February 2013

February 2013

Niche:  The New Way to Make Money in Photography

Almost gone are the days when one could open a studio and the public would come and the proprietor would have a full time profitable business.   Fortunately, there is an alternative.  It’s finding a niche and marketing that niche very well.  

What’s a niche?  A niche is a specialty area that ideally is not already being overly exploited with competition and price cutting.  A niche separates one from the masses.  Today, nearly everyone including all amateurs, take pictures on location…under a tree, in the park, down by the lake, on the railroad tracks, in a junk yard, at the mall or a million other places. The style is generally very casual. The photographers all think they are special and better than others but in reality, they are mostly all the same.  With digital cameras being so good, many times the rank DIY amateur does a better job than someone trying to make money. 

It’s a niche to concentrate on special sub areas of photography which amateurs and even other professionals cannot do.  Photographing dance schools, drill teams, sports, fantasy portraits, school photography, church directory photography, are all examples of niches

The world of photography is terribly challenged by the masses of people who can now take good enough pictures and delivering a distinctively different product.  The road to success is through developing one or more niches.  Niche’s should be a primary consideration as you plan 2013 and beyond.

A Workshop Like No Other - And It Is Guaranteed!

Looking for training and experience that will take you to the next level while helping you clearly differentiate your work from all others?  Take a look at the VB workshop, Turning Backgrounds into Dollars.  

Not only does it extensively cover background technology, it also covers lighting, posing, and much more during the three-day period.  The next workshop, taught by Master Photographer, Mark Barnett, is scheduled for February 18-21. 

We keep instructor-student ratio low for maximum personal attention and plenty of hands-on experience.  A special feature of the VB workshops is that they are guaranteed.  If you are not completely satisfied, you can get a full tuition refund. 

For more information visit our Training webpages.  To ask questions and make reservations call 512-805-4844.   This workshop is one that can definitely take you to the next level.  Note:  You do not have to own a VB system to attend.

VB to Exhibit at PP of North Carolina Show

Mark Barnett will be demonstrating VB at the PP of North Carolina show from March 2-4, 2013.  This is a special opportunity for attendees to see VB in action and to get questions answered.  Keep a eye out for the show specials too!

PPA Imaging

Tradeshow Report

Images captured in the VB’s PPA trade show booth

The PPA Imaging convention and trade show was held in Atlanta Georgia January 20-21.  It was attended by a rapidly growing number of newcomers to the photographic industry, mostly  young women, who have become the mainstay of professional photography.  A sizable number were attending their very first Imaging convention and eagerly looking for ways to get started making money in professional photography.  Many of the most popular trade show booths offered a variety of studio props, backgrounds, and a wide variety of getting started tools. 

The big exhibitor this year was Canon.  Canon also sponsored the opening night party.  Conspicuously absent from the show was FUJI.    Kodak, once a major player had only a very small trade show presence.  A surprising number of booths were completely empty apparently because exhibitors who were scheduled to attend decided to not attend. 

Virtual Backgrounds displayed sample prints and had a complete working studio using the projection system with trade show visitors.  For many visitors it was the very first time they had ever seen a VB system and were duly impressed that it did not involve computers and that it was so effective.  Some visitors had previous experience with green screen and were thrilled to learn that with VB, both the background and subject can be seen live in the camera and the moment the shutter is tripped, the final image can be viewed without any further work or time.  

Many visitors expressed their desire to have a designated studio area to help differentiate themselves from the masses of photographers who work only on location. 

Virtual Backgrounds will be displaying at many upcoming trade shows but the next major show will be WPPI in Las Vegas.  For further information, go to www.virtualbackgrounds.net

Featured Photographer:  Ed Beck 

Sees VB as a Key Differentiator

Ed Beck of Tacoma Washington got into using Virtual Backgrounds last July primarily to differentiate himself as a professional photographic artist from all others.  He started his adventure into Virtual Backgrounds by first attending a three-day VB training workshop in San Marcos, Texas and then immediately put the system to work to help grow his now full time photography business.  


