April 2010 Issue

In this issue:

What You Can Learn from a Pancake House

The New York Times Writes about the Plight of Professional Photographers

Monostand and Elliptical Softbox Available from Virtual Backgrounds

When is a Scene Machine a Bad Investment?

The Biggest Losers: Professional Wedding Photographers




Diane Wilson’s Next Fantasy and Theme Workshop



If you are looking for a special money making niche, consider the opportunities found in fantasy and theme photography.  Diane Wilson from the Toronto area is again teaching a special workshop at Virtual Backgrounds, June 28 – July 2, 2010.  The workshop will provide an enormous amount of information and experience in how to open, operate, market, and sell fantasy and theme photography.  The workshop is divided into two sections.  The first three days cover the basics and includes shooting experience.  Images created in the class will be shared with other members of the group.  The registration price for the three days is $295.  Those who wish to remain can register for an additional two days for $199.  The two day class will cover more post production techniques and costume making.

The Diane Wilson workshop is being co-sponsored by both Virtual Backgrounds and Denny Manufacturing. 

Today when many photographers are experiencing a downturn in sittings, fantasy and theme photography can make a big difference.  Contact Virtual Backgrounds for more information.



Trevon Baker Will Teach Two Workshops in Kalispell, Montana


Click here for a larger view.

Master Photographer, Trevon Baker, will teach two workshops this summer at his new facility in Kalispell, Montana.  Trevon is a long time user of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  The classes will include special emphasis on the background as a key part of any photograph which includes the lighting, posing, expression, and the background. 

Workshop attendees can enjoy an optional extra day with Trevon doing a photo safari in Glacier National Park (at no extra charge).  The workshops are scheduled for June and September.

Click here for details on this awesome opportunity!




Greg Stangl to Teach Two Day Business Course at VB



Nationally known Master Photographer and business consultant, Greg Stangl will teach a two-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds June 24 - 25, 2010, which immediately follows the June Virtual Backgrounds workshop (June 21-23).

Greg will provide 16-20 hours of instruction for only $199. Lunch is included and Virtual Backgrounds has a deal with a local hotel for you to pay only $45 per night.

Attendees can attend either or both workshops with one trip.  Greg is one of the most popular speakers in the country on how professional photographers can apply good business principles to operating their business to  dramatically increase sales, even in these tough times.  Contact us further information and registration.




The Simone Greek Adventure


Click here to see view a larger version of the above image.

Joseph and Louise Simone, in conjunction with Nichols Photo Lab are planning a very unique educational adventure to Greece this fall.  Joseph and Louise will be the photographic hosts.  Spiro Nichols, owner of Nichols Photo Lab, originally from Greece, will be the tour host.  This will be a very small group adventure.  It is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Check it out!



March 2010 VB 
Workshop Attendees



The March Virtual Backgrounds Workshop group consisted of photographers from the US, Canada, and South Africa who came to learn how to use the Virtual Backgrounds process to boost their business.  The next Virtual Backgrounds workshop is scheduled for May 24 – 26, 2010.  Registration is now open.  Anyone looking for ways to grow their studio business should attend a VB workshop to learn about how this powerful process can change your business. 



Richard Sturdevant Workshop Attendees



Group photo of Richard Sturdevant’s first workshop class on how to create and market photographic art composites at Virtual Backgrounds.  Another name for Richard’s process is biographical portraits.  This concept has great potential for professional photographers who want to offer something truly different that really catches the attention of the public.

The next Richard Sturdevant class is scheduled for July 22-23, 2010.  Registration is now open.  Contact us to reserve your seat today. 



Virtual Backgrounds Workshops can Show You How to Prosper in These Tough Times

Learn how you can fight the Perfect Storm!  Guaranteed Satisfaction Nearly every photographer is suffering from the Perfect Storm.  Some are experiencing drops in business of 50% and more.  The very best storm fighter is implementing virtual backgrounds in your studio.  Come find out for yourself how this process can be a big money maker for you.  The May workshop is 24-26.  The June workshop is June 21-23 followed by the Greg Stangl Workshop, June 24-25.   Both workshops are absolutely guaranteed - if for any reason you do not feel that they were worth your investment, you will be issued an immediate refund of the total tuition paid.  The Virtual Backgrounds workshop is taught by Photographic Craftsman, Jim Wilson and Montana Master Photographer, Trevon Baker.  You’ll be amazed at what a powerful solution Virtual Backgrounds can be for the Perfect Storm.



