Benefits Of Virtual Backgrounds

Customers are great at describing their problems, but sometimes customers need help identifying the best solutions for those problems. Often the best solutions are the most obvious because solving the problem that the customer didn’t identify (but is still causing them issues with sales, overhead costs, and so on) tends to require more creativity – and often, modern technology. It’s not the customer’s fault, most folks know what’s hurting their business but just don’t know how many solutions are out there, especially in the digital age we live in today.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

-Henry Ford

Here’s a relevant example: car dealerships all across the country want consistency in their branding and vehicle images. Sure, there are plenty of arduous and expensive solutions that can help, with on-site photo booths being a common solution. But are they the best solution? Often not.

Why? Because there are actually two problems in play when it comes to “image consistency.” The clear problem is, of course, image consistency. The secondary problem is image quality. Here’s how you can tell BOTH consistency and quality are the problem. If your dealership has perfectly consistent photos with amateurish photo quality (blurry, poor framing, poor lighting, etc.), would you consider the problem of consistency solved? Of course not. Consistently poor quality photos is clearly no one’s goal.

Now that we’ve properly framed the conversation, needing high quality photos that are also consistent, we can look for a true solution.

White BMW

This car was shot in a parking lot, with natural lighting and professional editing – for about the cost of a cup of coffee.

Blue BMW

This car was shot in a $40,000+ photo booth, occupying ~40 x 40 ft. of valuable space inside a dealership.

Professional Photo Booths

Quality photo booths absolutely create a consistent photo environment, but they do so at great cost. To achieve consistency dealerships must allocate valuable real estate for photo booths then invest in the structure, setup, maintenance, and operation. Additionally photo booths slow down the vehicle photo process. On average photographing a car in a booth takes an additional 3-4 minutes per car due to the process of pulling a car in and out of the booth and rotating the car or moving walls manually. 

The cost: ~$40,000 and that’s before adding regular maintenance, factoring for the useful life span, and valuing the real estate the booth occupies. The real estate value can be significant – especially for urban dealerships. To calculate the value honestly, just ask yourself what you’d be willing to rent that space to someone from off the street. $500 a month? $5,000 a month? I guarantee the value isn’t zero.

Professional photo booths over-solve the problem for most dealerships.

DIY Photo Booths

If you’re “building” a photo booth with giant shower curtains hung from the ceiling and 2 extra sets of shop lights you’ve created a photo dungeon, not a photo booth. These DIY setups are surprisingly common and clearly solves the primary problem; photo consistency. But this “solution” ignores the secondary yet equally important problem of photo quality.

The cost: >$10,000, but this can vary wildly. If you’re considering a DIY photobooth you MUST invest in lighting, lots and lots of lighting; and a light diffuser. If you have a photo booth and you spent less than $10k building it then chances are high that you inadvertently possess a photo dungeon.

Digital Backgrounding

Digital backgrounding services (like Redline’s Virtual Photo Studio) are often a better, cheaper, faster and more flexible solution to solve the problem of image consistency – that is, if you’re starting with high quality images (and that’s a big “IF”). Digital backgrounding allows photographers to shoot outside with natural light, which can be very difficult to reproduce. The flaw in digital backgrounding is that the end result can only be as good as the photos. 

For fear of not getting too technical here, a photo background establishes photo perspective. If photos are taken at one perspective and a digital background is applied using a different perspective the photo is going to look exceedingly fake. However, if you start with a well-shot photo and you add a high-quality background you’ll get virtually indistinguishable results from a high-end photo booth.

The cost: ~$2-3 per image depending on desired editing and effects. That per-image fee requires no real estate, no upkeep and the backgrounds can be adjusted as often as you like to any image/scene you like. Additionally, because the photographer only needs to worry about lighting, and not what’s in the background, often photographers will accelerate the photo collection process by about one minute per car.

The Takeaway

The bottom line, just because something can solve a problem doesn’t mean it’s the only option, and often isn’t the best option. Given the enormous overhead of buying/creating and maintaining an on-site photo studio, and the labor required to make it work in a consistent way, it’s absolutely critical to think outside the box (or the booth) and look at possibly better, more affordable solutions that last over time.

Ready to experience the Redline Advantage for yourself? Let’s talk!

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Redline is dedicated to helping modern dealerships engage, communicate with, and cater to modern, tech savvy car shoppers. Our unique proprietary suite of products and services optimizes and redefines how automotive dealers reach, retain, market, and sell to customers — front end, back end, all ends.

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