April 2009 Issue

In this issue:

Seeing is Believing - Check Out These
You Tube Videos to See Hundreds of Images

First Place Print Competition Winner:
Elma Flores

Taco Cabana Test Kitchen

Diane Wilson Class - Reserve for June

Featured Photographer:
Winifred Whitfield

A Few Prom Photography Secrets from Rick Harding

San Antonio, Texas photographer, Rick Harding, is known for his highly creative theme related backgrounds for his prom photography.  Rick shares with us three prom samples that provide a great deal of depth and realism.  All three images were created using various Las Vegas scenes that were then manipulated in PhotoShop before being turned into a transparency. The Hollywood sign actually was photographed in Tunica, Mississippi.  The prom committee is given the opportunity to help in both the selection and modification process as the background is created. 

The common factor in each of these images is the theater setting with the red velvet ropes seemingly going directly into the background.  Harding purchased two plastic poles, painted them gold and photographed them and then inserted them into the background slide with the red velvet rope also being in the slide.  The only real props in the background are the two poles located next to the couple with the red velvet rope apparently going into the background.  The carpet in the background was color harmonized with PhotoShop to match closely with the foreground carpet under the couples.

New Stimulus Ideas for Photographers – The Road to Recovery

Virtual Backgrounds can be your own personal stimulus to push your studio forward, especially in these difficult times.  There is no better investment that you can make.  Virtual Backgrounds is a career enhancement tool!

The first stage of an ambitious plan by Virtual Backgrounds is now being introduced.  The plan is the beginning of a new enhancement of the partnership between participating professional photographers and Virtual Backgrounds with the end goal set to help photographers deal with both the perfect storm and the economic crisis that has been affecting so many photographers as they see their business and profits disappear.

The plan calls for developing a variety of special programs and educational materials to help professional photographers create new ways to significantly grow their businesses. It also calls for special workshops to help teach photographers new ways to generate new profits in these difficult times.  It also involves special equipment financing programs to make it easier for photographers to acquire a Virtual Backgrounds system and to quickly turn it into a profit generating investment that quickly pays for its cost and spurs growth from that point.  It will also include the preparation of new ideas for photographers to promote their new products that reflect a higher degree of creativity and variety.

Just about every studio photographer is searching for ways to make business grow.  Virtual Backgrounds is an important component to develop for your new business opportunities!

Investment or Expense

The most common reason for not buying a Virtual Backgrounds system is its initial cost.  However, many system owners look at their decision to enter into the world of Virtual Backgrounds not as an expense but rather as their best investment.  Generally speaking, an expense is an expense.  The money is gone.  A good investment pays for itself and goes on and continues to bring in new profits.   Acquiring a Virtual Backgrounds system can be a career changing event because it enables the professional photographer to offer products and services that others cannot do.  By example, a great investment is when you put in $1,000 and that investment brings back tens of thousands of dollars.  It is even better when that investment is fun to use.  That is what an investment in Virtual Backgrounds is all about!

A Virtual Backgrounds system is not an expense, unless of course the owner doesn’t use it.  Properly implemented, a Virtual Backgrounds system should turn out to be one of the best investments a professional photographer can make!

Have You Noticed How Many Speakers are Talking about Marketing?

It wasn’t very long ago that almost no one was talking about business management and marketing for professional photographers.  The convention presentations seldom covered business and marketing.  You seldom read articles on it.  Boy, have times changed as a result of The Perfect Storm and the economic recession. 

A new interest in marketing can be a positive result of the current situation many photographers are experiencing.  It seems that many speakers are jumping in to help their own bottom line as well as to share information.   What must be remembered, however, is that marketing alone won’t bring much; it is extremely important to have special products and services to market.   Putting more marketing emphasis on the same old products and methods won’t be of much help.  As an example, look at the number of photographers who are running away from the collapsing professional wedding photography market instead of reevaluating what it is that they are offering to the wedding market.  Find out what is it that we as accomplished professional photographers can create and sell that the amateurs and low level professionals cannot touch.  Then once you have that figured out, you can market your special services. 