When is Bad News Good News?

For optimists, there is always a bright side, and so it is for professional photographers.  As both the business practices and quality drops for so many, there are exciting new opportunities that open up for others.  For example, as quality professional photography seems to be disappearing, the difference between what has become common amateur like work versus true quality work widens.  It is this difference that becomes more obvious to the public.  In essence, those who deliver real quality photography will be more easily noticed, and their services will be sought after by those who care.  Also, as business drops for the major national photographic companies, what they abandon will become fertile ground for the local photographer who goes after it.  It often happens that the local photographer who picks up what the national companies left behind can double sales averages the national company once had.  The future is definitely not all bleak for those who take the right approach.



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!


What You Can Learn from
a Pancake House



Pancakes!  They are so simple and quick to make in your own kitchen, yet there are tens of thousands of local and national chain restaurants and fast food places that offer them including the mega giant, McDonald’s.  With such huge competition, how could another ma and pa pancake place survive, let alone thrive?

In the January issue of The Backgrounder, we wrote a short article about The Magnolia Pancake Haus in San Antonio, Texas.  Even though they are located 50 miles from us, their radio advertising caught our attention.  We had never actually been there so we did not know if they were really successful, so we went to see for ourselves.

Their advertising finally pushed us to drive out of our way to actually visit the Magnolia Pancake Haus.  They were not that easy to find and we were surprised to find them located in a mid-level strip center.  The outside was decorated rather uniquely but we did not see anything extravagant.  Once we got inside, we had a couple of surprises.  Even though it was after 10 a.m. and well past the breakfast rush, we saw people sitting and waiting for a table.  We were handed one of those round platters with the red lights and vibrator so we could be paged when a table was ready.  We saw lots of crowded tables in several different rooms.  While sitting in the waiting area, we saw dozens of award certificates prominently positioned on the walls.  Our anticipation level climbed.

The wait was just 15 minutes.  We sat down and were given an elaborate menu.  Magnolia doesn’t just serve simple pancakes.  There was a huge variety of pancakes and special omelets, many with a German touch.  It was hard to choose.  The service was quick and friendly and the pancakes and omelet was exceptionally good.  The prices were much higher than making your own breakfast at home and certainly more than McDonald’s or many other places, but it well worth it.  We will go back and we will recommend Magnolia to others.  Magnolia is now also offering banquet/meeting facilities and they will cater on site.

As we left Magnolia, the crowd had thinned out and was starting to fill again for their light lunch.  Magnolia does so well that they close for the day at  2 p.m.

There is so much here for the professional photographer to learn.  We hear photographers everywhere crying the blues about the collapse of their business because of digital cameras, the economy, and the fact that every customer is a competitor and helping to kill their business.  Woe is me!  As much as many photographers like to complain as they wither and die on the vine, many of them never look at themselves in the mirror and accept any personal responsibility for their decline.  They don’t understand that the real problem stems from the fact that they fundamentally are not offering the public anything really special - not in their product and not in their marketing and for the most part they employ really bad business sense.  Maybe they don’t want to understand or accept personal responsibility, but they really are their own problem in most every case.  It might just be worth a trip to San Antonio, Texas to visit the Magnolia Pancake Haus to see how a family owned restaurant can thrive serving breakfast by engaging in really good marketing and providing a really special variety of products with excellent service to everyday people. 


Opportunities are still abound for professional photographers who take responsibility and plot their course to find the new cheese that is out there just waiting.


