April 2011 Issue

In this issue:

Home Studio Solutions

Joseph and Louise Simone: August 1-5

New Panasonic Lumix Worsens the Perfect Storm

Trevon Baker Schedules Small Group Training Course, June 27-30

Featured Photographer: Tami Byrd

Can Using VB Really
Make a Difference?

Yes it can!  Just ask any of our successful users who give a lot of credit to VB for their success. Without VB, you have your normal tools, camera, lights, reflectors and your talent.  You can go outside or work in a studio but there are many limitations.  The main problem with the outdoors is that it is generally public area, and anyone can shoot there.  Inside, you are terribly limited by space and limited background options unless you have Virtual Backgrounds.  VB gives you infinite background variety which means more variety and even customization for your clients.   VB helps you to be different from other photographers and especially from what can be done by the do it yourself (DIY) crowd.  If you are not different and special, why would clients come to you and pay you money for what they can do themselves?

It doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to start to conceptualize all the profitable creative advantages of using VB. 

Tip of the Month: 
The Power of Customized

Customized backgrounds that are specific for a particular sub group or even for a specific individual.  They just never seem to get it and as a result, they miss out on major profit making opportunities.  Doctors and nurses love medical backgrounds.  Sports people love backgrounds that represent their sports and especially their sports playing area.  Seniors like backgrounds that reflect their school experience.  Just about everyone who likes what they do in life likes backgrounds that reflect their life in a photographic image.

With this one simple but very important concept in mind, start planning taking your own backgrounds of important sites/things in your area and even conceptualize how you can come up with artistic renditions.  You can take your own background images with your digital camera and easily and inexpensively have them turned into slides for your Virtual Backgrounds system.  If you are already doing this, then you know how profitable this can be.  If you aren’t doing it and especially if you do not have a Virtual Backgrounds system, you just don’t know what you are missing.

WPPI Brings Together 16,000 Photo Enthusiasts

WPPI showed another huge jump in attendance this year with the Las Vegas based show attracting over 16,000.   The attendance figures clearly show the huge number of newcomers trying to find ways  to make money in photography.  A sizable percentage of those in attendance had never before been to a photo show which further confirms their newness.

Whereas growth can be healthy for any profession, too much growth also presents its own problems.  The key to success is always the same.  Some will stand out by doing a better overall job while the vast majority will battle each other for bits and pieces of the market.  With so many newcomers entering the business and with the continuing Perfect Storm for photographers, it is more important than ever before for the entrepreneurial photographer to exercise every one of their skills to stand out from the masses.   There is always room for those who are truly different.

All images were taken at WPPI in an area less than 6’x8’ using one light, one reflector, and the Virtual Backgrounds to create many different backgrounds in one sitting.

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel, Rick Avalos has Already Done it for You

Do you have trouble coming up with the perfect promotional letters and other marketing materials?  Pueblo Colorado Master Photographer, Rick Avalos, has done it for you.  Rick has spent years perfecting his promotional methods for his highly successful studio and has recently made them available to all professional photographers for a very minimal price.  He even sells his materials with a 100% money back guarantee.

Rick’s materials come on two CDs and include everything you need to create your own special promotions including: 

Employee Appreciation Programs; Fitness Center Promotions; Fundraisers;  Gift Certificates; Insurance Agency Partnerships; Hospital Exhibit Portraits; Newsletters; Parade of Homes Promotions; Pet Promotions; Portrait Booklets, Testimonial Layouts, and more.

Rick’s package is a no brainer since it would take any individual photographer a very long time to create their own materials and then perfect them.

These are difficult times for professional photographers but Rick isn’t suffering at his own studio because of his continuing effort at promoting what makes him special. 

Click here to learn more about Rick Avalos’ Promotional Materials.  You can order Rick’s materials directly from him.

For more information on Rick’s studio promotional materials, go to www.rickavalos.com 

Comparing VB with
Green Screen

Many photographers are confused about the differences between green screen and Virtual Backgrounds.  Besides the fact that they both involve backgrounds, there is a world of difference between the two.  The main difference is that in green screen, the background is pasted in some time after the subject is photographed.  In Virtual Backgrounds, the photographer sees both the background and subject together in the camera viewfinder or on a monitor and can adjust the subject to the background and the background to the subject.  When the shutter is tripped, both the background and the subject are captured and the results can be shown instantly.

