When I moved to Kalispell, Montana, in 1985, my first job was at a One Hour lab. On my first day, I showed up to set up the equipment and basically learn how to do portraits. The equipment I was unpacking included the Virtual Backgrounds system. While I was awful with it at first, once I grasped the concept, I didnít want to be without it. Itís a very powerful creative tool and marketing tool.
The Virtual Backgrounds system basically projects transparencies. Anything the photographer can imagine and get onto a piece of slide film can be projected as a background. I make my own backgrounds every weekóIím always looking for potential backgrounds.
If I see a cool-looking scene, Iíll take a shot of it with my digital camera, take the image into Photoshop, enhance it and optimize it for making a transparency, then have a transparency made for about five bucks. At that price, you could make a custom background for every one of your clients.
Seasonal Profits and Beyond
The Virtual Backgrounds system is a tremendous advantage, especially during the busy Christmas season. I can provide many different scenes and stylesópeople love that kind of variety.
A lot of my clients are repeat customers. This is another area where the Virtual Backgrounds system helps my business. I may have a family that comes in for Christmas portraits, and then the next spring, the little girl turns seven, and itís time for a portrait; later on in the year, Grandma and Grandpa come up for a summer visit and they want pictures with the grandkids.
With this system, Iím always able to give them something new. There are only so many muslin and canvas backgrounds out there. If I see that my work starts to look the same, I know itís time to go out and create a new background or two.
Re-Creating an Environment
One project I recently worked on is typical of how the Virtual Backgrounds system gives me a decided competitive advantage, while pleasing my customers and saving time and money. Thereís a huge medical community here, and the administrator at the local hospital approached me about photographing some of the new surgeons and the new chef they had brought in. He wanted portraits of these new staff members, but with backgrounds that offered a sense of environment, like having them in an operating room or the boardroom.
To take my studio lighting to the hospital and try to create a nicely lit studio portrait would have been next to impossible, not ot mention disruptive of the OR schedule. So I went to the hospital to create a slide library. I did a photograph of the boardroom, the kitchen, several operating rooms, the lab, the health and fitness center, and the gym, then created transparencies from these images to use as backgrounds with the Virtual Backgrounds system.
As staff members came into my studio, I was able to do a well-lit portrait in a matter of minutes, using an appropriate background that made it appear as if they were working at the hospital. To be able to do this for my clients is a huge marketing advantage.
For more on the Virtual Backgrounds system, the Scene Machine and Spectravue systems created by Dr. Henry Oles, visit www.virtualbackgrounds.net