February 2012

February 2012

Co-op Studios Can Cut Your Costs in Half!

Think it is too expensive to have a commercial location studio?  Think again.  What if two or more photographers got together and shared a common commercial area?   After all, a studio camera room is not in continuous use.  Most of the time its empty.  If you shared your studio with even just one person, your costs would drop in half.   You would even share the receptionist, the heat and air, the property taxes, everything including the actual studio equipment.  A co-op studio enables the partners to have so much more for so much less.   Instead of John Smith Photography and Mary Jones Photography, the studio can be something like, Capital Area Photographic Artists.

Physicians and many other professionals like psychologists do it all the time…sharing one facility and staff but each working as an independent practitioner.  So why can’t professional photographers do it?  The logistics can be easily worked out.  Maybe they don’t do it simply because has not typically been done.

You don’t have to co-op with another photographer. You could co-op with another business. Very likely there are other businesses in town that have extra space who would absolutely love to do a “deal” with you. The co-op businesses could also help promote each other, such as a studio located in a bridal dress shop or florist shop.

There is power, big power, in cooperative operation. Consider being the leader that puts together the operation.  It just makes good sense.  Think about it.

VB at School Photographers Annual Conference (SPAC)

Pictured above, Chris Wunder received special recognition at SPAC for his years of special service to the industry.

VB exhibited at SPAC, the school photographers show held in Las Vegas at the end of January.  VB equipment was used to photograph every attendee for the SPAC convention yearbook.

Many school photographers have been using green screen, which has many issues, not the least of which is the high cost of converting the green background to a selected background.  Many school photographers are paying 30 to 50 cents per print to their lab for the conversion of the background.  If a school photographer photographs 1000 kids in a day, and that is possible, and if they pay just 40 cents per image, that adds up to $400 in extra costs for working with green screen that would not be there if they used Virtual Backgrounds.  If they did proofs, taking two images of each client, they are indeed throwing away very serious money.

It doesn’t take saving $400 a day to pay for a VB system and once paid for, that extra $400 or more goes to the photographer.  It goes even faster for those photographers who proof and save $800 per day.

VB just makes good sense!

What is Virtual Backgrounds?

Pictured above is the extremely compact VB Express.

VB is a unique process that can infinitely expand your creativity and ability to offer your clients so much more.  It is a key differentiator.  VB is a special system that enables the photographer to have infinite background variety but without the cost, hassle, storage, set up, and all that other things that come with trying to do studio photography the traditional way.  Backgrounds have always been the problem:  Buying them, hanging them, changing them, steaming out wrinkles, and  finding a place to store them.

With VB, your backgrounds are just little 2 x 2 inch photographic slides that are inserted into a special projector which is combined with your camera.  There are also many other things that can be used to create exciting and different backgrounds besides slides.  There is one special ultra-reflective screen that rolls down behind the subject.  The backgrounds are all projected.  The photographer sees the background live in the camera viewfinder, along with the subject.  When the shutter is tripped, both the subject and background are captured.  There are no computers or software involved.  There is no post processing and pasting in backgrounds.  It all happens instantaneously and it all happens in a very small area.

Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  You can take a look for yourself on our website.  You can read about other photographers success stories.  You can come and take a whole course in how to use and integrate Virtual Backgrounds into your operation whether you are a big player or working out of your spare room.

It is even possible to create your own backgrounds for just a couple of dollars each.  Just find something that you think would make a great background, shoot it, and have a lab turn it in to a transparency and with VB, it becomes your background.  You can find unique backgrounds everywhere you go.  You no longer have to buy expensive canvas and muslin backgrounds that look like every other photographer’s background.   Imagine the response from high school students if your backgrounds included key scenes from around their school, their locker room, their sports field or anything and everything.

There is so much power in the background to help get contracts and to sell more.  The background isn’t just in the background anymore; it can be a key differentiator that can help you profit. To learn more about VB, download a PDF of the book, Background Power!

Yes!  We will Finance Your VB Equipment

VB has several financing programs to make it easier for you to purchase our equipment.   It is our own in house financing plan with terms that you cannot pass by.

Why do we offer financing to people we don’t even know?  What we do know is that our VB systems can help our customers make so much more money if they follow our plan that they will not only be able to pay for their equipment quickly, but they will be glad to do it because they will be having fun and making more money.

Contact your VB consultant today for details.