There are many other differences between the two methods.  While green screen is initially cheaper to get in to, it is actually far more expensive in the end in terms of photographer time and lower quality results along with a variety of special issues.  Green screen is also a method that most DIY amateurs now have.  Virtual Backgrounds is a tool reserved for the professional photographer.  Green screen requires more physical space.  Green screen also presents serious problems when the subject wears anything that is close in color shade to the green screen background because those areas will be automatically converted to background.

The professional photographer needs to study the differences between the two methods to create backgrounds in order to make the best decision.

What Movie Theaters
Can Teach Us

Photographers are certainly not the only industry that has faced catastrophic  change - a perfect storm.  Movie theaters have gone through some tough times in recent years with the rapid expansion of the availability of first run movies on satellite, cable, DVD, all for less money and in the convenience of one’s own living room or bedroom.  With all this technology, why would anyone pay the high prices and inconvenience of going to the movie theater?

Technology has certainly presented major challenges to movie theaters but those theater owners who reacted appropriately are still doing well.  It is those owners who did not react that found themselves with empty theaters and bankruptcy

What did theatre owners do to survive?  They built large comfortable megaplexes with large screens, phenomenal sounds systems and included game rooms and even restaurants.  Hollywood also responded with more dynamic action packed movies.  Recently they moved into 3D which is far more dramatic on the big theater screen than it is on a 3D home TV.   Remember when just a few years ago everyone thought that the video rental places were going to completely replace movie theaters?  Video rental is just about gone and most theaters are doing well.

There is a lot here for photographers to learn.  Those who do not appropriately respond to the digital revolution are dying.  Those who do respond appropriately by enhancing the total experience and providing “wow” photography with maximum variety including images the public cannot do on their own or get at the Wal-Mart studio.  They are doing well and will continue to do well.

Technology has brought change to many industries.   Change presents challenges.  How one reacts to challenges determines success or failure. 

What’s in a Name: 
Shutterbug, Photographer, Visual Interpreter, Photographic Artist

Ever stop to think about how important a descriptive title actually is to your career?  If we paid enough attention to the words we use to describe what we do, we would not be so careless about how we describe what it is we do.

Do you describe yourself as a shutterbug or as a picture or photo taker?  Do you describe yourself as just a photographer or even a professional photographer?  Or do you think of yourself as an artist?  Not only does the title make a difference in how the public views you, but it also makes a difference in how you view yourself.

Anyone can be a shutterbug or picture taker.  Anyone who charges anything at all for their pictures can be a professional photographer. A photographic artist is a completely different category.  When you see yourself as an artist, you take a totally different approach to your work.  You don’t take dozens, hundreds or even thousands of snaps in the hopes of getting some good ones.  Instead, you create the very best artistic images that reflect the best in artistic composition, expression and meaning.  Can you imagine Joseph and Louise Simone, two of our industries greatest artists, taking 5000 snaps at a wedding?  Not on your life.  And, whose images would be more highly valued: the 5000 snaps or the much more limited number of artistic images?

Here at VB we look at the difference between the green screen photographer who sticks a generic background in later and the user of Virtual Backgrounds who custom chooses backgrounds that are part of each photograph as it is taken where the background is carefully adjusted to the subject and the subject is carefully adjusted to the background.  Amateurs just stick things together.  Artists create the very best they can in the time that is available.

Snce everyone today is a snap shooter and getting pretty good results, and since hundreds of thousands and perhaps even millions can consider themselves as photographers and even professional photographers, then there is only one position left for the really serious, well trained, and creative individual and that is in the role of a professional photographic artist who strives to show their artistry in every image they ever take.  

So, which title describes you?  Are you a shutterbug, picture taker, or an artist?

Upcoming VB Workshops

June 13-15
August 8-10

See Us at These
Upcoming Events

Apr 17-18 Candian Imaging Conference & Trade Show
Aug 14-15 Florida PPA

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!

Home Studio Solutions

Many photographers today have a home based studio which often doubles as a living room, bedroom, garage, or basement.   The problem is always the same.  How do I operate most effectively with minimum space and how do I impress my clients with the home based facility I have?  Every photographer has a camera and some lights and every photographer has a muslin and/or canvas background.  So, what makes you special besides your photographic skills?  The answer is simple.  It’s the unique tools that you have and effectively use that others do not have.  No one with any business sense really wants to be like everyone else.  You want to be different - special.

