August 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Virtual Backgrounds Revisits
Past Issues of The Backgrounder

How Cindy Cofer Promotes
her Scene Machine

With the Use of Hot Lights
Old Becomes New Again

The Simones Educate Korean
Professional Photographers

The Perfect Storm - A Double
Whammy for Lab Owners

Virtual Backgrounds will be a Large
Part of the Upcoming TPPA Fall Seminar

Featured Photographer Rick Avalos

is Riding the Storm

Look Like the Professional
That You are With the
Virtual Backgrounds

Studio Pro Monostand

Click on the image to enlarge

The beautifully designed and very professional looking monostand comes with a double arm, a swivel camera mount, and an accessory tray.  Instantly go from floor level to nearly ceiling level with your camera. Never consider hand holding your camera again. The Studio Pro Monostand frees you up to work with your subject without having to bother wiht holding your camera. A larger notebook computer tray and a gear head are sold separately.

Contact a Virtual Backgrounds consultant for more information.

The Professional Photographer's Perfect Storm

Contact us for your
FREE copy today!

With the Use of Hot Lights,
Old Becomes New Again!

When Founder and President of Virtual Backgrounds, Henry Oles and his wife Marian took over an abandoned studio on main street in San Marcos, Texas back in the 70s, they found a whole bank of fluorescent lights mounted up near the ceiling.  The lights didn’t work and were soon taken down and thrown away.  After all, electronic flash was what everyone was using in the studio. 

Now the new rage among professional photographers is, you guessed it, fluorescent lighting and hot lights.  Things do work in cycles!  Because digital cameras can be operated at ISOs of 400, 800 and beyond, there are some advantages to using hot lights.

The good news is that no matter what kind of lighting you choose to use, electronic flash, fluorescent, or hot lights, and whether you choose to use umbrellas or soft boxes, as long as the light is under control, it will work with Virtual Backgrounds.  Virtual Backgrounds is more compatible than what many photographers expect, not only with various kinds of lighting but also with digital cameras as opposed to film cameras.

A background is part of every photograph taken, even if it is only solid black or solid white.  Virtual Backgrounds gives the photographer infinite control over the background, so the background can be used to enhance the overall photograph and increase sales.

Image by Trevon Baker

Senior 2008 Backgrounds
are Still Available

It’s still possible to purchase your special set of Senior 2008 backgrounds.  Each year Virtual Backgrounds develops a new set of special Senior backgrounds.  If you are doing senior photography or want to do senior photography, these backgrounds are a must.  They provide you with an opportunity to present your work as more contemporary and always changing to fit the tastes of today’s demanding clients. 

They put an extra spark into your senior portfolio. Can you live without getting the Senior Backgrounds?  Of course, why would you want to? Take advantage of being able to get 20 new backgrounds for only $159.   Our Senior 2008 backgrounds collection is just one more special advantage you have as a Virtual Backgrounds photographer.  Dare to be even more different.  It’s a requirement for success in today’s environment.

Click here to view the entire Senior 2008 background collection.

VB Exhibits in New Orleans

New Orleans was the site of the annual Louisiana Professional Photographers State Convention, and Virtual Backgrounds was there to demonstrate the latest developments in our products.

The two day trade show was held at the Wyndham at Canal Place.  As Louisiana photographers continue to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, they are actively looking for new ways to attract customers and sell more images. Virtual Backgrounds is the perfect tool to help them succeed.  The visit to New Orleans also provided VB with the opportunity to capture a wide variety of New Orleans backgrounds that we plan to make available to our customers in the months ahead to complement our existing French Quarter slide set.

The Simones Educate Korean Professional Photographers on the Use of Virtual Backgrounds

Ever since Trevon Baker first introduced Virtual Backgrounds in a program he presented two years ago there has been a great deal of interest in Virtual Backgrounds in Korea. Since then, two prominent Korean photographers have been Featured Photographers in The Backgrounder, both of whom demonstrated outstanding creative work that was made possible by their use of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Both strongly endorse the use of Virtual Backgrounds to expand creativity. We look forward to seeing a lot more high quality work coming out of Korea in the near future!

The elegant style that signifies Korean professional photography is similar in style to the work of Joseph and Louise Simone. Korean photographers have been so eager to learn the teaching of the Simones that they have had Joseph and Louise come to Korea twice in this year alone! The photographers are intrigued by how the Simones use of Virtual Backgrounds greatly enhances their creativity and artistic expression.