Next Month’s Feature Story

Daniel Gutier of Dallas, Texas isn’t having any problems thriving in the storm. We’ll go into detail on how Daniel is using fund raising as his primary way to get subjects in front of his camera and how he grows sales. He has developed a training program to help professional photographers follow his lead. Daniel was the Featured Photographer in the December issue of The Backgrounder.

Good News Stories

Got some good news stories that we can write about?  Share them with others who read The Backgrounder.  Send your ideas to [email protected].

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this edition of The Backgrounder. Don’t forget all the great ideas that we shared with you about effective sales methods, how to have a studio, but not break the bank and how VB can help you have a studio in almost any space. Keep reading, get motivated to make yourself special and please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

There is a lot of good news for the professional photographer.   There are those who are doing quite well and everyone can learn from them.  We want to share their stories with you because their success can be yours as well. We will focus on things, people and methods that can help you grow in 2012. In this edition of The Backgrounder we will focus on the value of having a studio, how to have a studio with minimal space, how to cut the cost of a studio and how to increase sales.

Resurrection of the Pro Studio

A Major Distinguishing Factor for the Professional

The professional studio is not by any means dead!  In fact, having a defined studio area, whether it be in a commercial location or in the photographer’s bedroom, garage or basement (or even set up on location), is a distinguishing factor between the many hundreds of thousands of casual shooters and those who are serious full service professional photographers.  Having a studio will also make a significant difference in profits because shooting on location severely limits the variety you can offer.

It has been estimated by John Woodward and others that there are as many as one million people in the US who shoot for money and, therefore, see themselves as professional.  The vast majority of them, perhaps 95%, don’t have a studio.  They do everything on location with a lot of what they call the natural look without ever realizing what they are missing out on.  So much of their work looks like what the do-it-yourself with a digital camera or cell phone camera does. Having a studio really helps professionals differentiate themselves from the masses. It enables them to offer so much more variety and include quality professional lighting and posing and provide the client with images that cannot be obtained shooting on location.  A studio also helps the photographer look special and more professional. Appearance matters!

Surgeons work best in a surgical suite, not on location.  Professional photographers work best in a studio where they have total control and the right equipment to do the job. A studio can be much more than a couple of lights and a canvas or muslin. A Virtual Backgrounds system is a key component that enables the photographer to do so much more in absolutely minimal space. Many photographers must work in a compact area but with VB, they can still turn out phenomenal variety and more variety means more profit.

Having a studio does not completely replace outdoor location work.  It is a special supplement to studio work or vice versa.  Either way, the photographer has a chance to make more money, generate more variety, and sell more.   Some clients will choose outdoor location work only, some will choose studio only, and many will choose both and pay extra for it.

Having a studio makes the photographer special:  Special surroundings, special equipment, and special unique results. If you are thinking of closing your studio, or if you are not planning on having one, maybe you better think again. The studio is a key differentiator. It is an important element to making you different from the competition and enabling the photographer to offer greater variety and look more professional.

Studio in a Closet? 

Yes – It’s Possible!

Mark Barnett has this portable studio set up part time in the living room of his apartment.

Can you have a real studio even if you don’t have space for one?  Actually yes, you can!  It is very possible.  With the advent of Virtual Backgrounds, you can set up your studio even in a large closet!  In fact, you can set your studio up in your living room in minutes and take it down in minutes and turn it back into a living room again.

The biggest hindrance to having a studio has always been the backgrounds:  Where do you store them?  How do you quickly change them?  How much trouble is it to put them up?  Having Virtual Backgrounds technology changes all that.  With VB, there is one easy to roll up and down portable background screen that can even be stored under a bed.  There is the background projector that can be kept in a suitcase.  You need one or two lights and a reflector.  Besides your camera, that’s all you need!

To demonstrate how quality work with infinite variety can be generated in a very tiny space with Virtual Backgrounds, the company sets up at Imaging USA and WPPI a complete working studio in a booth area of less than 8 x 8 feet!!  If you want to see the results that are obtained from such a simple set up in such a small space, using VB to create the backgrounds, watch the video below.

You will be absolutely amazed.  Also, if you had just a few extra feet of depth, one could do three quarter and full length work and so much more.  Having no space is actually a poor excuse for not having a studio facility and studio quality results for your customers.

Indoor, outdoor, graphic, designer, solid black, solid white, old masters and muslin backgrounds are all possible with VB.  No need for computers or software.  VB is a magical process that makes the most of your creativity.  Take a look.

Don’t Leave Dollars on the Table!

Put Them in Your Pocket Instead!

