Radio Interview Transcripts

V.I.P. (Visual Image Portrait) Studios


ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here is your host, Damien Allen. 
DAMIEN: Good morning and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me today on the telephone is Courtney Luz of Visual Image Photography, VIP. Welcome to the program.
COURTNEY: Thank you very much. 
DAMIEN: Now action, sports, family, weddings, seniors; your studio seems to do it all. How did VIP get started?
COURTNEY: Well we are a third generation photography company. My grandfather had a portrait studio in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and he did school pictures and senior portraits. My father bought his studio in 1971. He took that over and kept doing the senior portraits. So in 1978 when my father found the sports side of his business it really took off, and he was working within 100 high schools taking their team and individual pictures and about 10 years later when I started working with him, we brought the business back around to the portrait side and opened up a studio in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and we also started doing school pictures again. So we’ve been for about the last 20 years, we have been doing the sports, the school pictures, the senior portraits, weddings, all different types of photography, and we have a studio in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; a studio in Wheeling, Illinois, and our corporate office in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, which houses our own photo lab as well.
DAMIEN: What associations are you with in your community, Courtney?
COURTNEY: Our studio in Wauwatosa is a member of the Rotary of Wauwatosa. They attend the meetings and they actually do a lot of work for the Rotary. We are also members of WPPI. We are members of the PMA which includes PSPA, DEMA, SPPA, AEI. My father, Tom Hayes, is a board member of SPPA and AEI. We attend those conferences annually. We are also members of WPPA. In our action department we photograph a lot of action photography. We are associated with IHSA which is the Illinois High School Association and WIAA which Wisconsin association for all high school state final events. So we are the official photographers for those two organizations. We take all of their photos and provide many services for those two organizations throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. We are also, on a charity level, partners with the Lombardi Foundation for Cancer Research through St. Luke’s in Milwaukee. We spend a lot of time photographing their boards, all of their events they have through out the year. Their Lombardi golf outing, and other events they have throughout the year. We’re also involved with Ozaki Family Services which is a family education and prevention organization in Ozaki County, and we donate a lot of services and time to them. My father is a board member with that organization as well.
DAMIEN: Now do all of your studios offer the same services?
COURTNEY: The two studios that we have in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and Wheeling, Illinois, they offer family portraits, children’s specials and programs where you can photograph your child 3 or 4 times a year through when they are born all the way up until they are 12 years old. We also photograph many senior high school students in Wisconsin. And the Wauwatosa studio we work with probably about 25 high schools through out the area and photograph many of their seniors. In Illinois we have 23 high schools where we are the official photographer for those high schools and all the seniors come to us for their year book photo. And then we have many different sessions for them to choose from; a head and shoulder portrait all the way up to a three outfit session that they are able to choose many packages and products from, and then also weddings. We do about 50 weddings a year through out Wisconsin and Illinois.
DAMIEN: What types of services do provide to the students’ families and events that you photograph, Courtney?
COURTNEY: Well since we do so many different types of photography, I’ll start with our sports side, because that’s what we really specialize in, and we’ve been doing for the last 30 years. We’re in about 150 high schools where we do their team and individual photographs for athletic departments and the services we provide for the athletic departments can include plaques and thank you cards for their varsity teams. We turn around our team photos for the athletic departments within 48 hours so they can use those photos for programs and year books and newspapers. We also, for the families, we really pride ourselves on portrait quality photographs so those team photos are perfectly arranged. You can see everyone in the photo. You know, it might be a 10 member soccer team to 150 member band, and we really organize those groups to perfection and our individual pictures are like portraits with the lighting and the posing and we have photographers that work really well with the children. The youth league side of our business, we work with over 500 youth league organizations throughout Wisconsin and Illinois and, again, it’s about quality and customer service for the families and the children we are photographing. For the youth leagues we provide the board members and the organizations, themselves, we provide them with complimentary coaches and sponsor plaques. Sometimes we work with them in a fundraising effort. We also offer what we call a coach/player photo or a family photo so if there is a coach that has a player on a team we give that coach two 5x7s; we take a picture of the coach and the player together. It’s kind of fun and it brings the family together. If they have other kids on the league, we can bring all the kids together and take the family photo. In school pictures, we work in over 125 schools where we go into the school; we photograph all the children for the year book. We offer a lot of candid and action coverage for their yearbook. We have many administration services we provide to the schools. We provide student IDs, software for the schools to use, mug books, many things that the principal and the administrators can use to make their lives a lot easier in the school.  
