January 2012

January 2012

Why Did the Studio

Nearly Die?

The answer is pretty simple. As long as the work produced in a formal studio was very limited, primarily to the traditional head and shoulders images with a traditional canvas or muslin background, the public was looking for something different and the photojournalistic environmental look took hold. As studio business dropped off, photographers with studios closed their studios not knowing that the real answer was in using technology to enhance the variety they could produce in a studio environment.

The problem was compounded by the digital revolution, the bad economy, and do-it-yourself thinking. However, without a studio, photographers were making themselves more vulnerable because they were more like everyone else producing on location photography. Although there are a wide variety of images that can be produced on location, there is also the variety of unique images that can be produced in the studio.

People want more choice and variety. If the studio option is removed from the formula, they will only have location images to choose from. If given the option, some people would choose only the studio while others would choose only location. A number will chose both, even paying extra to have more variety from which to choose. This is especially true if the photographer is able to offer exciting contemporary images taken in the studio that are truly different from the outdoor candids.

They just have to be shown the options that are available. Having a studio can be a big differentiator because there are few of them out there. Having a studio is, therefore, a powerful marketing tool, even if the customer chooses to have only location work done. They at least have the option. The studio no longer has to be severely limiting in terms of creative variety. With the introduction of the Virtual Backgrounds concept, the modern studio can offer infinite variety beyond the classic head and shoulders formal portrait.

Photographers are realizing that there is much more to a portrait sitting than just trees, lakes, and railroad tracks. The studio enables the photographer to offer so much more variety compared with just working on location. Photographers are also recognizing that one can generate far better sales when the client is presented their results in a more formal studio environment compared with mailing proofs or placing files online for them to view at their leisure.

Sales can be significantly higher when the results are presented by a live sales associate in a designated area under the control of the photographer. It’s important for you to have a studio of your own and offer your clients the most opportunity to use your services and leave you the greatest amount of revenue. Virtual Backgrounds is the key element that transforms a very limited, traditional studio into one that produces an infinite variety of both traditional and contemporary images. VB will resurrect the studio! It just makes good sense to offer the client maximum variety including professional studio work as well as location work.

New VB Website Launched!

We will not officially announce it until next month but the VB website has been completely revised. It has a totally new look and is placing more emphasis on new developments, current news, and new products as they come available.

Take a look and let us know what you think. This website will never be done since it will be continually evolving, We really want to hear from you. We want our VB website to be a place you can visit often to get new ideas and new inspiration to help lead you to a more profitable suture.

VB Marketing Package

VB is starting development in January on a marketing package for Virtual Backgrounds users. The package is being designed to help our VB system owners get maximum benefit from using their VB system. Some system owners are not getting maximum benefit because they are not successfully effectively marketing it. You can’t just plug in a VB system and expect money to come out. VB is as much a marketing tool as it is a photographic tool. It can be a powerful attractant for customers and for closing contracts.

New Projectors

Introduced at

PPA’s Imaging USA

VB will be showing two projectors at Imaging and other shows. They will be the VB Express and the VB Optima. The VB Express started shipping last summer while the Optima is new but carries nearly all of the features of the very popular Scene Machine Digital Wide Vue. The main advantage of the VB Express is its compact size and significantly lower price. The VB Express is the perfect machine for the traveling school photographer whereas the VB Optima is more designed for the full service studio where the photographer wants every possible feature.

Full details on the new machines can be found on our website and will be presented in the February edition of The Backgrounder.

VB Introduces New Tools

You asked for them. We listened. Here they are! VB will introduce several new tools at Imaging USA including the automatic lens height adjustment accessory and the anti-static wand for projection screens. If you are a VB system owner, you will want to own both accessories.

New Simone

Background Sets

Coming Soon!

You’ve been asking for them very a very long time. Now there are here. Joseph and Louise Simone have meticulously developed 40 new backgrounds in the Simone style. They are sold in sets of 10. A unique feature of these four sets is that Louise Simone has included a sample portrait taken with each background to provide a guideline of how they might be used.

Each set of 10 new Simone backgrounds are just $245, far less than the cost of one single painted or printed background. They can be made any size, in an out of focus, lighter or darker, and with filters, can even be altered in overall color rendition.

Contact your VB consultant for further information and to place your order.

Marketing Madness

There is an old expression that is so true: If you don’t market, if you don’t promote, nothing will happen. However, the following should be added: If you don’t market and promote using the right methods, nothing will happen.

We hear sad sob stories so often from photographers who report that they spent thousands of dollars on marketing their services such as through mail outs, and nothing came back. The fact is, that method of marketing professional photography is for the most part dead. There are far better more effective ways to market that cost very little.

