Marine, Muscian, and Professional Photographer
Like so many professional photographers, Paul Wingler never started out to be a photographer. Initially he was a US Marine and became a member of the Camp LeJune Marine Corp band playing percussion and keyboard. He then managed a repair facility for musical instruments while his interest in photography began to stir. Paul attended the Durham Arts Council photography program which led to moving into full time photography 15 years ago. Paul built a garage on to his home but from the beginning, it was designed to actually be his studio. He operates by appointment only with no identifying signage.
Schools have always been an important component of Paul’s business. Several years ago he decided that he needed to enhance his school work, offering a more creative edge, to better service his customers and separate him from other school photographers including the national chains. His weddings were down so he decided to place more emphasis on schools and portraits. He ordered a Scene Machine virtual background system with an 8 x 9 wide screen and immediately attended the virtual background’s 3 day training course in Texas. Paul explains, “I wanted to do it right, right from the beginning. I wanted to be comfortable with the system and get maximum advantage from using it.” Today Paul uses his Virtual Backgrounds system on nearly every job.
Quoting Paul about his early experience with the Scene Machine, “Customer reaction was immediately very positive. My first job with the Scene Machine was a homecoming dance and we photographed the court of 24 kids. In the past, we had just ok sales but with the Scene Machine, the kids freaked. They loved it. They couldn’t believe how we produced the backgrounds. One parent kept hanging around watching me and when there was a break, he asked me a bunch of questions about how the process worked. Then he explained that he was a preacher and asked if it might be possible for me to use this system to do his next church directory. He said that past directories were boring. One thing led to another and I’ll be photographing his church directory later this summer. It all started with his fascination with the Scene Machine. Of course I’ll be using the Scene Machine. And, the sales for the homecoming court were 115 percent higher with the Scene Machine than what they were the previous year!”
“The Scene Machine paid for itself very quickly and based on my experience, I would recommend it to most anyone and everyone. I’ve now taken the VB workshop twice. I wanted to come back when Trevon Baker started teaching the second two days. I learned a great deal both times.”
Paul continued by saying, “Let me tell you a few more things. VB customer service is absolutely great. I was at a school at 7:30 a.m. getting ready and discovered that my Scene Machine would not flash. I panicked. I called Virtual Backgrounds and when it was determined that there was a problem that could not be fixed on site, they felt my panic and promised me immediate response. At 7:40 the next morning, I had a replacement power supply and in minutes I was in business. I couldn’t believe how great their customer service is but I guess that comes from key VB staff members being photographers themselves. They understand.”
“Let me also tell you about something really funny. I use to lose a lot of sales because parents and others would shoot over my shoulder as soon as I prepared a pose and that often meant I lost a sale because their digital cameras are so good. Now, with the Scene Machine, I don’t mind if they shoot over my shoulder all they want because their flash blows out their image no matter what they do. I love to watch their bewilderment as they look at their LCD screen and can hardly even see the subjects floating in a sea of white background! If they want the photograph, they have to buy it from me. I love it.”
Then at the end of the interview, Paul became more philosophical about the role of the professional photographer in today’s world. “Professional photographers have to really work at separating ourselves. With the digital revolution, everyone is the same. We must develop our own style that is different. Unless we offer the public something really special, it will come down to just the dollar - who is the cheapest. That is the only thing that will matter. I do not want to be part of that. I want to be the most different and do things no one else can do. Plus it is just plain fun to be different. I love shooting my own background images and I get a tax deduction for the trip expenses. My excursions become tax deductions!”
“I like to help others because it is our responsibility as professionals to help raise the quality of all professional photographers. This Scene Machine tool gives us another edge over those who are not serious about photography - those who just want to do whatever. We are able to do so much more because we have the tools - we have total control - and the results speak for themselves. It is my fundamental belief that givers gain.”
“I work with Marathon Press to prepare my church directories. They were not use to seeing directories where every photograph was different with different backgrounds and different poses but they soon got use to it. My church directory average sale is well above what the average is.”
“My Scene Machine brings fun to my photography. It gives me new energy. It brings me passion that I was losing. It helps me recognize why I went into photography in the first place. Every sitting is a new and different experience. The cookie cutter is gone. Recently I had a fine arts student come in for a portrait. We made a background out of her fine art work and she absolutely loved it. It was so personalized.”
“VB has treated me exceptionally well from the very beginning. I knew I needed the system but it was a big step financially. Maria, my VB consultant, didn’t push me one bit. She walked me through the options but never pushed me to buy. There was no pressure. It reflects the attitude of the whole -company. I really appreciate their non-pushy approach. They seem to be equally as concerned about their customer’s bottom line as they are about their own bottom line. You don’t see that attitude and customer service much anymore today.”
Paul is a clear reason why we at VB enjoy our work - helping photographers like Paul have more fun, be more creative, and make more profit. Paul perfectly fits our new company motto: Helping photographers to enhance their careers!