a.k.a. Lori Lens
Lori Lynn DeRouen, a.k.a LoriLens, has a history in photography not all that different from many others. In some ways, photography was always part of her life. Lori comes from a family of seven. In high school she was a photographer for the yearbook although she had no real training. Lori states, “It was 1983 and they pretty much stuck the camera in my hands.”
After high school, she began doing office work for the Port of Port Arthur, Texas. Lori married and became a stay at home mom, but the photography bug continued to grow, leading her to taking pictures at weddings and for families. Back then she was known as the free photographer because she was just charging cost as she gathered experience. This led to her creating some outstanding images. When Lori’s youngest child was a few years old, a friend mentioned to her that she knew a professional photographer who was retiring and that his equipment might be available. Not only did she get the equipment, but she also got some much needed advice. That was the beginning of a serious career in photography.
A dance school teacher heard about Lori and asked her to photograph her dance school kids. That brought Lori cash which she immediately reinvested. Lori describes those days as boot strapping.
Realizing that she needed a studio, she converted a 10 x 12 foot storage building that was falling apart in her backyard into her first actual studio. Lori became full time in 1999. Today Lori’s children are now 15 and 18. Both kids help out in the studio, at major events, and especially in doing her Photoshop work.
Hurricane Rita destroyed Lori’s home but didn’t destroy her shed studio, so she was able to continue her photography as her home was put back together. During the rebuild, she converted her two car garage into a full size studio and the shed studio became storage for props.
Lori has a great deal of competition in her small town of Nederland. The competition includes seven studios with commercial locations and at least five studios working out of homes. She purchased a Scene Machine system to clearly differentiate herself from all the others by offering more variety and more exciting images.
Lori first saw a Scene Machine in 1997 at a trade show in Houston. She immediately knew that this was a tool she absolutely had to get, but it was well beyond her budget at that time. It was at the Virtual Backgrounds booth at Imaging USA in San Antonio where she met Marian Oles at the VB booth and actually had a chance to look through a camera mounted on the Scene Machine. Lori states, “I could not stop thinking about it. I talked with Jim Wilson at VB a few more times, attended a Virtual Backgrounds workshop and purchased a system three months later.”
“I had a few issues at first but Jim Wilson was always there to help. I also attended a Trevon Baker workshop and things began to fall into place with VB. Then, I attended the Simone seminar and learned so much more! I am really glad I found you guys.”
Lori purchased a 9 x 8 foot background and has been able to do groups as large as 14 people. Lori states, “My customers love it! They see my Virtual Backgrounds system as state of the art. Virtual Backgrounds gives me an endless supply of backgrounds. Clients come in and initially I do the selection of the backgrounds. Much of the time, however, when they realize what all I have available, they ask if they can help me choose their backgrounds. This gets them directly involved. I show them that I am really interested in their ideas, but usually in the end, I choose the ones I feel are best but they at least feel involved.”
Lori continues, “No one else in my area has a Virtual Backgrounds system. There is one person that might have green screen but my Virtual Backgrounds system is much better.” Lori reports that her business in 2009 is about the same as it was in 2008 which is actually good since most photographers are down. Lori says she would like to be bigger, but overall she is content where she is today.
“I have a photographer friend about 25 miles away. She absolutely drools over my machine. I keep telling her that she needs a Scene Machine, especially since her space is so small. I would recommend the Scene Machine to anyone. It’s tons of fun and very profitable. When you have a small space, you would not want to fill up your space with muslin backgrounds that can take 20 minutes to set up. Even on a track system, they get all wrinkled up and I was so tired of trying to steam the wrinkles out. The Scene Machine was a great solution for me because it gives me so much more variety without the hassles. I only wish I had gotten it earlier.”
Lori’s plans for 2010 are to continue doing exactly what she has been doing and also working on the yard so she can do more outdoor work. She is also looking forward to creating new backgrounds. “We have a very popular park in town that had a white gazebo. Unfortunately, the gazebo was destroyed, but I have slides of it so I still have the gazebo in my studio. No one else can do that!” She is planning a trip to New York City and intends to come back with a ton of backgrounds.
When the interview ended, Lori stated, “You all have been so encouraging. I really appreciate it.” Lori’s complement is encouraging for all of us at Virtual Backgrounds. We work hard to go the extra mile for our customers!