Initially Ed was a program manager at Microsoft but gradually learned that his real love was photography, which he had been doing as an advanced amateur most of his life.  He was initially known in the area as the dad who took sports photos.  However, he wanted to do so much more.  ”I had to get people to recognize me as a professional photographer who did much more than just sports photography.  I wanted to get school contracts and much more and I saw Virtual Backgrounds as a primary vehicle for my growth because I could offer something no one else could do.  That is why I bought my VB system.   Everyone loves the wide variety of backgrounds I can produce and change within seconds right in my studio without having to go on location.  I want to produce results that are artistically beautiful but which can also be done very quickly.” 

Ed is continually working to improve his results.  He is using a Nikon D800 and a D700 with a Nikon 70 – 200 lens with both internal focus and zoom.  The lens is mounted directly to the VB projector.  He is continually researching a variety of light modifiers but really likes the VB Asymmetric strip soft box.  He prefers edge lighting his subjects (also known as light feathering) because it produces a better quality of light. 

In his desire to be more creative, Ed uses all available tools to achieve his desired end results.  One of his tools is green screen which he used before he got his Virtual Backgrounds system.  ”I hate green screen.  I did it for a year before I got VB.  In fact, my motivation to get VB was to get away from green screen. Green screen works but green gets all gooey especially in the hair. And, there are other problems.  When I want to do an extraction, I use my background projector to project a grey background.  I find it much easier to extract from a gray background than it is from a green or blue background.  But I can also extract from a projected green or blue background.  A lot depends on what the client is wearing.  I like having options I don’t have with using just green screen technology.” 

My clients often ask if I am using green screen.  They initially think that I am just using another gimmick.   I tell them it is an entirely different technology…designed for the professional photographer.  I tell them that it creates the image right in my camera and not just something on a computer that is pasted in later.  I bought a large monitor so I can show parents and others how it works.  Initially all they see is the black background behind the subject but then on the monitor, up pops the subject and the background.  It’s like magic.  They are always amazed.  Virtual Backgrounds has tremendous ‘wow’ factor.  They love it.  I guess you can say it pretty much sells itself.  I just let it do it’s job.  I often show my subjects or parents a wide variety of background slides on a lighted table.  They really like seeing all the choices that I have available and I tell them I can custom create backgrounds just for them.” 

“One thing that is going on today is that kids seem to want their pictures taken outdoors:  the natural look.  Personally I think that this is a bi-product of so many photographers that do not have studios pushing the outdoor look.  They have created this natural look market which is becoming the new normal because the clients don’t know any better. They don’t know about the many advantages I can provide them with my studio and lighting coupled with Virtual Backgrounds.  So my challenge is to get people interested in coming to the studio because of its many advantages.  I often suggest that they come to the studio first and if they still want to go on location, I tell them I can do that as well.  The fact is, anyone can shoot candids outdoors.  I am different because I can offer so much more in my studio environment.” 

Ed is continually experimenting with his methods to achieve a better result.  Often he tries breaking the rules.  For example, he often places the subject 4 to 5 feet in front of the background screen.  He likes to shoot up and not straight in to the subject.  ”Rules are to be broken if you know what you are doing.”  Ed admits that it was quite a challenge to leave his career at Microsoft and become an independent professional photographer but he says “I am doing my passion. I am happier than I have ever been.  My wife is an aeronautical engineer working at Boeing.  I have two daughters who are finishing school.  One may go in to photography.  They all support my new career in photography.” 

Ed summarizes his thoughts about Virtual Backgrounds this way, “It is a great technology and a great tool but you can’t get wrapped up in the tools.  The tools are made to do things. You have to explore what all the tools can do for you.  I am continually thinking, “What else haven’t I learned to do with this tool?”  Virtual Backgrounds has so much potential.  VB is a fantastic market distinguisher.  I am currently working on a new gallery of images to help clients see the unique work I can produce.”