DAMIEN: We checked out your awesome website, and see that you do a lot of sports. Tell us some of the events and teams you have worked with?
COURTNEY: Some of the leagues we’ve worked with; I’ve mentioned we have over 500 youth leagues in Wisconsin and Illinois and some of our close leagues we work with and have been with for over 20 years…Wheaton Park District baseball and softball, Oak Park Youth baseball and softball, Menominee Falls Little League, Crystal Lake Soccer, Palatine soccer, and White Fish Bay soccer, just to name a few. Those have all been loyal, great customers for us. At the high school level, some of our customers are Fon du Lac High School, Stevenson High School, Homestead High School. We’ve been with New Trier High School out of Winnetka, Illinois, for over 30 years. That’s been a very loyal customer.
DAMIEN: Now you have a program called Kids Club and really have some the most enduring photos we have ever seen with children. Tell us the details of this program?
COURTNEY: We love photographing children. In both of our studios, we have photographers that are just amazing with children. They come into the studio; they feel at home; they’re relaxed; they’re comfortable. The moms love it. I think that’s what helps us capture such beautiful pictures. We have great props and backgrounds, and we focus on photos of small children and really capture their personality. The Kid’s Club that we offer is really great for parents who have just had a child and there is a $150 one time fee and that’s good from birth until I think 12, and it’s only $15 a session and you can come in up to 2 times a year and that includes 6 to 8 poses each session which is quite a lot of poses especially for a small child, but again, the kids are so relaxed and we really have fun in the studio. That includes from every session a free 8 x 10 of their favorite pose and then there is very special pricing for additional print. Everybody always enjoys working with the children and it’s just a fun relaxed environment.
DAMIEN: You also specialize in weddings. What type of services do you provide for weddings?
COURTNEY: We work really closely with our brides and grooms, and we offer many packages, but our starting package is a $2,000 package and that includes a photographer for the entire day and right now we really have 3 photographers that specialize in weddings. We have a staff of over 100 photographers throughout the year, but for weddings that is a special day and it takes a special photographer to be with the bride and groom for the entire day, and we are there. We don’t have any hourly rates. We don’t tell a bride when we’re going to be there and when we’re going to leave. We listen to the bride and groom and pay attention to what their needs are. We meet them at the hair salon if they want us to, and we stay with them throughout the entire reception until we feel that the day is finished. Our $2,000 package also includes an engagement session with an 8 x 10 print so they can use that either before the wedding for their Save the Date Cards. They can use that as a framed, mounted print at the wedding for people to sign. We offer all the wedding originals in a proof album and also all images are posted online for their guests to view and to purchase if they would like to. Plus there is a lifetime of free sittings at our studios which is a really nice offer, because once you’re married and then you start having children and your family grows, you can come into our studio and we offer free sittings. We also have a 10% discount for Fridays and Sunday weddings and then any wedding that is booked between November and April. That’s our traditional package, and then we also have our in-house graphic designers who work with our bride and grooms and design finished albums. We do a lot of photo books now. The books that are finished, coffee table books, and these albums turn out just beautiful. They are finished, and you pick about 80 – 125 of your favorite images from your wedding, and we design a finished book, it’s really a coffee table book. It’s just gorgeous.
DAMIEN: For your senior photography, do you offer any package deals, and do you do location photography with your seniors?