We must be careful to not put the cart before the horse.  Marketing is always easier and more successful if we have something special and meaningful to market such as the new theme and fantasy photography.  Of course, that is exactly what makes Virtual Backgrounds so important.  VB is a marketers dream because so much great marketing can be built around it!

We Have Chosen to Not Participate in the Recession – So Can You!

Virtual Backgrounds have chosen to not participate in the recession.  Think about it.  The vast majority of your clients are making just as much money as they made six months and a year ago.  They are not buying as much because the media is constantly drum-beating about the horrible conditions.  True, some people are laid off but it is a very small percentage.  Normal unemployment has been just under 5%.  Now it might reach 10%.  That is only a 5% difference.  That means 95% of your customer base who were working in their regular jobs last year are still making money this year.  They just are not spending as much.

However, because they now own their own easy-to-use digital cameras, and because of their desire to not spend, they are more likely to do their own photography skip you all together.  However, if you are doing something really special and enticing that they cannot, if you generate the need, and if you market something really special, most customers can and will buy.  A recession starts and ends as a state of mind.  You have the option to participate in the recession or not participate.  We hope that you choose wisely.

Theme Photography – A Powerful Recession Fighter

Let’s look at one option for growth and profit.   Look at the fantasy and theme photography that Diane Wilson is teaching.  Diane is teaching photographers how to create a totally new and highly profitable niche for professional photographers.

Can you imagine any parent not wanting fantasy photographs of their children?  Can you imagine any parent rejecting well done fantasy images when they see their previews?  They can’t do fantasy photography on their own, no matter what camera they have.  They don’t have the costumes.  They don’t have the props.  They don’t have the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  They can’t generate the variety.  They don’t have studio lighting.  They don’t have the training and skill to create the results they want.  They have to go to the professional photographer and pay for the end product.  The end result means profit for the professional and satisfaction for the customer.

Images by Diane Wilson

Rick and Deborah Ferro
July 16-17, 2009 

How to Make Money with
Photographic Art

Rick and Deborah Ferro’s workshop schedule for July 16-17, 2009, will fill quickly.  Seating is limited.  Now is the time to reserve!  Rick and Deborah of Jacksonville, Florida present a broad based workshop designed to help you move to the next level in professional photography.  Rick, formerly the head of Disney wedding photography, is the super shooter and is full of creative ideas.  Debbie is the super image enhancer.  She is one of the best instructors for PhotoShop and Painter in the business.  Together, they do a great job with their Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Contact us today to reserve your space in the workshop!

The Eiffel Tower –
An Abomination

When it was first proposed and built the Eiffel Tower, today’s cherished symbol of France, was considered a pathetic eyesore.  Many fought to stop its construction and later, others wanted it torn down.  This is not unusual.  New ideas and new concepts are often fought against by those who don’t understand.  It’s the same in professional photography.  The best approach is to recognize that resistance to change is inherent in all of us and, therefore, we must fight it.   Our photographic industry is rapidly changing.  We must change with it or be left out.  What worked yesterday may not work very well today.  We cannot remain static and expect to get anywhere.  So, when it comes to your business practices, think about the Eiffel Tower.  Don’t be held back by the naysayers.  Take your daring new ideas and run with them!

Free Fantasy Photography Calendars Still Available

You can also stick in April that calendars are still available free from Virtual Backgrounds, APR, and marathon.  All you have to do is ask. These calendars feature theme and fantasy photography by Diane Wilson, Elma Flores and Cindy Cofer.

Contact Virtual Backgrounds today for your free copy!

Who Said You Can’t Do Groups with Virtual Backgrounds?

Pictured here are the participants in the April, 2009 Virtual Backgrounds workshop captured using a Virtual Backgrounds system.  Note that there is plenty of room for additional participants.  Virtual Backgrounds is a universal background tool for head shots, full length, and families.

