September 2010 Issue

In this issue:

Halloween is a Fun and Money Making Opportunity for Photographers

The Photographer's War on Tax Evaders

The First Step is the Killer

Innovative Solutions to Generate Dollars

Collateral Damage

Videos! Videos! Videos!

A message from Henry Oles, President and Founder of Virtual Backgrounds

Sample Images from Photokina

VB Workshop Testamonials

Trevon Baker Invites You to
VB Monthly Workshops

Virtual Backgrounds Introduces Partnership Program

Interested Photographers Can Visit with Select System Users

Photographers are always asking, “Who in my area can I talk who is using your system?”  Now we will be able to give out names.  VB is starting a new partnership program with select photographers who successfully use their VB system.  These system owners are excited to talk with other photographers who are interested in learning about Virtual Backgrounds.  This way, the interested photographer can get direct information from another photographer in addition to talking with a VB consultant.

The program is just starting and it will be a few months before it is fully implemented.  We will be announcing the names of participating VB system users in The Backgrounder and in other mail outs.  Keep an eye out for more information.

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.

~John W. Gardner~

Great opportunities are all around us, but they are hiding, waiting to be found.  If every great opportunity were crystal clear, we would all be rich; we would all be married to our true love, we would all be living a nearly flawless, extraordinary life.  Fortunately, for you, you possess the perfect tool for digging, hunting, and finding these hidden opportunities:  your mind.  Professional photography is not finished.  There is a whole new and exciting future for professional photography.  Use your mind and make the appropriate investments.

Scene Machine Survives New Zealand Earthquake

Owner Nearly Gets Arrested

Phil Teague (While You Wait Studio) nearly got arrested for venturing into his earthquake damaged facility to retrieve his nearly new virtual background screen before any demolition started.  Fortunately he only got a warning.  He was later able to move his studio to another facility across the street.  Phil came to Virtual Backgrounds in San Marcos for our workshop just a year ago.

Here is the message we received from Phil:

I nearly made headlines when myself and a mate nearly got arrested for retrieving my VB screen from behind a Red Sticker. We just got a 24 hour trespass ban instead and a good telling off.

This was the front of Phil Teague’s studio in New Zealand shortly after the earthquake.  He has opened again across the street.  This photograph was seen around the world in newspapers and on television.

Nothing Ventured
Nothing Gained

Never has this been truer for professional photographers than now.  The perfect storm has changed just about everything except for one thing:  It is being proven every day that people will still buy unique images if indeed they really are special and cannot be duplicated by an amateur.

Today, we see so many photographers not venturing out to do anything special.  Declining revenue and fear of the future is causing nearly everyone to stay put.  Staying put, however, can be devastating if revenues continue a downward slide.

The only option is prudent decision making:  make a course of action that has the greatest probability of bringing a meaningful return on investment.  Take hold of the many opportunities out there!  You can do it!

How Would You React if You Were the Customer?

We recently called a photographer several times and got their typical leave a message.  Then when we called again, the machine said in a rather demanding voice, “THE MAILBOX IS FULL.  PLEASE HANG UP.”  We sat there both stunned and insulted.  We wondered how effective a business could be if they didn’t very often answer their phone and retrieve their messages.  We also wonder if the photographer approved of this recording that said, “Please Hang Up!”

Take a few minutes to check out what you sound like when a prospective customer calls you.  You may only get one chance with them.  Make it a good one!

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!

Halloween is a Fun and Money Making Opportunity for Photographers

Halloween once was for kids.  It’s now becoming a bigger and bigger event for adults too. Halloween stores are popping up in cities across the country.   Halloween can be a big event for professional photographers who come up with a picture event in their town, often working in conjunction with an organization that will sponsor a fund raising event.

The professional photographer can’t take snapshots and expect the public to open their wallets.  However, if the photographer includes something really special and creative, such as using the Scene Machine to produce Virtual Backgrounds, the photography can become an important and profitable event.

Typically the photographer works in conjunction with a nonprofit group and donates a portion of the proceeds to the group.  The group does a lot of the leg work and can get a lot of free advertising in the media.  While the resulting photographs have to be relatively inexpensive, there is plenty of room for profit and public notoriety which can bring future business.  Heaven knows that professional photographers need notoriety.

Virtual Backgrounds offers a wide variety of Halloween backgrounds.  Halloween I, Halloween II, Halloween III, and Halloween IV are in stock and ready to help you make more money!