This is where Virtual Backgrounds can play such an extremely important role in helping the home studio owner really shine above others by utilizing VB magic that really impresses clients and sells more images.  Even if your home studio is just an oversize closet, Virtual Backgrounds turns your available space into so much more.   With Virtual Backgrounds, you only hang one single background…the special VB screen.  And then, with your camera mounted on the projector, you now have infinite variety available to impress your clients and utilize your creative talents all in whatever little space you actually have.  Hundreds of backgrounds can be stored in a little box and changed from one to another in seconds.  Having a powerful unique tool that others do not have gives one a decided edge.

Too often photographers think that they have to have a big expensive studio to use Virtual Backgrounds.  They are dead wrong.  Actually, the smaller your studio space, the more cramped you are, the more you need to impress your clients and therefore the more you need Virtual Backgrounds.  If you have enough room to set up your camera and a simple background, you have more than enough room to set up a Virtual Backgrounds system, and then the magic really starts.

With Virtual Backgrounds, you have absolutely unlimited background variety.  You can change backgrounds in seconds.  There are no storage problems.  You can adjust the background in many different ways for maximum individualized results.  The results are so much better than green screen and the resulting image is ready instantly to show to the client.

The cost of installing Virtual Backgrounds is not nearly as high as many think.  In fact it is cheap.  Instead of buying several old fashioned canvas backgrounds, for the same amount of money you can have a Virtual Backgrounds system and never buy another canvas background, but you can capture your own backgrounds with your digital camera.  Imagine, any time you see something that would make a good background you grab it.  The possibilities are endless.

The next time you are bored to death with your home studio limitations including a limited variety of backgrounds, take a serious look at what Virtual Backgrounds can do for you.  Your system will quickly become one of your most important tools and money makers and will pay for itself over and over again.

Big Announcement!
Joseph and Louise Simone
August 1-5, 2011

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to study with Joseph and Louise Simone for five days.  There is no one better in the world today for creating and teaching classic portrait photography than the Simones.  Learn their methods, lighting, posing, and overall composition. Also, learn how the Simones use Virtual Backgrounds to create timeless artistic portraits that can command serious money.  This is a learning experience no one who is a professional photographer should miss, even if you don’t now offer classic portraiture. 

The workshop starts Sunday evening, July 31, with a special reception honoring the Simones.  The workshop ends at noon on August 5.  Lunches are provided.  We are now taking advanced reservations.  Reserve your seat now for this rare learning experience.  Enrollment is very limited.

New Panasonic Lumix Camera
Worsens the Perfect Storm

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the new Panasonic Lumix camera has arrived.  It automatically whitens teeth, erases wrinkles and even applies makeup!  See article http://www.stylelist.com/2011/03/21/panasonic-lumix-dmc-fp7-digital-camera/?a_dgi=aolshare_facebook

The results are pretty staggering, especially when you consider that the camera only costs $250, has 16 megapixels, and the fix up can be done after the exposure is made on the subject of your choice and it is done automatically in seconds!  What makes it worse is that no professional level camera offers anything like this at all.  Professionals have to do the work  mostly by hand using Photoshop.  So this means the amateurs now have a tool that seriously out performs the pro cameras.

So, what is left for the professional to offer?  As we have stated for years in The Backgrounder, the only way for the pro to survive is to do what the amateur cannot do.  Amateurs do not usually have studios.  Amateurs do not have studio lights and the ability and knowledge to properly light and pose subjects.  Amateurs do not have Virtual Backgrounds which enables the pro to do so much more variety that makes the public go “wow”.  Unless the professional takes a stand and creates desirable product amateur’s cannot do, they really have little chance of being very successful at all.  Those days are gone forever.

Trevon Baker Schedules
Small Group Training Class
June 27 - 30, 2011

Want to study with Montana master photographer, Trevon Baker, and have a guided trip to Glacier National Park as a bonus?  It’s possible for the 10 photographers who schedule to attend Trevon’s next 3 day workshop at his Montana studio in Somers Montana, just a stone’s throw from popular tourist destination, Kalispell.  You’ll spend three days working with Trevon with plenty of hands on experience with models.  He covers a wide variety of topics but primarily how to capitalize on the four dimensions of a portrait: lighting, posing, expression, and the background, all of which must be integrated together.  The bonus is a fourth day guided photographic tour into nearby Glacier National Park.