Can One Workshop

Change a Career?

Yes it can!  The three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshop can do exactly that.  In fact, our workshops change people’s lives virtually every month by providing attendees with open, factual, and meaningful information on how the Virtual Backgrounds process can be implemented to bring about significant growth in studio operation and profits even in these tough times.  In addition, the Perfect Storm and the economic collapse make the Virtual Backgrounds workshop more important than ever.  Today, the public is discounting the need for a professional photographer because they feel they can do most of their own photography with their new digital cameras.  However, Virtual Backgrounds enables the photographer to offer services and products that no amateur or low level professional can possibly do.  Attendees are taught that Virtual Backgrounds is as much a photographic product as it is a key promotional product. 

The Virtual Backgrounds workshop is taught by Jim Wilson, the long time veteran instructor for this workshop and Trevon Baker of Kalispell, Montana where he operates his studio Trevon Baker Photography.  Both instructors hold the degree of Photographic Craftsman.  Trevon is a nationally and internationally known speaker and instructor.

Many photographers hold mistaking and misleading ideas about the Virtual Backgrounds process even though there are so many examples of highly successful photographers using the system and crediting it for much of their success.  The Virtual Backgrounds workshop is the one true way to separate fact from fiction through instruction and hands-on experience.  Seeing is believing!

The Virtual Backgrounds workshop can be the stimulus that you need to bring about recovery.  You can do it! We can help!

Send Us Your Thoughts!

If you have any experiences with Virtual Backgrounds that you would like to share with the readers of The Backgrounder, please write to us at [email protected]

Perhaps you have had an especially successful experience, or perhaps you solved an issue that would be helpful to others.  Let us know and we'll share it with the readers of The Backgrounder!

Seeing is Believing!

Check Out These You Tube Videos
to See Hundreds of Images Captured
at Recent Trade Shows

Take a look at images we created in trade show booths, under the most difficult of conditions and with minimal space.  Our photographers used only a single main light, a reflector for a fill, and an overhead separation light with background screens as small as 4 x 6 feet. 

If we could create these beautiful images under these very difficult conditions, imagine what you could do in your studio with Virtual Backgrounds and your lighting and creativity!  Virtual Backgrounds can help lead you to new profitability.  Yes, you can do it!

Check out these sample images from Photokina, Imaging USA, WPPI, PMA, and Western States.

PPA’s Imaging USA – Phoenix, Arizona

Photographers Cindy Cofer, Trevon Baker, Joseph and Louise Simone, and Greg Stangl captured hundreds of photographs of both trade show attendees and amateur models.  Over 7,000 photographers attended the event.

WPPI – Las Vegas, Nevada

Photographers Cindy Cofer and Trevon Baker captured images of dozens of photographers attending the WPPI show and several amateur models.  Over 12,000 photographers attended WPPI.

PMA – Las Vegas, Nevada

Montana photographer, Trevon Baker, and Virtual Backgrounds founder and president, Henry Oles together attended the largest US photo show, PMA.  The sample photographs you will see here were captured on a 4 x 6 foot screen showing how much can be done on such a small background when using Virtual Backgrounds.

Western States – Pasadena, California

Trevon Baker and Greg Stangl captured these images at the largest California trade show, Western States in Pasadena, California.

Photokina – Koln, Germany

Virtual Backgrounds exhibits at Photokina, the world’s largest photography show held every two years in Koln, Germany attracting well over 100,000 photographers from all over the world.  Photographers, Joseph and Louise Simone, Trevon Baker, Cindy Cofer, Marian Oles, and Greg Stangl were able to quickly capture exciting sample images of Photokina attendees who stopped to have a look.

First Place Print Competition Winner
Elma Flores

Elma Flores had never entered a print competition in her 17 years in professional photography.  But at the urging of her husband, Fred, coupled with her new intense interest in theme photography, Elma entered the 2009 Virtual Backgrounds Print Competition.  She was more than surprised when she was notified that she had won first place which included nearly $3,000 in prizes donated by a variety of sponsors. 