Because marketing is so important to the success of every photographer, including those who own and use Virtual Backgrounds, VB will be placing even more emphasis on helping our customers with their marketing. There will be frequent articles in The Backgrounder on marketing, and we will be placing special emphasis on photographers like Rick Avalos who serves as a shining example of what can be very inexpensively done.

In addition to being a Master Photographer, Rick is a master at marketing his photographic services. He has made a lot of his marketing processes available to other professional photographers. His primary emphasis: Combining his unique style of photography with fund raising. He sees huge potential opportunities sitting there for photographers that they simply pass by.

For more information on Rick’s methods and marketing package, go to www.rickavalos.com.

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!

Predictions for 2012:

Are Better Times Coming?

What’s in store for professional photographers in the new year and beyond? Will things get any better or will they continue to get worse? More than ever, it depends on the people and how they respond to the changes that have occurred in our industry. There will be great profit expanding opportunities for those who go after them appropriately and disappointment for those who continue on the same old paths that no longer work. Generally speaking, some of the smoke is clearing as both photographers and the public adjust to the new world of photography and as the economy improves. Overall, 2012 should be better than the past few years for most everyone.

John Woodward stated in a December program he gave for the Houston Guild that today there could be as many as one million people earning some income from taking photographs! Basically that means that the professional photographer has perhaps one million competitors, plus just about every one of your customers is a potential competitor now that they have digital cameras that really work producing good enough images. Even the latest cell phone cameras work so well that they are a serious threat to the major camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon.

Just a few years ago we use to talk in terms of there being perhaps 50,000 professional photographers in the country. We’ve seen an unbelievable change in our level of competition. Can a professional, especially a full or serious part time person, even survive? Fortunately, there still is a fundamental formula for success today. It is to concentrate on doing things that the others desire but cannot do. This includes professionals at all levels and especially the do-it-yourself amateurs.

So, what is the key factor that can really make the difference? The answer may surprise you. Having a designated work area, essentially a studio, is a key differentiator. If there are indeed one million professional photographers in the US, then it can be said that the vast majority of them, perhaps more than 95% of them will not have a studio of any kind. Nearly all of them shoot on location in a candid fashion with their DSLR - otherwise called photojournalism.

If you are serious about making more than a little play money in photography, you cannot win the battle if you operate just like everyone else, even if you are a better shooter! It doesn’t help just to be cheaper. You cannot ever be cheap enough and still survive. Being cheaper is not the answer!

A studio does not have to be a fancy facility in the commercial high rent district. A studio is a designated place where photographers have an assortment of special tools that enable them to produce unique and quality results that cannot be done otherwise. It’s a physical place where the photographer has control of the lighting and other elements that enable them to produce the highest quality results because they are in total control. It is a place where the customer feels that the photographer is in control and can produce quality results far different from anything that can be done candidly.

Today, many photographers meet their customers at coffee shops to do business. Their sales room may be nothing more than posting their images online. These photographers have no idea how much more money they could be pocketing if they had a different approach. Sadly we are seeing established studios closing across the country because of the mistaken belief that a studio is part of the past and no longer relevant.

It is possible that this trend away from having a studio is changing. We’ve seen a gradual movement throughout the past year back to an appreciation of the professional photographer as one who can deliver results that are better than what can be done with a cell phone camera or just anyone who picks up and starts shooting with a Canon Rebel. As the economy improves and as the novelty of the do-it-yourself approach wears off, there is more interest in trying out the local professional. There is more appreciation for the artistic component of photography, if the professional can deliver it. It’s more than just pushing a button.

At the same time, pro labs and other sources are providing the professional with more unique products that the public cannot easily find on their own. For example, photographers cannot get metallic prints made at Sam’s photo lab! The improvement in the national economy is making more money available for the public to spend on non-essential services such as professional photography. It’s a matter of effectively promoting your unique services and product to motivate the public to take action and come to you for what you have special to offer.

Although conditions are improving, it will never again be like it once was. The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm is never going to disappear. It may only subside to an extent. The winners are those who learn how to effectively live and function within the new world that the Perfect Storm has created. This also means finding new more efficient and effective ways to market your photography services. Just putting up a sign or even doing a mass mailing to potential clients doesn’t work anymore. It’s important to understand that just because one photographer thinks they are better than others is often not enough. To stand out, one has to be distinctively different in as many ways as possible. Having an official studio and sales area is important.

The bottom line is that it is reasonable to expect that 2012 will be a better year but only for those who have learned to navigate what has become a more difficult course. However, there are advantages to the changes, as painful as they have been. It is easier for the superior operator to stand out - to be clearly recognized as desirably different, and whose services are sought after by a growing number of people who want the services of a real photographer. Those who are just like everyone else will be left to scratch for what’s left. However, the very same changes in the industry that have been so devastating for so many also make it possible to be more successful than ever before. This year will be a very interesting transition year.

