August 2006 Issue

Thank you for your support!

Time is Running Out!
Submit Your 8x10 Prints for the
Virtual Backgrounds Annual Print Competition

The deadline for the Virtual Backgrounds Annual “Best Of” Print Competition is quickly approaching. This competition is open to any professional photographer who uses a Virtual Backgrounds system. The only criteria is (of course) that images submitted must have been created using a Virtual Backgrounds system.  It is an Open Category only.

The top three prints will be awarded valuable prizes, and the owner of the winning print will be a Featured Photographer in the October 2006 edition of The Backgrounder.

Entry Deadline: October 1, 2006
Maximum entries: 5 per studio

Virtual Backgrounds
c/o Jen LaGrange
101 Uhland Road, Suite 106
San Marcos, TX 78666

We are really excited about the generous sponsors of this year’s competition
who have donated hundreds of dollars in gift certificates and prizes! 

Albums Inc. Nichols Photo Lab Web Photo Supply
Buckeye Color Lab Photogenic The F. J. Westcott Company
The Levin Company Virtual Backgrounds

The above image created by Cindy Cofer of Williamstown, Kentucky
won first place in last year's Virtual Backgrounds Print Competition!

Make small product photography a snap with Digital Imaging Boxes!

Available at low discount prices at
Web Photo Supply

Praise for
The Professional Photographer's PERFECT STORM

"Finally...the truth! Perfect Storm is a frank and honest account of what we all know to be true but rarely see acknowledged. Everything is changing. Henry Oles has not only recognized our problems but also analyzed their causes and effects and identified realistic solutions."

Russ & Nancy Hanson
M. Photog. Certified
Moorhead, Minnesota

Contact us to get your FREE copy!

Simones Will Teach Four Day Class
in San Marcos this October!


One of the biggest events of the year will be happening right here in San Marcos, Texas.  Joseph and Louise Simone will be traveling to Virtual Backgrounds to conduct a four day workshop at our studio/teaching facility. 

We have limited the class size and it is now sold out! We have started a waiting list for the event in case anyone cancels. If you would like to be on the waiting list, contact us.

After such a huge response, we have just arranged with Joseph & Louise to hold another workshop here in San Marcos on January 8-11, 2007. For those of you who plan to attend Imaging USA (PPA's National Convention) in San Antonio, this may be a great way for you to kill two birds with one stone and attend both events! San Marcos is only 50 miles from San Antonio. Look for more detailed information in next month's edition of The Backgrounder.

VB People Spotlight:
Mary Ann Ramirez

We would like to welcome one of our newest additions to the Virtual Backgrounds family, Mary Ann Ramirez. Mary Ann is serving as the Inventory Control specialist and seamstress in our Production Department. Thus far, Mary Ann has jumped into the production of Virtual Backgrounds equipment with two enthusiastic feet and is doing a great job! Keep up the great work Mary Ann and welcome to the VB family!

Virtual Backgrounds to
Exhibit at the Florida Professional Photographers Convention and Trade Show

Click here for more information!

The Secrets to Capturing Your Own Backgrounds!

Capturing your own backgrounds is one of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of using a Virtual Backgrounds system.  But there are some tricks.  The basic secret to capturing your own backgrounds is to look at your environment, anywhere you might happen to be, and ask yourself, "If I were photographing a client, where would I put that client in order to have the best possible complementary background?”  

You might want to bring a buddy along and use a real person to be your subject.  Position that person in front of a good background and then set up your camera, digital or film, to capture that subject with the real background.  Before you take the picture, ask the subject to step aside and then capture the background.  That’s the secret to success.  When you use that background image in your Virtual Backgrounds projector, simply project it in the appropriate size and place a subject in front of it, recreating what you had in the real environment.

But, it gets better than that!  Before making your transparency, you can enhance the image using PhotoShop.  You can remove things that you don’t want there or even add things.  You can change the color balance, alter the focus, or stretch the background.  The possibilities are infinite.  Now you are ready to turn the digital file into a transparency for insertion into your Virtual Backgrounds system.  Many times you actually end up with a background that is better than the real thing! What's great is that you have it all at your fingertips and totally under your control, right in your own studio where you are in charge.  No amateur can do that no matter how much they pay for their new digital camera!

Very often, backgrounds that CANNOT be used in the "real" world
CAN be used in the virtual studio!

Many beautiful backgrounds are ruined by obstructions. However, with the magic of Photoshop and Virtual Backgrounds, this beautiful historic church has been dramatically improved and makes an amazing background!

Visitors Come to San Marcos from All Parts of the World!

Our workshops this year have been outstanding successes and the recent August workshop is no exception!

Not only are our workshops proving to be a great opportunity to learn how to use Virtual Backgrounds, but it is also becoming an important networking tool!