Elma states, “I really didn’t want to enter.  I did not think that my images were good enough.  At almost the last minute, I submitted a selection of off the shelf prints.  I didn’t create the prints for competition.  I never imagined I could do so well.  This has really bolstered my self confidence.”

The winning print was taken on location at My Party Palace.  Elma set up a promotion to make theme photographs and help her quickly develop a customer base for her new interest in producing theme photography.  The response was terrific.  She had 12 sittings in a single day and the opportunity to create a variety of samples and also sell the new portraits.

Elma describes the making of her winning print this way.  “Grandma brought in her two granddaughters and while I was working with them, grandma jokingly said, I would like to be a fairy.  So I put her in the picture. She was so excited that she even cried during the sitting and especially when she saw the results.  She was that happy. 

Elma finds that her theme photography often produces sales for large prints in frames.  Her average studio session results in sales of $800 - $1,000.  In addition to all the other prints they purchased, they got a framed 20 x 24 wall print.

Elma credits her success on two key factors, her enrollment in a course by Canadian theme photographer, Diane Wilson, and her earlier purchase of a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  The Diane Wilson class enabled her to see the relationship between theme photography and her Scene Machine.  It all made sense and she immediately dove into.

Elma recently moved into her new studio facility which is located less than a mile from her home studio.  It was her class with Diane Wilson and her subsequent love for theme photography that prompted her to go to the new studio which opened in February.   Her business has not been seriously affected by the economic downturn.  Theme photography already represents about 50% of her business.   She also does seniors, families, quincereras, communions, and elementary graduations.  Congratulations Elma Flores for a job well done!

Taco Cabana Test Kitchen

What does a Taco Cabana test kitchen have to do with professional photography?  Perhaps a lot.  Taco Cabana is a chain of quality fast food Mexican restaurants in Texas.  It’s a regular stop for VB president, Henry Oles.  Taco Cabana has offered to pay him with food coupons to come to their test kitchen to sample new food products they are developing and provide evaluations on their performance.  Oles states, “I was impressed that they really want my opinion.”

What if we take this same test kitchen idea and apply it to professional photography?  When was the last time you had your customers or your potential customers come in to help you determine the products they would like you to create for them?  For most photographers, perhaps this has never been done.  So, how do you know what your potential customers really want?  And can you think of a better way to get their attention and recognize that you are really sincerely interested in their thinking? 

Think about it.  What a great way to bring people to your studio and get them to help you plan your product offering while you impress them with your interest in their needs.   With a little creative thinking, this concept does not have to be at all expensive and it could result in a whole new way to enhance your image and generate new revenue.   Think about doing a test kitchen event in your studio!

The Upcoming Diane Wilson
Class is Filled

Reservations Being Taken for the
Next Class – June 15-18, 2009

Diane Wilson’s theme and fantasy photography workshop has been scheduled for June 15 – 18, 2009, at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.  The class is limited to just 12 participants for maximum personal attention and opportunity to take photographs of models. 

This class is becoming exceptionally popular as professional photographers discover the money making potential of theme and fantasy photography.  There are a lot of tricks of the trade that Diane covers in this four-day workshop.  The cost of the workshop is $595.  One single sitting, well done, can easily repay the entire cost of this very special workshop. 

If your studio schedule book is challenged with a lot of blank space, fantasy and theme photography can help you fill it up and fill up your bank account as well!  Contact us today to reserve your space in the workshop!

Featured Photographer:
Winifred Whitfield

From Wall Street to the Llama Farm to
Exquisite and Artistic Photographer

Winifred Whitfield has one of the most interesting stories you will find among professional photographers.  It wasn’t that long ago that Winifred was a Vice President for Standard and Poors Corporation on Wall Street.  She was in charge of bond ratings for all public and private colleges and universities in the country.  She had the glamorous New York financial world life but decided to leave it for the peace and quiet of a 100+ year old farm house on six beautiful acres on a peninsula about an hour from Seattle, Washington, reachable by ferry. 