The cost of the workshop is only $495.  It includes the Glacier trip at no additional charge and three lunches.  It’s an experience that will help you grow your business and have fun at the same time.  We highly recommend it.

Click here to register.

But Wait - There's More!

As a reward for your three days of hard work in the studio, spend an optional fourth day with Trevon on location in the spectacular Glacier National Park on July 1, 2011!

Featured Photographer

Tami Byrd

VB is one of the best decisions I ever made.
ithout it I would not have opened my studio!

Tami Byrd doesn’t hesitate to share her enthusiasm about her decision to get her Scene Machine for her new Jackson, Tennessee studio.  It’s a fundamental part of everything she does and she credits her VB system for playing a major role in her success.

Tami always dreamed of being a professional photographer but started out in the 80s first working for Kodak in sales for their Lifetime Portrait Program and then in the glamour photography division of Olan Mills but she really wanted to be a working photographer.  She worked for a while with her cousin, a day care photographer, while also being involved in sales for a national legislative research company.  This is where she met Tony who hired her initially part time to help in his day care photography program.  Tony had already been in day care work for 10 years and had a great deal to teach Tami. 

Initially they here highly successful with 7 photographers until 9/11 hit and the business dropped off right when they were changing from film to digital.  Tony laid off all the photographers except Tami.  He married her and that began their career together as a team.  With a lot of hard work the business gradually came back.  From February 1 until December 1 they shoot four days a week traveling over a huge area photographing thousands of day care children.  Their secret for success has always been being different.   They encourage the day care children to arrive “dressed up”.  They create their own sets and props and strive to be different in every way.

While Tony has remained the day care specialist, Tami got tired of the driving and decided to pursue her real life dream…having her own personal portrait studio where clients came to her.  She made two major additions: she leased and then remodeled a 100 year old antebellum home in Jackson and purchased a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  She said she had been looking at the Scene Machine for several years and decided there was no sense in opening a studio without it.  She especially did not want to pay$ 500 to $1000 for a single canvas background and then have to deal with raising and lowering it and storing it plus regular backgrounds is  not any different from what most any other photographer has to offer.

Tami’s studio is primarily a theme studio incorporating many kinds of fantasy portraits including fairies, prince and princesses, the old time look, vintage baseball and much more.  Tami explains,  “We specialize in things the public cannot get anywhere else or do on their own.  We don’t want to do anything they can do.  My customers come to me because I am different…they love the total experience…I built the whole studio around Virtual Backgrounds because it enabled me to do so much more. We do many different themes.“

“Very few photographers in my area have a VB system and that’s great for us.  We love our system.  What is so surprising is that many photographers think it is so high tech and complicated.  I just laugh.  It really isn’t difficult…it’s pretty simple but it really seems high tech to my customers.  It really impresses them.   It provides the “wow” factor.  My Scene Machine continues to impress me as I get better and better in using it.  I’ve had my VB system for two years and I could not be happier with it.”

Tami loves it when customers come in and see just the black screen behind their child and then suddenly the screen magically includes a background which shows “live” on the monitor.  She says it just blows them away.  Tami tried green screen but much prefers the Virtual Backgrounds process for a host of reasons including the fact that with green screen, one has to pay and pay for the lab to paste in backgrounds on every exposure after the session and then the customer has to come back for the sales session.

While the day care business has been decidedly down over the past two years, Tami’s studio is growing rapidly.  Tami gets a sizable portion of her business through the day care centers when parents want more specialized portraiture for their children.  Some parents drive a long distance to have Tami photograph their children.

To share some of her enthusiasm, Tami is now getting involved in training.  She is creating a video on how to make 3 dimensional foam props.

Tami’s enthusiasm for what she does and the Scene Machine is almost hard to control  “I love what I do.  I want my clients to see that I love what I do and I want them to love it too.  It is really important to me.  I wanted to be a photographer and this is what I am and I love using Virtual Backgrounds and being different.  Who wants to be like everyone else?  The main advantage of VB is that others cannot get the variety I produce.  I have more backgrounds and props than anyone else.  I have hundreds while others have a few.  They cannot afford to do what I do with VB.  It’s a huge advantage.”

Times may be tough for professional photographers overall but we don’t feel Tami is going to have any problems in getting business in the door and selling a vast array of images especially because of her special emphasis on being different in so many different ways.

Click here to view Tami’s website.

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.