April 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Rick Avalos will be the Featured Speaker
at the Colorado Imaging Workshops

Larry Peters is Coming to VB

Combating the Latest Developments

Praise for Virtual Backgrounds Continues

Should I Capture Backgrounds Using
my Film or my Digital Camera?

The Risks of Purchasing Used
from Individual Resellers - Buyers Beware!

Get Well Soon Buddy Stewart

Featured Photographer Joe Pellingra
Finds Virtual Backgrounds by Accident

Larry Peters is Coming
to Virtual Backgrounds
May 9-11, 2007

Every photographer knows that senior photography isn’t what it used to be.  Today’s seniors are different and if they can’t get the kind of senior photography they want from you, they will go somewhere else.  Even worse, their parents may simply do it themselves with their own digital cameras.

If you want to know what’s really new and hot in senior photography, Ohio photographer Larry Peters can show you.  Larry is seen by most as the leader in new ideas in high school senior photography.  Larry is the originator of a totally now concept that he calls “Chaos,” which is a combination of Virtual Backgrounds, Larry’s original props, and his special methods of lighting and posing.

Virtual Backgrounds is sponsoring a 2 ½ day Peters workshop beginning May 9, 2007 and ending May 11, 2007.  The workshop will take place in our new photography training center in San Marcos, Texas (just 28 miles south of Austin and 45 miles north of San Antonio).  The price for the workshop is $250, and the price is reduced to only $195 if the workshop is taken in conjunction with our regular Virtual Backgrounds workshop which runs from Monday, May 7, 2007 to the morning of Wednesday, May 9, 2007.

This special event is about more than just how Larry creates his images.  Larry’s wife and business partner, Karen Peters will talk about an equally important component of operating a successful studio - how to handle the business of photography. 

For more information on the Larry Peters and Virtual Backgrounds workshops, call 1-800-831-0474 (or internationally 512-805-4844) or email us at [email protected]. 

Click here to see more of
Larry's outstandng work with seniors.

Combating the Latest

In just the past few months, we have exhibited or attended most all of the major shows where new developments are unveiled.  This includes Photokina, the worlds fair of photography, PMA (Photo Marketing Association) and NAB (National Association of Broadcasters).  The number and scope of new developments that are happening right now is staggering to say the least.  This is especially true at Photokina and NAB. 

It wasn’t long ago that digital camera phones were looked at by professional photographers as a joke to be used to maybe create postage stamp photos.  Stop laughing!  They are now talking about 1, 2, 5 and even 6 mega pixel camera phones!  Keep in mind that many professionals only use a 6 mega pixel camera.

When it comes to backgrounds, the optically based Virtual Backgrounds process is still the best tool for the professional portrait photographer to use to combat the hordes of amateur photographers out there. Whereas the green screen people and the digital cut out people keep talking about big new improvements, much of it is really a rehash of the same old methods. 

Only the optical Virtual Backgrounds process allows the photographer to see the image in the camera live as they compose the subject, background props, lighting and pose for exposure.  The green screen folks will show examples, in a low resolution formant on a screen, that look pretty good, but they do not measure up for professional level portrait photography. 

There is a bright future for optically based Virtual Backgrounds. The bottom line, however, for everyone in professional photography, is that the technology is advancing and more and more of it will be in the hands of the amateur, as predicted in The Perfect Storm.  The only real meaningful solution is for the professional photographer to continue to work to stay distinctively above the amateur in every respect.  To deny the changes that are taking place is a ticket to extinction.

Act now!!

Virtual Backgrounds puts the POWER in your hands – the power to fly above the others - the power to get the jobs you are looking for - the power to be more creative - the power to be able to charge more and get it.

Read BACKGROUND POWER! and you'll see the difference that owning a Virtual Backgrounds system makes to your business!

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Get Well Soon Buddy Stewart!

We would like to take a moment to wish Buddy Stewart of Columbus, Mississippi a speedy recovery from recent major surgery. Buddy is a special friend of Virtual Backgrounds.