Winifred began a totally new business as a llama breeder, raising 30 lamas and two camels in addition to developing phenomenal gardens which she began to lease out for weddings and wedding receptions.  When she needed photographs of her prize breeding lamas, she bought her first camera and began to discover her interest in photography.  She knew she needed training so she enrolled in various photography courses.  It wasn’t long before Winifred moved from photographing her animals to taking photographs at weddings in her elegant garden later becoming the contracted wedding photographer at these events.  She quickly became successful, doing weddings every weekend.  However, she soon found she didn’t like trailing after the bride and groom capturing a wide variety of images.  She knew she wanted to be much more in control and work as a true artist.  Winifred attended a five day workshop by Joseph and Louise Simone in Cap May, New Jersey, and it was that course which set the direction for her photography. 

Winifred loved the classic style of lighting and posing the Simones used and has chosen this style for herself to create highly artistic photographs of women.  Winifred quotes, “I love the Simone’s work but I avoid copying their work.  I am developing my own style though certainly the Simones have been an important influence for me.  They are GREAT at what they do.  People clearly see the difference.”

Winifred knew that she could be successful as a classic artistic high end photographer only if she structured her entire life in that direction.   She did not open the typical studio.  Instead in July 2007, she opened a gallery, beautifully appointed in every way to show off large wall mounted portraits of women.  Everything was perfectly appointed.  The beautifully framed portraits are more art like than photographs.  Her studio name is Intimate Portraits for Women.  Her major form of advertising is through referrals.  Because of her remote location, her customers must travel an hour or more to get to her studio.  They have to be highly motivated to secure her services.

Each portrait session is handled like a classic art study beginning with an extensive consultation with the client.  Before a session begins, Winifred already has a concept in her mind as to what she is about to create.

Winifred did not just become an artistic photographer overnight.  She has devoted much of her life energy to understanding and developing her inner being.  “You have to find out who you really are and then continually work on yourself.  As you begin to discover yourself, you must be able and willing to bring forth your deepest creative vision of and for your client.  At this point, you have done your very best for them and yourself. I am an artist.  The process of looking within to release my creativity is important to me.  It has to be important to any artist.  I am an artist who uses the camera as my initial tool to create personal art for my clients,” says Winifred.

From the very beginning, the Scene Machine has been an important component of Winifred’s art.  She first saw the Scene Machine when she studied with Joseph and Louise Simone.  The Simones use the Scene Machine for 75% of their work.  The Scene Machine instantly became a tool Winifred wanted to use in expressing her vision of her clients.  At that point, Winifred came to Virtual Backgrounds to learn more about it.  She uses the Scene Machine in a very reserved fashion, except for special situations where the background can be more dominant.  Her backgrounds are typically dark and subtle.  Winifred states, “I love the flexibility and creativity the Scene Machine provides without taking up valuable space for the storage of props and backgrounds.  I can change backgrounds in seconds, and I like to use a variety of backgrounds during a session.”

Winifred’s studio calendar is generally full with two to five sessions per week.  Her minimal sale, including consultation, the photographic session, retouching, enhancement and one 8x10 print is $800.  Her wall portraits start at $3,000.  The recession significantly reduced her sessions during the last part of 2008, but since the first of the year, her business has returned to normal.

New York City is coming back into Winifred’s life.  She has recently opened an artistic portrait operation in the city but she has no intention of leaving her beloved Washington State gallery.  She sees herself as traveling between both sites.

Winifred loves to share her experience with other photographers.  She has spoken several times for WPPI.  She also gave a presentation for the Texas Professional Photographers Association and recently was a featured speaker for the Professional Photography Society of New York State and Image Quest in Richmond British Columbia. 

We predict that the industry will be hearing and seeing a lot more of Winifred Whitfield as her career as a photographic artist continues to develop.  We are pleased that our Virtual Backgrounds Scene Machine plays an important role in her artistic creations.

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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