Check out the New eBook:
How to Make Money with Virtual Backgrounds

Ever wonder how a VB system could be the really big profit maker for your photography business?  Ever wonder how VB can separate you from all others?  This new book is for you, and you can download it for free.  It includes a ton of information gathered from many of our VB system owners about all the different ways Virtual Backgrounds can not only pay for itself quickly but also become the keystone product in your photographic business.  Most people have no idea how many different ways VB can generate more business and profits.  There really is nothing else like it for generating profit. 

The official announcement of the availability of the book will not come until March but if you are interested in getting an advance look, download it today (see the bottom of home screen).   It’s free from Virtual Backgrounds. 

Get your copy today!

VB Program at SPAC

Henry Oles, founder and president of Virtual Backgrounds was a speaker at the School Photographers Association of California convention in Las Vegas.  He talked about the changing role of school photography as a result of the Perfect Storm and how school photographers can grow their business through researching and measuring new methods and by using Virtual Backgrounds to enhance the images they offer parents.   Oles stated, “Unless professional photographers research new methods of pleasing the public and measure the results against ROI, they are going to have major problems staying alive.” 

Oles compared the many advantages of Virtual Backgrounds against green screen, specifically showing how although VB is much more expensive to purchase than green screen, the system very quickly pays for itself in savings which then pass on to the studio’s bottom line profits.  He also spoke about how school photographers dodged the Picateers bullet.  Nearly 15 million was invested in creating Picateers which was designed to “disrupt” the school photography industry by putting regular school photographers out of business…replacing the professional with parents with cameras.   Fortunately, their plan failed. 

 SPAC has become the leading association for school photographers in the US.

Upcoming VB Workshops
February 18-20
April 8-10
Book Your Seat Today!

Upcoming Trade Show Schedule 

VB will be exhibiting our systems at the following trade shows and conventions.  Stop in, pay us a visit, and see what VB can do for you! 

Contact us to learn how easy it is to get into Virtual Backgrounds and start growing your business. We have a financing program unlike any other!

6 Responses to February 2013

  • larry marshall

    Dear folks,good morning from the far north and 16 degrees warm.i would like to ask Dr. Oles what to say to the steady stream of my former customers that have went to sams club and purchased a entry level camera,and would like me to give them some pointers.It now is a weekly thing.i also had a young lady take out her iphone 5 and try to take a picture of here photos from my monitor so she could post it on facebook,i was just floored that the lack of any manors of these crazys.the same type of thing happened at my local high school where i have the contract for school pics,we had students trying to take my cusomers pic with thier i phones!!!you are so right in saying we have to be able to offer something better.thanks larry marshall

  • Virtual Backgrounds


    You are facing issues that are part of every professional photographer’s life. My suggestion is, when handed a lemon, make lemonade. If people want pointers on how to use their camera, and if you have the time, I would formalize your response perhaps by scheduling a small class that you can offer for free or charge for it. It actually could become a little profit center and there is a lot of personal satisfaction that comes from teaching. Keep in mind that they respect you enough to ask for your help. You can also carry it to another level. My friend and colleague, Trevon Baker, of Kalispell Montana told me recently that he is getting involved in a radio program. He will answer call in questions or just present general information about photography. It is an excellent opportunity for him to raise his recognition factor in his community. It also gives him a chance to talk about the real difference between the professional photographer and the amateur.

    The public today feels that they can indiscriminately photograph just about anything they want including their images on your monitor. Of course the results are not going to be very good and eventually they will recognize that. Now, when they shoot over your shoulder as you photograph a subject, this is when the Virtual Background system is so great. Not only will they not get the background, but if they use an on camera flash, it will flare the subject as well. Virtual background photographers have been know to start “cackling” when someone tries to steal a shot by shooting over their shoulder. Some of these image thieves even have the nerve to ask the photographer what’s wrong with their camera!

    Henry Oles

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    • Larry Marshall

      Dear DR.Oles,just got back to work,read your reply.teaching is a good way,I agree with you.I went next door and purchased a mannequin,you should see the folks when they come in and see her.see you sometime this summer,comming to see my daughter in Forney texas.thanks for the great tips in the news letter Larry

  • Thanks for finally writing about >February 2013
    | Virtual Backgrounds <Loved it!

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