An avid train historian, Buddy and his family have twice traveled to San Marcos and stayed overnight on the Virtual Backgrounds refurbished 1940s Pullman luxury passenger train parked on real train tracks next to the Virtual Backgrounds facility in San Marcos, Texas.

Buddy, along with other distinguished photographers, were special guests of Henry Oles in what was called the "Virtual Backgrounds Sleep Over" held just before PPA's Imaging USA Conventions in both 2006 and 2007.

Buddy - we hope that you get well soon and we look forward to seeing you in San Marcos again! Be well good friend!

Pictured above, Buddy Stewart (left) and Henry Oles (right) having dinner with Joseph Simone (center) and others on the Virtual Backgrounds antique dining train car.

Green Screen Brings
Frustrated Photographers to
Virtual Backgrounds


At every trade show, we see a number of photographers who were introduced to the concept of a "virtual" background with the digital or green screen process.  They discovered how important it is to incorporate creative backgrounds into their regular work, but they also discover how time consuming green screen is and how many flaws it has for portraiture. Then they discover the optical Virtual Backgrounds process and can’t believe how much better it is for portrait work.

There is a place for digital or green screen backgrounds.  It’s for fun photography such as certain kinds of event photography.  If you want to do a photo with your subjects riding an inner tube over Niagara falls, then green screen is the best method. 

If you are doing portrait work, however, not only is the quality so much better with optical Virtual Backgrounds, but it is important to note that there is no post processing.  This means there is nothing the photographer has to do to the background after the photograph is taken.  The background is there when the image is captured.  It’s done. 

With the digital method, the photographer has to spend a great deal of time pasting in the background.  Not only is this time consuming, but it also results in backgrounds that looks pasted in - because it is pasted in. Hair and outer edges of people and props look fake.

Green screen also has the problem of not working well if the subject is wearing anything that has a shade of green in it.  The process will automatically remove the green and replace it with a background which then makes it necessary to do some very time consuming work to fix the problem, if it can be fixed at all.

In summary, there are certain applications that green screen can have that are beneficial to graphic designers, but to the portrait photographer, Virtual Backgrounds are much more effective and plainly stated makes more sense!

Back Issues of
The Backgrounder

Available Online

Photographers can review all past issues of The Backgrounder by going to the Virtual Backgrounds website and clicking on the dancing Backgrounder icon or by clicking here.  There is an enormous amount of information in The Backgrounder about how to turn backgrounds into new profits.

Check it out!

Click Here to View
Joe Pellingra's
"About Me" Brochure

(The brochure will open in a new window.)

Rick Avalos will be the Featured Speaker
at the Colorado Imaging Workshops

Now in its fifth year, the Colorado Imaging Workshops week long school will begin with an evening program by Virtual Backgrounds advocate, Rick Avalos.  Currently 80 photographers are registered with the expectation of reaching 100 before the school begins on May 20 and closes May 25.

The workshop is held in Breckenridge, Colorado just as spring is awakening in the mountains.  It forms the perfect setting for learning and fun with a lot of opportunity to capture exceptional photographs.  The workshop is open to any professional photographer interested in learning.

Rick Avalos uses the following line from the Wizard of Oz as a basis for his presentation:  “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more.”  Photographers around the world are waking up to the realization that the studio business has changed dramatically and as a result, photographers must change their methods or be left out.  He will also talk about his use of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system as a tool to help fight the Perfect Storm that is affecting every professional photographer.  

In addition to Rick’s seminar, he will be present to help photographers “test drive” his personal Virtual Backgrounds system which will be set up in a demonstration studio on site at the Colorado school.

Other course instructors include Doug Box, Don MacGregor, Kalen Henderson, Mitche Graf, Scott Dupras, John Woodward, David and Linda Smith and David Ziser.  For further information on the Colorado Workshops, go to www.coloradoworkshops.com or contact Thomas Hissong at 303-933-9461.

