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The Future of Photography – How Digital Backgrounds and Photoshop Overlays Can Change Your Photography Business

  • Summerana 

Sarah vows that this year things will be different. She promises herself that every image she creates will be evidence of all the innovation, dedication and love that she pours into her work. Every image, she swears, will tell its own enchanting story that will leave her viewers wanting more. ‘This year,’ she says to herself, ‘will be EPIC.’ Offering unique composites through digital backgrounds and overlays will be a game changer for sure!

Sitting down at her desktop, Sarah lets her fingers glide over the keyboard and begin typing out all the places that she will go. Remembering the Cliffs of Moher along the western coast of Ireland, she imagines a couple embraced at the edge with their long hair whipping around in the wind like the passionate cover of a romance novel. She fantasizes about a southern belle dressed in couture and lace trimmed gloves along the iconic pathway of weeping trees at Wormsloe Plantation in Georgia. The fragrance of lavender almost fills her nose as she thinks of the endless rows in Provence, France from late June until August. First, though, she should visit Normandy, France in May for its glorious red poppies, then Hitachi Seaside Park in Japan for its delicate blue flowers that stretch across the ground, covering every inch like the opening scene from a fairy tale. The green kochia, she thinks, would be lovely to see in autumn at Hitachi Seaside Park as their leaves turn a bright, fiery red, so she decides to go twice. Next, Sarah pictures flamenco dancers with movement in their dresses under the orange trees of Vejer de la Frontera, Spain and giggles with delight at the tonal quality her images will display with vivid oranges, scarlets and greens. Vowing to make this year a floral experience, she schedules plans to visit sunflower fields in the Midwest, Keukenhof, Netherlands for their tulips, Michigan for its Peony Garden, and Kitakyushu, Japan to stroll through its Wisteria Tunnel. She ponders the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah and their coral pink sand dunes, which leads her to recall the white sand dunes of New Mexico, the black sand at Reynisfjara Beach in Vik, Iceland, and the pink sands that glisten like opals at sunset along Harbour Island in the Bahamas. Her list becomes longer as she plans a Princess Elsa inspired session at the ice caves of Vatnajokull, Iceland, fairy sessions in the Hoh Rainforest of Washington, and fancy ball gown bedecked sessions at Edinburgh Castle. Mermaid sessions spark her interest and she delves into the ways she can put her underwater camera to use, typing, “Bora Bora” and “Hawaii.” She plans Greek Mythology themed wardrobes for the Parthenon in Athens and envisions children in knickers and leather-soled shoes carrying baskets along the limestone streets of Cotswolds. Then she adds Huayna Picchu at sunrise, the Matterhorn of Switzerland, the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She doesn’t want to miss the wheat fields in Kansas, bowing their heads to the wind, or the sturdy corn and intense skies of Nebraska. She adds the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Glacier National Park in Montana, and Arches National Park in Utah, before she starts a list of the waterfalls she will visit, starting with Jog Falls in India and ending with Plitvice Falls in Croatia.

The waterfalls lead her to dream of lakes and she includes Moraine Lake in Alberta, Lake Como in Italy and Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand. Next, she ponders her props and how she’ll manage to find bunnies and unicorns, mermaid tails and grizzly bears and all of it starts to look a bit silly as her dreams come crashing down in defeat. As she plunges toward reality, she’s met with the realization of airline costs, time of travel and the necessary balance of work and family. After all, she decides, it isn’t likely she could set up an entire line of sessions at the Parthenon anyway and she chuckles at the idea of asking the tour guide to pause a moment while she leads her client into a dominant pose, fluffs their linen chiton and then sets up her gear.  Luckily for Sarah, there is an answer and it doesn’t cost the amount of knocking Anastasia Steele out of the picture to take over Christian Grey’s personal aircraft and funds either. The answer is composite work. Although some purists with a strong clench on the film world and all that’s organic and raw might flinch at the idea of composites, the craft widens an opening to a vast array of opportunities in the art world regarding creation. Imagine the door to the Secret Garden opening up, the Bridge to Terabithia being crossed, or landing in Neverland. The options are endless and, to be frank, that is what art is all about–limitless versus limited. With the ability to create composites, one can place their client in any scene they choose. Put a hold on those rocket ship travel plans and try out a starry digital overlay instead. With digital backgrounds, foreground elements and overlays, an artist can create anything their mind will dream up and it’s all at their fingertips. Let’s talk business, now. How can the use of composite work improve one’s photography business?


We know that by using digital backgrounds, we have access to more places, some that may be impossible to realistically enter or provide photography services at. The use of overlays provides the same benefit. Animal overlays are especially great when a photographer is avoiding additional insurance cost or the risks associated with photographing live animals. With overlays, a photographer can provide snow in the summer, flowers in the winter, and stars in the daytime. Furthermore, dragons and fairies are no longer impossible.

MORE OPTIONS LEAD TO BETTER (and often more cost-effective) OPPORTUNITIES

Let’s pretend for a moment that Sarah has set up Princess Elsa sessions in her studio. Because it is summer, she has purchased multiple bags of batting from the fabric store, fake snow to sprinkle from above and a few different backdrops that she thinks will coordinate well. She cringes a little at the cleanup she will have afterward and wonders if she bought enough snow to sprinkle or if she’ll have to scoop it up and reuse it between each session. In total, she’s spent $450 and calculates how many sessions she must sell in order to make a reasonable profit. Later, she stumbles upon ice cave digital backgrounds, multiple snowy scenes, snow overlays, deer overlays and bird overlays. She even finds tutorial videos teaching her how to turn an outdoor summer image into a snowy one, and all for a low monthly cost. She tries marketing with her new overlays, which ends up attracting more clientele (because they’ve not had access to such beautiful scenes either) and Sarah makes more financial gain while spending less.


Just as every client is unique, each will also prefer a different style. Therefore, a photography business that offers more styles will attract more clientele. For example, the closest gas station to Sarah on her way to her session only offers potato chips for snacks, but a block farther down the road is a gas station that offers various brands of chips along with healthier snacks like fresh sandwiches and local fruit. Sometimes when she is in a hurry between errands or on her way to a session, she needs a quick bite to re-energize and sustain her while on-the-go. From which gas station would Sarah be more likely to buy her snack? Which gas station would attract more people in general? Some argue that consistency is key and that only offering one service and one style has been beneficial to them; however, one might counter that styles often change with time, as does the need for only one  service. One might also counter that the importance is not in how many styles or services one might offer, but rather the consistency of quality.


Because creating composites using digital backgrounds and overlays can take more time to create, photographers should also charge more when creating them for their clients. Think of each composite as a commissioned piece of art. Some artists charge by the hour, while others charge by the design. Therefore, sales increase considerably per composite image sold.


Digital backgrounds and overlays offer photographers more access and creative opportunities, while lessening their cost of doing business and increasing their possibilities of financial gain. So, what are you waiting for? Open up that door to the Secret Garden and explore the extensive options that are the future of photography. Join Sarah and sign up at Summerana today!

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