The Photographer’s War on Tax Evaders

Bigger than Expected and Expanding Daily

The battle lines between the legally operating professional photographers and those that are operating illegally are far more widespread and serious than initially thought.  The Photographers Declare War lead article in last month’s issue of The Backgrounder, brought an immediate response from embattled established photographers, many of whom have already been taking their own plan of action against their unfair competitors which usually involved reporting tax violators to the government authorities.  Having the proper authorities handle the problem is a relatively simple and extremely effective.  One photographer runs an ad on Craig’s List warning his non-tax-paying competitors that he will report them.

In one state, it was found that 72% of the photographers who called themselves professionals were not paying their state taxes and probably their other taxes as well.  With the new higher taxes, it is likely that there will be more underground trade.    We got several reports on photographers who have been cracked down upon by the government authorities after they were reported by competitors.

It is interesting to note that Arkansas PPA requires a sales tax number to be a member.  Senior Photographers International (SPI) requires a sales tax number for membership.  On the other hand, most professional photography organizations including the Professional Photographers of America only require a payment of the membership fee and instantly, the shutterbug becomes as legitimate as a professional photographer.  If one looks up the definition of a professional, the professional must be charging for their services and, therefore, are required to file tax returns and pay taxes.

Tax law violations are extreme when one gets caught, especially if it is obvious that the violation was deliberate.  With governments at every level scraping for money, you can expect that they will be paying more attention to finding those who are not following the law.

The First Step is the Killer

Getting Them In Front Of the Camera

The big killer problem reported by photographers from around the world is extreme difficulty in getting people to schedule a time to be photographed.  Once a subject is photographed, assuming a good job was done, the orders come in.  It’s just getting the public to make the decision to be photographed by a professional photographer.  Consequently, the professional photographer must concentrate on developing new and improved ways to attract clients.  This was one of the major subject matter of the August workshop held at the VB Learn and Earn Center.  There is a wide range of ways to attract people through unique, creative, and not necessarily costly marketing.  Successful marketing can be much easier to achieve if the marketer has something significant and special to market.  The results that can be obtained from effectively using a Virtual Backgrounds system is a prime example!  VB is magic to the public.  It is virtually our only piece of significant magic that is for professionals only.   Understand the power of the background to generate sales!  The more personalized the background is the bigger the sales!

Professional photographers like Rick Avalos are proving that the perfect storm that is now raging does not have to mean the end.  By offering a wide selection of innovative products and by fine tuning specialized marketing techniques, the business can still be brought in and attractive sales can result.

Innovative Solutions to Generate Dollars

New Workshop Sponsored by
VB and Pounds Photographic Labs

A career changing workshop that places special emphasis on innovative ways to generate dollars, even in these tough times, will be held October 11-13, 2010, at the VB Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.  The session leaders are Trevon Baker, Rick Avalos, Henry Oles, Jim Wilson, and Carl Clark.    The workshop is cosponsored by Virtual Backgrounds and Pounds Photographic Labs.  Pounds sponsorship reduces the workshop cost from $295 to only $125 per person.  The workshop includes more than 24 hours of instruction and five free meals!

Testimonials from the last Innovative Solutions workshop:

This has been the best workshop I have ever attended.  Every presenter is extremely knowledgeable.

~Brian McMahen – Ft. Smith, Arkansas

An overall A+ experience!

~Chuck Evans –Tucson  Arizona

All of the workshop leaders emphasize a wide variety of ways to get subjects in front of the camera, how to create a wide variety of images amateurs and other professionals cannot do, and then how to sell, especially large prints.  Contact VB to secure your place in the October workshop!

Collateral Damage

There are hundreds of thousands of new and part time photographers who are promoting themselves as professional photographers.  What many legitimate professionals do not realize is just how much damage these newcomers cause everyone.  For example, when a so-called professional acts unprofessional, that reflects on everyone in the industry.  We are hearing about churches that do not allow any professional photographers inside the church because of past negative experiences.  Many people do not realize how much of a difference there is between just any newbie snap shooter and a true professional.

When these illegitimates show their work, which often looks very amateur like, this also tends to taint the attitude of the public as to what they think they can expect from a professional photographer.  The illegitimate photographer does not wear a beginner badge.  Instead, they show off the same PPA membership certificate many legitimate photographers show.  How is the public supposed to know the difference?

The illegitimates tend to offer much lower prices, often because they are not paying the appropriate taxes, insurance, licenses, and have not invested huge sums of money and time in training.  However, by offering low prices, this also reflects on the perceived value of professional photography in general.  The public is often looking for a low price and does not care if the photographer is paying their taxes.  They go for the price.

The rapidly rising flood of illegitimates is indeed hurting the profession but as things are structured now, the only thing that the true professional can do is to more effectively promote themselves and their product to get the public to recognize that there really is a difference.  This will require public education and that can be difficult but not necessarily expensive.  The public must be educated that there is a difference.

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.