seek it!

The VB
No Spin Zone

It is so common today for a manufacturer or sales person to exploit a product or concept with puffery and exorbitant claims without any factual basis.  How does one know fact and separate it from fiction?  We’ve all been fooled in the past when we buy a product and it doesn’t nearly do what it was claimed it would do.

We all need to see it to believe it.  With VB, there is a way for a you to get the facts.  All you need to do is attend a VB workshop.  Workshops not only teach you how the product works, but it also teaches you how to properly use it.  Workshops also provide you with actual hands-on experience and the opportunity to ask any question you wish.  You will get clear, factual, and honest answers.

VB workshops are held every month except December in San Marcos, Texas.  San Marcos is half way between Austin and San Antonio, which is also an very popular tourist area.  The cost of the workshop is only $295, and it is 100% satisfaction guaranteed!  If it isn’t what we promise, you can get a full refund. The workshop is taught by Jim Wilson, the VB technical expert, and Montana Master Photographer, Trevon Baker.  By special arrangement, rooms at Travel Lodge are only $45 per night.

If you are looking for ways to significantly enhance your business and ways to be distinctively different from others, then we challenge you to come to our next workshop and find out for yourself about the magic of Virtual Backgrounds.  It can take your photography business to the next level, even if you only work on location.  The next workshop is June 21-23, 2010.  Contact us today for more information and to register.

View workshop videos here.

Click here for more details.

VB Slide Cabinet
Holds Over 600 Backgrounds!

The VB slide cabinet is now available for immediate shipment in black laminate.  Imagine having over 600 backgrounds at your fingertips in your studio where your customers can easily see the tremendous variety of backgrounds that you have available. 

The slides are easily removed from trays that are lit by the cabinet's viewing drawer.  The cabinet also includes a shelf for storage of other items.  Today’s clients want maximum variety.  There is no better way to deliver that variety than with Virtual Backgrounds.  Contact VB for further information.

How the Scene Machine can Generate Amazing High Key Images

Virtual Backgrounds can be used to create high key backgrounds.  It can generate new styles of high key that are different from what many photographers do without VB.  California photographer, Bill Hodge, recently sent us this URL to show what he is doing to generate high key photographs with his Scene Machine and how he promotes his studio.  It’s exciting and different from traditional high key. 

A couple of months ago we received very unique high key samples from Ohio photographer Don Hileman.  This is just more examples of the extreme versatility of a Virtual Backgrounds system in the hands of creative professional photographers.  Keep up the good work Bill and Don!

Craig Weiglein Shares Some
New VB Images

Kentucky photographer Craig Weiglein, who was our January 2010 featured photographer recently sent us a new batch of images to review.   Craig is creating nice variety and color harmony.  With Craig’s permission, we thought that we would share his images with our readers as just another example of what Scene Machine owners are able to do with their system.  You too can separate yourself from other photographers and especially from the amateurs.   If potential clients in Craig’s area are captivated by Craig’s creativity and variety, they have to go to him to get it.  They can’t do it on their own!

Click here to see more of Craig’s new images.

Click here for Craig’s new Web site.

The next time someone tells you Virtual Backgrounds doesn’t work, send them to look at Craig’s work and the work of so many of the other professional photographers on our Web site.  It’s a fact that backgrounds help to sell portraits!

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.