The New York Times Writes about the Plight of Professional Photographers

Stirs Up a Ton of Interest



The problems facing every professional photographer across America and worldwide made it to the pages of The New York Times in an article titled, “For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path.”  The lead picture shows a woman hand holding a digital camera in the woods photographing a subject, just like millions of people do today and the results are often good enough.  And therefore, if the professional photographer who used to get their dollars doesn’t have anything much different to offer other than a high price, then why should the public visit the professional?

The article emphasizes the rise of the digital camera which is so easy to use effectively as the primary cause of the problem, but it also discusses the fact that most photographers think of themselves more as artists and have very few business skills.  Pro photographers were able to survive reasonably well when they had a monopoly on good photography but that just isn’t the case anymore and they are failing.

The NY Times article didn’t talk about solutions but fortunately there are solutions and they are readily available to any professional if they are willing to adapt.   In general the solution is that the professional must offer a whole variety of incentives to clearly distinguish themselves from anything amateurs can do.  These include the following:

  1. Amateurs don’t have studios.  Therefore the professional needs a professional looking facility, even if it is a dedicated room in the photographer’s home.  The facility must look professional in every respect.  The professional can go outdoors to work but must remember that the outdoors is the same outdoors the amateur uses.  Much of the work should be done in the studio where the photographer is in control.  It is very hard to compete if you work in the amateur’s studio. The professional’s equipment, especially the camera, cannot be a clearly amateur model. Tool like Virtual Backgrounds capture the client's attention.
  2. Amateurs typically hand hold their camera.  A professional typically should use a professional tripod or monostand.
  3. Professional photographers should use multiple lights to create the best possible image of the subject.
  4. Professional photographers must at all times act and look professional and not like an amateur.
  5. Professional photographers must provide the subject with maximum variety, quickly and efficiently but without taking hundreds of shots.  Amateurs take snapshots; professionals create photographs.
  6. Virtual Backgrounds is the tool that most clearly separates the amateur from the professional.  It is a tool that amateurs and many other professionals do not have.  The alternative green screen process is fast becoming an amateur toy.
  7. Professional photographers must be open minded and continually engage in education to improve their methods especially in terms of lighting and composition.
  8. Professional photographers must continually endeavor to be the leader by developing new ideas and not just following trends. They should be creating trends.
  9. Professional photographers must engage in effective advertising and marketing to put their presence and product clearly in front of the public.  The Magnolia Pancake Haus would not have nearly as many customers if it didn’t engage in effective advertising.  The highway potty stop featured last month in The Backgrounder, would not be nearly as successful without their phenomenal potties and other special features.
In summary, the professional photographers must be professional in every respect if they do not want to be just like the amateurs.

Opportunities are there for those who are willing to go after them.

Here is the link to the NY Times article

Here is the link to the forum comments on the NY Times article


Check Out These VB Products

Monostand Shipment is Here!



A truck load of high quality Studio Pro monostands has arrived at Virtual Backgrounds.  The monostand is fast becoming a replacement for the bulky tripod.  It eliminates the need to hand hold the camera thus freeing the photographer to make adjustments to the subject.  The specially designed Studio Pro monostand features a twin camera arm and an accessory tray.  The camera can quickly be lowered to nearly floor level and up to above eye level view.  A special optional tray is available for a laptop connected to the camera.  The Studio Pro monostand is distributed exclusively by Virtual Backgrounds. Once you try the Studio Pro monostand, you’ll never go back to hand holding or using a tripod for studio work.



New Ellyptical Softbox Now Available



VB offers a special asymmetrical softbox that is ideally designed for use with Virtual Backgrounds.  The softbox can be used in both the vertical and horizontal orientation.  The white diffuser is recessed to minimize light spill.  Velcro is part of the black recess to enable the photographer to attach special light intensity reduction panels. 


When is a Scene Machine a Bad Investment?

A Scene Machine is no different from a camera.  If you do nothing with it, then nothing will happen.  If you use it like an amateur, the results will look like they were created by an amateur.  Virtual Backgrounds is the best investment almost any photographer could make, but it doesn’t just automatically spit out money when you plug it in.  The owner has to do something with it to produce money.