COURTNEY: Currently we have about 6 – 8 packages in our studios, and they vary different size prints and then we also have some special offers and packages. We might offer a CD in a package, or discounted frames, or some of our really multi-image unique products. We call one of them a Trio where there are three images on one print and our graphic designer has designed these. They are really great products, and actually, you can see them on our website too. A senior can choose up to four poses in some of our packages, and they can create their own package from those different poses which is really nice, because then they aren’t choosing a package and only having one pose in that package which I think is very nice for the seniors. In Wisconsin, we offer a beach day and an urban day. So our seniors can go out on this special day of discounted prices, and we’ll meet on a location on a beach or in the city somewhere and spend about a half an hour to an hour with each senior photographing in different locations, and we are also doing a special on location coming this summer. So there’ll be more details to follow on our website and in mailings, but yes, we love outdoor photographs for seniors and families and other…we’re really a company that specializes in on location portraitures since we are high schools and in parks and all over the place outside for many, many of our photos.
DAMIEN: Are there certain locations that you tend to use a lot for photo shoots?
COURTNEY: For our youth leagues and our high schools, we are typically at a youth league field or a high school stadium, but when we do family portraits we prefer park setting. We have a couple of local parks around Wauwatosa and Cedarburg, Wisconsin, that we use often. The beach; there are a few local beaches because we are on Lake Michigan. We photograph a lot of portraits in downtown Cedarburg and there are parks in Cedarburg which is Covered Bridge Park. We’ve used Centennial Park, there’s some beautiful spots for location…family and children and senior portraits there. Doctors’ Park in Milwaukee is another great location that we do. We do park days there as well as beach photos there.
DAMIEN: What three pieces of advice can you give seniors who want to capture that once in a lifetime memory?
COURTNEY: Three pieces of advice for our seniors; one I would say bring something to your session, bring a friend, bring a prop, even bring your IPod to your session to make it a fun and memorable event. Two, I would always suggest to sign up for a multiple outfit session. Bring a few outfits and let your personality show through, have fun with it, be creative, bring your personality so it shows. You’re only a senior once, and capture that time in your life. And then three, just like I talked about in our wedding division we have photo books available, and we have new hard cover senior books and they are about 20 pages long. You can choose up to 30 images for this book from your entire session, and our graphic designer in house creates your book. It’s a custom book, it’s a keepsake including, you know, like I said 20 – 30 of your images from your entire session.
DAMIEN: What types of events has VIP Studios done photography work for?
COURTNEY: We work closely with the Service Club of Milwaukee. They have their annual charity ball every year, and we are the official photographers for the Service Club.   We take a lot of portraits of the honorees that go through for the book, and then we also photograph the ball and other events that they have through out the year, and like I mentioned we work with the Lombardi ball very closely. We’ve done photographs for Ernston Young. They have an annual Entrepreneur of the Year Award Banquet in Milwaukee and in Chicago. We also are working closely with the Marquette Law Offices and doing a lot of restoration projects for them, their judges and making large prints for their offices. Those are just a few of the events we do.
DAMIEN: What is going to be new for VIP in 2010?
COURTNEY: Our industry is constantly changing, and it’s very exciting from 10 years ago moving from film to digital in our lab and then throughout every division changing our cameras to digital. We have seen so much growth and exciting change in our products and in the type of photography that we can do. We are really diving into the photo book industry where these are press printed books that are keepsakes, and we can use multiple images in these books. We have some new exciting props and backdrops in both of our studios this year. We also have a lot of novelty items now. In our sports business and really across the board in all of our different types of photography we’re offering mugs and dog tags and fun products, really high quality products and our customers really seem to like them. We offered them new in a certain division in the fall last year, and now we’re spreading them out into all of our divisions. There are different types of plaques and coffee mugs, travel mugs, that’s kind of fun and exciting. It’s not just a print any more; they’re products.  
DAMIEN: Could you kindly share your website address and contact information with the listening audience, Courtney.
COURTNEY: Sure. Our website is and our 800 number is (800) 577-9570 is our corporate office in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
DAMIEN: Thank you very much for joining us today, Courtney.
COURTNEY: Thank you for having me.
DAMIEN: We have been speaking with Courtney Luz of VIP, Visual Image Photography.   You have been listening to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.
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