Images by Rick Avalos using his Virtual Backgrounds system.

Praise for Virtual Backgrounds Continues!

Peter Kleinschmidt says, "This is the best investment that I've ever made," about his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Peter is a Lawrenceville, New Jersey photographer who was looking for something different that would enable him to provide his customers with more variety.  He decided to give Virtual Backgrounds a try. Peter reports that his use of Virtual Backgrounds has increased his sales by at least 20%. 

“Parents flip out when they see Virtual Backgrounds in action and so do the kids,” reports Peter.   Peter is constantly looking for new and different ways to use his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system to help drive his business.

Rene Mal shares this experience with Virtual Backgrounds:

I just wanted to share the success I recently enjoyed.  Last month I used the VB system during a beauty pageant in our small town.  It was my first time to do this kind of job, and I was very happy with the results.  Everybody was pleased, and they responded in the increase of sales. 

A few key people from another pageant saw some of my work and I was asked to do a slideshow.  I used VB again for all of these contestants' photos.  Parents bought all of their daughters' pictures, even the ones with the same pose but different backgrounds. Again, they responded positively in terms of higher sales! 

After showing the slide show last Saturday, some organizations in town asked me to do the same for them!  I hope this is just the beginning of more job opportunities and I thank you so much because I know that VB is instrumental in this success!  Most of all, I thank God for leading me to you and your company!

Should I Capture Backgrounds
Using my Film or my Digital Camera?

The above backgrounds are part of the Trevon Baker Collection I.
Click here to see all of the backgrounds that Virtual Backgrounds offers.
Click here to learn how to create your own custom backgrounds!

Should you capture backgrounds on film or digital?  The answer is this:  It all depends.  If you are looking for the quickest method to convert an actual background into an image, then you will probably want to load your traditional camera with Ektachrome 35 mm slide film to capture your backgrounds.  Take the film to a lab that offers E6 processing and have your slides in a few hours or the next day.  In a real pinch, you could load your own film in a traditional tank and process it yourself with an E6 processing kit. 

Most photographers, however, will want to capture their backgrounds on their digital cameras.  Digital offers many advantages.  First, it costs practically nothing to capture images. You will feel freer to capture all kinds of images from many different perspectives and then make specific selections later.  In addition, it is likely that you will want to do a little bit of Photoshop work on your preferred images such as taking out hot spots, enhancing colors, removing unwanted aspects of the scene, crop to fit, etc.  So, you will chose your favorite views and then work some magic on them to make them even better than the real thing.

Now what do you do?  Unless you have your own film recorder, you will want to send your files to a lab that uses a digital film recorder which will convert your digital files into transparency film and process them into slides.  Virtual Backgrounds offers our customers the option of creating custom backgrounds.  All you need to do is send us your digital files and in a short time, you will have an unlimited amount of custom, square or 35mm, glass mounted backgrounds at your disposal.  If you have a favorite site that you typically take clients to on location, you can grab a shot of that location, turn the shot into a slide, and bring your clients into your studio.  In this way, you control every aspect of the scene. 

No more hoping that the weather will cooperate.  No more asking people to step out of the way while you pose and light your subjects.  You are in total control.  What’s more is that you can also quickly change the background and instantly change the scene to a second or even third location in your town – instantly!  Simply change the slide. 

Many customers buy more portraits when a variety of backgrounds are presented to them – even if the pose is exactly the same!  The customer likes all of the portraits, can’t decide which ones to purchase and often times will buy them all!

The most important thing is to get out and start capturing.  You will very quickly get the idea.  Backgrounds are everywhere.  There are possibilities galore.  Simply keep your eyes open and you will see so many potential backgrounds.  On top of that, capturing your own backgrounds is fun and keeps your creative brain always active and looking for that next money making shot!

There are Risks in Purchasing a Used VB System
from Individual Resellers - Buyers Beware!

