September 2010 Issue
In this issue:
Videos! Videos! Videos!
A message from Henry Oles, President and Founder of Virtual Backgrounds
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 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 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.
Testimonials from the last Innovative Solutions workshop:
~Brian McMahen Ft. Smith, Arkansas
~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!
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.