Many photographers today think that selling their work is just a matter of putting it up on the internet and waiting for the orders to come in or just handing out a disk with dozens or hundreds of images.  They have no idea how much more money they could be making if they sold their work the more traditional way:  through direct contact with the customer.   Many photographers are rediscovering the power of direct selling.  Direct selling is the way it use to be done…and it is time to go back to what worked so well in the past. Using just the internet is not always the best method.

When you post your work on the internet, it is just vapor.  It’s so so easy for your customers to reject vapor.  But when you use more traditional methods of selling portraits, which involve having the customer come to your facility and you present the results to them as paper proofs or by showing them on a large flat screen, sales skyrocket by comparison.

All you need is to have a sales area, even if your sales area is set up in your home living room.   Images can even be presented on your personal home flat screen television as your customers sit on your living room couch.   The important thing is that you are there to present the images and to encourage sales.   And, if you use your flat screen for sales, it is even deductible from your taxes!  So is your couch!

The Internet has a great many valuable uses, especially for promoting your business but if you are depending on the internet to do your selling, it’s time to explore direct one on one presentation and selling.  It can make a world of difference.  Stop leaving money on the table.  You might be shocked at what you are missing out on.

Virtual Backgrounds and More!

Lighting – Posing – Expression – Backgrounds

This workshop can truly change your career for the better!

A three-day workshop that can dramatically change your career. There is no other workshop like it anywhere and it comes with a 100% guarantee of satisfaction. Virtual Backgrounds brings professional photographers from all parts of the world to San Marcos, Texas for this unique workshop.  The workshop’s primary emphasis on how to integrate the four components of a portrait:  lighting, posing, expression and background.  Presented by Montana master photographer, Trevon Baker. This workshop includes a multitude of hands-on experience.  Click here for more information on this workshop.

Images from Imaging USA

See for yourself a variety of images that we captured using Virtual Backgrounds right in our booth at IMAGING USA.  Using just one model with a few outfit changes, we were able to produce a wide variety of different looks by changing the backgrounds.  We had a working space of 7 feet wide x 8 feet deep.  With just a few more feet, we could have even done full length work.  We used only a softbox for a main light and a Touch of Warmth reflector for the fill.  A small softbox was mounted overhead behind the subject as a separation light. The VB studio we had in operation in our booth at IMAGING USA could very well have been in a large closet in your home.  It can be set up in minutes, just about anywhere.

See these portraits captured at Imaging USA

New and Available Now! 
Four New Background Collections
from Joseph and Louise Simone!
We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of four new background collections.  Each collection includes 10 different backgrounds in the classic Simone design.  Click here to see these exciting new backgrounds!
We will have a detailed story on the new Simone background collections in the March edition of The Backgrounder.  You can purchase all 40 Simone backgrounds for less than the cost of one premium canvas background!  Furthermore, each background slide can be used in an infinite number of ways by varying its size, focus, brightness and color balance.  Order your Simone Premium Collection and expand your background portfolio today!

The Plus Factors in a Minus Situation

There is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  The Perfect Storm has seriously hurt professional photography.  On the other hand, a bad situation can push individuals and groups to find new ways and new methods that will bring them better times – and maybe the best times yet!

Instead of being depressed, get motivated to find new solutions.  There are many ways to survive and even thrive.  Look at what others are doing.  Think of new ways to do things.  Think up new opportunities.  Success is still an option. Keep reading The Backgrounder!  We will continue to bring you inspiration and profitable ideas.

4 Responses to February 2012

  • David Heaton

    I enjoy getting this email every month.
    The one area that I would love to read more about is marketing the VB system. I live in a very small town and I have been trying to find ways to market to my clients letting them know I have many backgrounds to choose from. My competition is the senior with a camera phone or a dad that buys a new camera to photograph his daughters wedding.

    • jacqui

      Marketing in general can be tough. The best place to start is by listing out the features that you can offer and then translating them into customer benefits. For example, you can provide unique, custom backgrounds. The benefit the customer receives is stunning shots like no one else in town. Another example, professional posing…the customer benefit is photography that flatters everything about the client. For this one you could even offer example images of posing gone wrong, like claw hands or floating heads.

  • Dan Skaramuca

    I love your blog. Your articles are so insightful and relevant. Having had a portrait studio for the past 30 years, I too have been wounded by “The Perfect Storm” and your articles have been a source of inspiration. Many thanks!

    • jacqui

      Thanks so much for the positive comments. Please let us know if there is anything in particular that you would like to read about.

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