Photographers who come to our workshops meet and spend time with photographers from all over the US and the world! Marketing, business, and creative ideas are exchanged and friendships are established!

In August, we had photographers from California, Colorado, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas and Washington. We also welcomed international visitors from Australia, Canada and the Philippines (pictured below).

Pictured from Left to Right: Andrew Grevis-James (Victoria Australia), Rick Harding (Guest Speaker), James Miller (Manitoba Canada), and Joselito Sy (Makati City, Metro Philippines).

Click here for more information about upcoming workshops

Tacos, Enchiladas, Tamales, Beans and Rice
Being Different is a Key to Success!

Look around your community.  You probably have a number of Mexican restaurants.  They are everywhere.  When you visit a typical Mexican restaurant, you’ll find that the menu looks almost like every other Mexican restaurant menu.  You’ll be offered some combination of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and always Mexican beans and rice.  Even the chips that are on the table when you sit down taste about the same.  As a result, one Mexican restaurant is very much like every other Mexican restaurant.  It makes one think that Mexican food is very limited in variety, but that isn’t the case at all.

I travel to Mexico frequently. Once you get across the border, there is a huge variety of very different Mexican dishes.  The food is so different.  Yes, you still find tacos, enchiladas, tamales, beans and rice, but there is so much more and it’s so good.  It seems that Mexican restaurant owners in the States have focused on an extremely limited variety of dishes and almost never venture beyond.  As a result, most every Mexican restaurant is the same. 

If I were to open a Mexican restaurant, I would concentrate on being different.  I would concentrate on providing an ever-changing variety of dishes.  Yes, I would offer the traditional tacos, enchiladas, tamales, beans and rice for the customer who really wants the tried and true.  I would also offer so much more, and I would have certain items on the menu that change daily or perhaps weekly…always bringing in something new and different.  My Mexican restaurant would be like a Chinese restaurant…offering a huge array of tastes to satisfy just about every customer in such a way that they would come back again and again.

What does this have to do with professional photography?  Many photographers, whether they admit it or not, offer tacos, enchiladas, tamales, beans and rice.  They will think they are different from other photographers, just like every Mexican restaurant owner thinks that his menu is special, but fundamentally it isn’t different at all.  Photographers need to go way beyond the beans and rice.  They need to truly offer the variety that their creativity and technology permits.  Virtual Backgrounds plays a critical role in creating that variety.  Virtual Backgrounds is like the gas flame on the cook’s stove that provides the cook fuel which enables him to prepare a great meals with lots of variety.

Are you a beans and rice photographer or are you a photographer who offers a huge range of spectacular Mexican dishes designed to satisfy every appetite and make you truly different from other photographers?   If you are a beans and rice operation, then you need to explore the possibilities for expanding your offerings.  People like variety.  They respond to it.  As a studio operator, you need to be able provide each client with maximum variety…variety that they can both see and appreciate.  That will bring in customers!

Larry Peters will Present Full Day Program in Houston

Tuesday, September 12th

You may think you’ve seen it all in photography, but if you haven’t seen a presentation by Larry Peters you’re probably behind in what’s new. Learn how to book, photograph and sell senior portraits from the man who is setting the trend for contemporary senior portraits, Larry Peters.

Learn how to increase your average $200 in one season, while training your staff to sell $5000 orders in less than 2 weeks. This is an all-new program chock full of ideas in lighting, posing and cropping that your clients are going to love.

Special emphasis will be placed on how Larry uses his custom props which are fitted with the same reflective material used in Virtual Backgrounds to blend props with backgrounds!

Don’t miss this opportunity to have fun and learn from one of the premiere instructors in the United States, the Father of Contemporary Senior Portraits. Click here for more information!

Image by Larry Peters using Virtual Backgrounds and his special reflective props!

Top 10 Reasons Why Virtual Backgrounds
is Preferred Over Green Screen

10. Backgrounds look real and do not distract from the subject.  There is no pasted-in look.

9.       You have total, instantaneous control of background color, background focus, background position, background proportional size, and background brightness.

8.       There is no need to worry about green light bouncing off the background and influencing subject color.

7.       There is no need for additional lighting to illuminate the background, and there are no shadows on the background.

6.       You won't see a cut-out look because there is no pasting-in of the background.

5.       Subjects can wear any color clothing and not worry about the background showing on the subject.

4.       Photographers can effectively use props of any size or color.

3.       The photographer sees the background and the subject together in the viewfinder and can pose the subject to the background and adjust the background to the subject.

2.       Subjects can be instantly shown complete images with the subject and background in place.

1.       No post shoot work is necessary!  With green screen, one can spend hours plugging in backgrounds after the images are captured in the camera. This is not necessary with Virtual Backgrounds saving you time and money!

