Turning Negative Subjects into Positive Customers
Recently, a particularly pouty and very negative high school senior boy was almost dragged by his mother into Craig Weiglein’s Mansion Hill Photography and Gallery in Newport, Kentucky for his senior sitting. Being photographed by a professional photographer was about the last thing on this guy’s wish list. After the experience, his mother reported that her son said to her, “At least it didn’t suck!” Craig’s goal is to provide his clients with a total experience that they love, even if they start out totally negative about professional photography.
Craig Weiglein, like most of us, never intended to be a professional photographer. He earned a degree at Miami University with a major in microbiology and intent to go into business to serve hospitals, but it never happened. His dad had a successful garage door business, and Craig began working for his dad. That work wasn’t his passion. Craig’s parents had given him a 35 mm camera for Christmas and he later noticed a help wanted ad in the newspaper from a studio in Cincinnati. Craig quickly learned to shoot weddings and portraits and found that he liked it. It wasn’t long before he totally turned his back on his education and opened his own studio in Newport, Kentucky. That was 20 years ago.
From the very beginning, Craig always wanted to be truly different from his competition. Being not much older than his wedding customers back then, he understood what was popular at the time which enabled him to deliver exactly what they were looking for. He remembers doing a bridal show that brought him 28 weddings!
Over the past several years Craig definitely knew that the winds of change were blowing. He began to worry about the future of photography and realized that he had to either get out of the business or evolve. He chose to evolve because he liked being an independent businessman, because he was still making more money than what he would if he were doing something else, and he also realized that if he were working for someone else, he would never know when he would get a pink slip. He has always loved the independence that comes with owning his own business and photography was still his chosen profession.
It was four years ago that Craig was first introduced to Virtual Backgrounds at Cindy Cofer’s studio in Williamstown, Kentucky. Initially he did not take it seriously. However, after thinking about it and later seeing Virtual Backgrounds at John Dingo’s studio and seeing the results, he began to realize that Virtual Backgrounds was something he had to invest in. Craig states, “At first I thought VB was like a fad - something from the past, something that had no future and not for me, but I was so wrong. Cindy and John showed me their contemporary images and I knew this Virtual Backgrounds concept was for me.” Craig finally made the investment two years ago.
“I knew I had to be different and I knew that the Scene Machine was going help me do that. People need variety and I needed to give it to them. With the Scene Machine, I can go into the dressing room and see what the subjects have brought and then I know what background slides I can choose. It wasn’t that long before I was using just about everything for backgrounds. I have so many. I purchased backgrounds from VB and I also went online to find all kinds of interesting backgrounds that I then had made into slides, often after I worked on them with Photoshop to make them even better. I love to tell subjects that my backgrounds are mine alone and that no other photographer anywhere has anything like them. They really like that fact. Now I really rely on Virtual Backgrounds - I would not want to be without it. It makes me special. The kids don’t see it at all as old technology.”
“We expose so many kids to Scene Machine - we shoot them and show them the results right away. They love it. When they see the plain black screen behind them they look disappointed until I tell them about the magic I can do for them. I tell them how much better our process is than green screen - and that it is so cool. I tell them that I want them to think they are in a location such as an alley way. I describe what I have behind them as part of my conversation. When I pop some images on the screen mom and the kids say, “OMG - Wow!” Sometimes I feel that I should wear a magician’s top hat and swing a magic cane. When they are most excited about the images I am creating, I usually ask them if they will help us promote the technology we have and get us names of other kids. They always agree to help.”
“The really cool thing about the machine is that it gives you a special layer of creative control that the client cannot see. They think they understand, but they don’t really. I don’t let the client pick out backgrounds. I want to keep control. I am the professional. I want to create the looks. It is really cool with VB that the subjects have no idea what the results are going to look like. For example, I have a background of a weight room. I also have a locker room prop on one side. I put the weight room on the screen and the lockers coming out toward the camera. The kids love it.”
“I’ve learned so much working with Virtual Backgrounds. It’s fun to come up with new stuff all the time. There is a certain pleasure in telling kids that we are working with backgrounds that no one else in the world has because I personally found them and they are completely unique. I should have been doing two years ago what I am doing now. Yes it’s hard to initially justify the expenditure but the truth is, there is no question about it - it paid for itself quickly and now makes me a lot of money. I need to have a garage sale to get rid of all my other backgrounds.”
“I really don’t understand why so many photographers say Scene Machine isn’t cutting edge. They see it as old technology but they never have really looked at it. They are so wrong. It is really cutting edge but some photographer’s shouldn’t have it. It is not something everyone can use. Some of my subjects want outdoor pictures but I tell them outdoors is overrated. I don’t have control outdoors. People shout and honk when I am working with a subject. Many things interfere with my sittings out in public. Scene Machine lets me work in MY studio where I have control and I can do so much more much faster and sell more.”
“I love my Virtual Backgrounds system and you guys at VB have been great. I especially appreciate working with Christian Feigl. He has been so helpful and never pushy. He really understands the process and the photographer. He’s great. I just don’t understand why more photographers don’t realize how fantastic the Scene Machine really is - how much it could help them.”
Whenever we look at the work of Scene Machine users like Craig Weiglein and then interview them for The Backgrounder, we come away with a new enthusiasm for the work we do and the products we build. Virtual Backgrounds is really a tool that helps professional photographers fight the perfect storm and win and have fun doing it. Of course, it doesn’t do all that by itself. Like any tool, it’s useless without the photographer!