It’s Show Time! It’s Show Time!

January and February are the time for many of our photography shows - both conventions and trade shows. It’s a time for professional photographers to see and hear about the latest techniques and methods. These new things can be difference makers in your business! Caution: Be careful to sort through the hype for the real meat that can be successfully applied to your business. The biggest shows are Imaging USA in New Orleans and WPPI in Las Vegas, and the greatly expanded Kentucky show. VB will be very active at both shows (to name a few).

 

A very unique show for professional photographers only is Senior Photographers International (SPI) which will be held in central Florida at the end of January. VB is sponsoring two speakers at SPI: Richard Sturdevant and Lora Yeater. We will also be presenting live demonstrations. Kentucky photographer, Cindy Cofer and Henry Oles will be conducting booth demonstrations.

SPI is a unique group because membership and show attendance is limited to legitimate professional photographers with a business license and tax number.

Is It Really Possible to

Make $1,000 an Hour?

Chris Wonder Can Show You How!

If you think this is impossible, think again! Yes, it is possible for an active school photographer to generate $1000 an hour while shooting! As a rule, school photography generates big profits! Chris Wunder will show you how achieve this success. Independent photographers all over the country are learning how to do it. Lifetouch is no longer so dominant that the independents can’t break in to school and event photography.

Chris is teaching two courses, School Photography 101 and School Photograph 201 just before the SPAC show in Las Vegas. 101 is a Quick Start Program For Newbies and 201 is Taking Your Business To The Enterprise Level.

This is a SPAC preconvention program held at the Riviera Hotel January 26 and 27. Then you can stay over for the SPAC school photography convention in the same hotel. SPAC stands for School Photographers Association of California which is actually now covering the entire country.

If you would like to make serious money in photography, this is the place to go. Click here for registration information!

2012 VB Workshops:

We’re Ready for You!

The next Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop, presented by Montana based Master Photographer Trevon Baker, is set for February 6-8, 2012. The workshop has been significantly revised to not only include detailed information on Virtual Backgrounds and how to successfully implement this critically important tool in your studio but now also covers how to achieve quality lighting and posing to enhance your end products.

This workshop attracts photographers form all parts of the world. For more information, call 512-805-4844 or e-mail [email protected] or go to www.virtualbackgrounds.net.

Register for Free Symposium

Just Before Imaging USA

(Only a few seats remain!)

Profitable Technology Solutions for the Professional Photographer

A special free symposium is scheduled for January 14, 2012, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street in New Orleans. A happy hour with refreshments and valuable prizes starts at 5 p.m. Learn from three internationally known speakers, Jeff Tabit (Kodak Worldwide Director Digital Print Solutions/Burrell Lab), Dr. Henry Oles (Founder and President of Virtual Backgrounds), and Brigitte Peleman Vantieghem (CEO of Unibind). This is an international business forum organized by Photofinishing News, Inc.

Attendance is free; however, you must register in advance. Click here for more information and to register.

See What Other Photographers Say

About Virtual Backgrounds

Read individual stories and see samples from a wide variety of photographers using VB from all parts of the world.

http://www.virtualbackgrounds.net/wpvirtual/featuredphotographers/

Introducing yourlook Studios

A new concept for the United States will be introduced at Imaging USA and WPPI. German company, yourlook, is offering a franchise opportunity to select photographers who could profit from being part of a brand that will be worldwide.

Your Look is what is known as a soft franchise which means that photographers don’t have to sell their souls to the franchisor. Instead, the independent photographer remains independent while profiting from being part of the yourlook brand. For example, John Smith Photography becomes John Smith Photography: a yourlook studio.

There are numerous advantages to being associated with yourlook. The primary one is, of course, the brand as well as training and association with other yourlookstudios. A primary function of yourlook is to develop relationships with companies that can send work to specific yourlook associate studios. It is also a great marketing aid to be part of an international brand.

Visit Booth #105 at Imaging for more information on what yourlook can do for you. Click here for more information.

Suggestions on

How to Do a Trade Show

The trade show is one of the most important parts of a photographic convention, but unfortunately, it often goes by unnoticed. We encourage you not only to attend trade shows, but dedicate time to gain the valuable wealth of information that you can take home with you and turn into big profits.

We recommend that you visit every booth continually asking, “Might there be something here that I can apply to my business?” Enter each booth with an open mind. There are innumerable tools available that can help you grow your business. It’s the trade show visitors challenge to find them, then implement them, and turn them in to new profits.

Visiting a trade show is work - as it should be. A trade show can be a gold mind of ideas and products that can take the photographer to the next level and beyond. It’s a time to ask questions and learn.

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.

2 Responses to January 2012

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