There are two levels of operation that must be attended to:

First, the owner must learn how to use it - how to integrate infinite background variety with lighting, posing, props.  It has to all blend together properly.  That is where the planning and talent comes into play.  This is good because amateurs and low level professionals can’t do this.  If you are just a snap shot shooter and have no plans to go higher, the Scene Machine is not for you.

Second, the owner must understand that Virtual Backgrounds is as much a marketing tool as it is a photographic tool.  It is a marketing tool that can be used to bring in customers and help you sell more images.  This is also good because amateurs and low level professionals don’t do this either.

If you have a Virtual Backgrounds system, if not already there, you need to get to the point where you can’t live without it!  The formula is simple:  more variety = more money.  Come and learn what a phenomenal tool you already own.

If you don’t have a Virtual Backgrounds system and most likely you are struggling looking for ways to get more business, now is the time to investigate what Virtual Backgrounds could do for you.  You can learn a lot if you just go to our Web site.  The evidence is 100% clear for those who will look at it. 

The fundamental beauty of using Virtual Backgrounds is that it clearly separates the owner from other professionals and absolutely from the amateurs.


The Biggest Losers:  Professional Wedding Photographers

Without a doubt, when it comes to those who make money through weddings, professional photographers are by far the biggest losers.  Many have quit the business all together.  Most of the rest talk about big drops in business and revenue.  Most every wedding photographer we talk to complains that the business is gone - it’s gone to the do it yourselfers or the amateurs turned pro.  It’s only the newcomers who never knew what wedding photography use to be like who seem satisfied.  However, the vast majority of them are very part time and are happy with a few extra dollars coming in.

So, let’s be realistic and ask, are professional wedding photographers the only losers in the world of weddings?  It looks that way.  Brides still look for quality professional caterers, quality professional wedding cake bakers, quality professional florists, quality professional wedding dress providers, and quality bands or DJs.  It seems that most every wedding supplier is doing quite well and unaffected by the do it yourself or do it cheap phenomena that has ransacked professional wedding photography. Strange, the supplier that has the longest lasting product that grows in importance after the wedding is the one being most hurt.  One of the primary parts of a wedding is the only one that is really being skimped on by so many.

The next question is, why?  Why is only the professional photographer being so hurt?  That answer is pretty simple.  Much of it can be traced to the fact that professional photographers haven’t done their job very well at all.  When photographers aim solely for the natural look and produce crooked, off center, and out of focus images, sometimes with important people cropped out, and without paying attention to lighting, posing, general organization and so much more, the photojournalistic approach to weddings is the biggest culprit.  When photographers aim solely for the natural look without paying attention to lighting, posing, general organization, and so much more, they become amateur-like. This makes it much easier for the bride to give the job to those who offer a couple of thousand images on a disk for a few hundred dollars.   Many brides today don’t know the difference between the beginner snap shooter and the true professional.  This boils down to bad marketing in just about every respect.

Photographers also use to make good money doing bridal formals before the wedding.  This is a type of photography that requires a studio, quality equipment, and plenty of knowhow and talent.  Photographers abandoned bridal formals years ago because they were making too much money on the photographs taken at the wedding.  Now the money in candids is drying up and the formals have been long abandoned.  Some will say that they quit formals because the brides didn’t want them anymore.  That doesn’t make sense.  If a bride spends hundreds or even thousands on a once in a lifetime dress for this momentous occasion, why would this not be a perfect opportunity for the highest quality professional bridal photography? 

Is it too late?  Perhaps.  Things can be restored only by a concentrated and coordinated effort by national, regional, state wide and local organizations and individual wedding photographers to try to turn the tide.  Unfortunately, we don’t see much of that happening at all.  We just hear complaints that the wedding business has gone to heck. It does make sense that we have just let it happen.  The key always is to offer product so special that the customer wants it and the amateurs and low level professionals can’t produce it. If forces the customer to hire the professional.  What if the wedding cakes produced by the professional bakery looked like they came out of some grandma’s kitchen?  How long would it be before the real grandma said, “I can do that.  I’ll bake your wedding cake.  You don’t need to waste all that money going to the bakery for your cake.”

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

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