(Pictured above is the Scene Machine 2100)

The very first Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds systems were sold over 20 years ago.  While the earliest systems did indeed work, needless to say, there have been a great many technical advancements in every component, both in the screens as well as in the projectors.  The newest systems are much more user friendly and do an overall better job.  The newest screens provide brighter, clearer backgrounds with significantly less risk of washout coming from the photographer’s studio lights.

It is sometimes possible to find used Virtual Backgrounds systems on the internet as well as at some pawn shops.  It is rare to find a system with current technology for sale.  A major problem associated with purchasing a used system is the condition of the background screen.  Not only would it have old technology, but many older screens are irreparably damaged with stains and scratches. The individual seller, unfortunately, usually claims the screen is in "good shape."  It is not unusual for our technical support department to receive a call from a used system buyer asking what can be done with a projection screen that is severely damaged.

Occasionally, Virtual Backgrounds has previously owned and factory reconditioned Scene Machine 2100s available. Reconditioned means that the projector has been restored as much as possible to original condition and the projection screen has been thoroughly examined and cleaned.  If there are remaining issues with the screen, Virtual Backgrounds consultants tell the potential buyer exactly what the problems are and how they might affect everyday photography.

Each reconditioned system purchased from Virtual Backgrounds is sold with a warranty and with the option for the buyer to come to one of our three-day training workshops which has a regular cost of $475.00. Since purchasing an older used system from an individual seller is typically an "as is" situation, we say "buyers beware."

Joseph Pellingra

Discovers the Scene Machine by Accident

Joe Pellingra's self portrait using his Virtual Backgrounds system.

Joseph Pellingra of Rochester, New York wasn’t looking for a Scene Machine when he visited Pixel Magic in San Marcos, Texas two years ago.   He did not know that Pixel Magic was a company founded by Henry Oles, creator of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Joe saw the name Virtual Backgrounds on a door in the same building occupied by Pixel Magic, and just out of curiosity he entered the main doors of VB to see what it was all about. 

Joe was instantly intrigued by the 16x20 and 30x40 prints that he saw on the walls.  Years ago, Joe saw some portraits created by world famous photographers Joseph and Louise Simone, but he did not know how they created their backgrounds.  In moments, he connected the dots and became instantly sold on the Virtual Backgrounds concept.  Last September, Joe Pellingra started using a Scene Machine in his studio and his business hasn’t been the same since.

Joe has a long history in professional photography.  He was with Kodak for 25 years starting out as a color printer and later got involved in commercial, industrial and portrait photography.  Ten years ago he left Kodak to start his own studio with his wife, Sharon and partner Carl Marchetto.  

Joseph Pellingra Photography is one of the most advanced and respected studios in the Rochester area and has always been a leader in adopting the latest technology.  He was one of the first photographers in the area to use digital.  Although his studio keeps him quite busy, Joe still works for Kodak as an independent contractor.  His studio is in his home, but he is also starting a commercial studio at Carestream, a Rochester corporation.  Sharon, a graphic designer by trait, and Joe, the technical expert, form a perfect team for a successful studio business.

“It’s been a riot since I got the Scene Machine.  It has changed the way I do photography.  I use the Scene Machine for about 40% of my high school senior shots and for nearly 100% of my family work.  I also use it for my bridal formals.  I have two 30 x 40 bridal formals created with the Scene Machine hanging on my wall in the reception room.”

Joe is more than anxious to share his information about the Scene Machine with anyone.  “I tell every photographer in the city about the Scene Machine.  Too many people want to keep the Scene Machine as their personal secret. I feel different.  The more people who have them, the more we can all learn together, and the faster we will all grow.  I learn something new every day.”

Joseph Pellingra’s photographs shown here as well as those on his website clearly tell the story.  The Scene Machine is very much a part of what he does. 

Click here to see more of Joe’s photographs taken with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds Image Enhancement System.

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

Click here for our upcoming trade show,
seminar and affiliate school schedule.

Also click here for information on our
Virtual Backgrounds Training Workshops.

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