Image by Carrell Grigsby of Austin, Texas

PPA General Merit Collection
"Virtuoso" by Rick Avalos

PPA General Merit Collection Print
"Prelude" by Dave Filler

PPA General Merit Collection Print
"Sacred Heart" by Dave Filler

Virtual Backgrounds Users Receive
Merit and Loan Collection Status

In July 2006, Professional Photographers of America held its Annual Print Competition and three users of Virtual Backgrounds systems were honored with General Merit Collection and the elite traveling Loan Collection status. All of these images were created using Virtual Backgrounds.

Carrell Grigsby of Austin, Texas had one Loan Collection print entitled "Getting Her Balance." This print was created using a background slide from the Simone Collection II slide set.

Rick Avalos of Avalos Fine Portraiture in Pueblo, Colorado was awarded one General Merit Collection status with his print called "Virtuoso." This print was created using a background slide from the Scenic Library II slide set. Also, in 2005, Rick Avalos had a Virtual Backgrounds print in the Loan Collection. Click here to view that print.

Dave Filler of Stillwater Photography in Kalispell, Montana was honored with two General Merit Collection prints. One is called "Prelude" while the other is titled "Sacred Heart." Both of these prints were created using Dave's original background slides.

For those of your who are not familiar with PPA's award levels, here is a brief synopsis. There are three award categories given by PPA.

1. The General Merit Collection - awards one merit to the photographer.

2. The Loan Collection - all General Merit Collection images are judged to see if they are Loan Collection worthy. The prints that are selected to the Loan Collection will travel around the country to be displayed at different photographic events. The creator of the image receives an additional merit thus receiving 2 merits for the image.

3. Show Case Book - images that are selected for the show case book are images that merited in the General Collection but were not selected for the Loan Collection. These images, however, have been judged above the General Merit Collection and are worthy of being published in a book.

Of the images judged in this year's competition, 42% were deemed "Merit" quality. An additional 13% were accepted into the Loan Collection. Both the General Merit Collection and the Loan Collection will be displayed at the photographic exhibition at the 2007 Imaging USA in San Antonio in January. Click here to see the list of all of the accepted prints.

2006 PPA Loan Collection
"Getting Her Balance" by Carrell Grigsby

Many of Shirlee Robinson’s
images are full length using
the "Create a Floor” or
the “Reflect a Floor” methods.

Featured Photographer: Shirlee Robinson
Not the Least Bit Concerned about the Perfect Storm!

“Amateurs…how can they be as good as me?  There is no way they can get photographs that look as good as mine.  I may sound overconfident but it is the truth.  I have filters.  I have professional lighting.  I have real cool backgrounds with the Virtual Backgrounds system.  I have my professional posing.  I have makeup and hair services.  What amateur can do that?  Amateurs are no problem.  They are amateurs.  I am a professional,” says Colorado photographer, Shirlee Robinson.  She is absolutely right.  Amateurs can’t begin to compete with Shirlee.

Shirlee has been a professional photographer since 1985.  She began as a makeup artist and had the idea of opening a studio to makeover and photograph women.  She hired a photographer for her new venture, but when he didn't show up for work one day, Shirlee stepped behind the camera and has been the photographer ever since. 

Shirlee reports that she has as much business as she desires.  She works with her long time associate, Patty, in a residential studio.  Her session fee is $99 and includes four changes of clothing and takes about two hours.  Her typical order is between $500 and $750.  She does two or three sessions per day.    One of her special sellers is a 12 month photo calendar that is included with any sale over $500.

After Shirlee began her operation, glamour photography became popular.  Competitors, including Glamour Shots, opened up everywhere.  Most of these competitors have now disappeared, because they offered such a limited variety of photographs.

Shirlee discovered the Scene Machine the first year she opened.  She has not used any other form of generating backgrounds since.  Every image that she creates is done with the Scene Machine.

Currently film based, Shirlee is in the process of converting to digital and is currently expanding the business into families and seniors.  Her new studio name will be Leading Lady Photography and Makeover Center.  Shirlee's website is It’s clear that what many photographers are calling the Digital Disaster isn’t going to affect Shirlee Robinson.

Re-creating History is Possible
with Virtual Backgrounds!

Shirlee Robinson's most treasured print was taken on the Titanic in the Garden Room using Virtual Backgrounds (see b&w image on the left). Her client was in the tourist industry and was enthralled with the steamships of the early twentieth century.

She brought in authentic era clothing and an actual black and white slide of the Titanic’s Garden Room. Shirley inserted the slide into her Scene Machine and positioned the subject as if she were standing in the center of the room with her right hand perched on the rim of a wicker chair…a chair that now sits at the bottom of the North Atlantic ocean. The results are phenomenally realistic!

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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