The Perfect Storm - A Double Whammy for Lab Owners

Virtual Background Founder and President, Henry Oles, was a key speaker at the national convention of the Independent Photo Imagers (IPI) held in Las Vegas this month.  IPI is a group of the last of the remaining independently owned one hour labs in the US. In the mid 1980s there were more than 15,000 privately owned minilabs in the US.  Now there are around 1,000.

Their Perfect Storm started when stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Walgreens and others entered the market with drastically reduced prices.  The independents could not survive without diversifying.  A number of them installed mini portrait studios, but too often it was too late. 

In fact, many of the existing labs have portrait studios still. However, those labs are now being hit with a second Perfect Storm, the same one that it devastating many independent professional portrait studios.

The Perfect Storm is also seriously affecting professional labs.  The digital “pro ams” often don’t use professional lab services.  Instead they use labs like Sam's or they print images with their own printers. 

Many professional photographers have also left their traditional pro labs and now produce their own work which is often inferior in quality to what they could have had created by their pro lab.  Pro labs made major investments in the new digital equipment only to find many of their customers were doing their own work, took their work to retail stores like Sam’s, or had gone out of business.  It’s a tough time for everyone.

The good news is that these minilab survivors have a great deal of ingenuity and know how to survive. They must out-smart, out-think and out-wit their adversities. In his presentation to the IPI group, Oles discussed the Perfect Storm and how the remaining lab owners can enhance their studio operations to increase profits and help save their business. 

The implementation of Virtual Backgrounds to increase product variety is a key factor that can help the survivors continue to prosper and stay one step ahead of their competition!

Virtual Backgrounds will be a Large Part of the Upcoming Texas PPA Fall Seminar
Click here for more details.

The TPPA Fall Seminar, October 14-15, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, is shaping up to a very exciting event.  Virtual Backgrounds is sponsoring 4 speakers, Henry Oles, VB Founder and President; Greg Stangl, nationally known business/marketing expert who was a keynote speaker at the January PPA national convention; Winifred Whitfield, a new speaker from WPPI with a very unique message on personal enhancement; and Cindy Cofer from Kentucky who has made Virtual Backgrounds a key component of her very successful studio operation.  Cindy will spend all day Monday demonstrating her methods.

Image by Winifred Whitfield

The fall seminar will be held at the historic St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio, just minutes from the world famous San Antonio River Walk.  The fall seminar is expected to draw photographers from all over the US.  It is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a mini-vacation in one of America’s most unique cities during the perfect time of the year.

Also, Virtual Backgrounds is located only 50 miles north of San Antonio. Contact us to make plans to visit our facility before or after the event!

Image by Winifred Whitfield

Annual Print Competition

It's time to start gathering up your best prints to submit for our Annual Print Competition. More details coming soon!

Click here to view last year's winners!

2004 first place portrait by
Carrell Grigsby

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!

Virtual Backgrounds Revisits
Past Issues
of The Backgrounder

Started as an experiment in electronic publishing, The Backgrounder is now published monthly and sent to over 15,500 professional photographers world wide.  The Backgrounder is the only photographic publication that is devoted to the importance of the background in professional photographs. Month after month, it focuses on how photographers can use the background to significantly grow their business, even in these difficult times.

Every issue of The Backgrounder is filled with general information articles coupled with numerous photographic samples that display the work of photographers from around the world who are successfully using their Virtual Backgrounds image enhancement systems to highlight their creativity and grow their business.

This special issue makes it simple for you to click on any past issue so you can review the information that is there.  If you have any questions about Virtual Backgrounds, this is the place to get your answers.  Just click on any thumbnail below to open the entire issue.

How Cindy Cofer Promotes
Her Scene Machine

Click here to see an enlargement of
three of Cindy's promotional "ticklers."

Even though the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system is the most powerful tool a professional photographer can own to help them produce a greater variety of creative products, it is not an easy tool to advertise.  The photographer can’t just advertise that they now have a Scene Machine.  The key to profiting from a Scene Machine system is to show the results and drive home the point that innovative, highly customizable portraits are available from your studio.  The photographer has to drive home the point that they are not just another studio, but that they are able to do things that other photographers cannot do.  In today’s world, it is important to show that the products the studio creates cannot be done by the amateur.

Kentucky photographer, Cindy Cofer does a great job of promoting her highly creative work with the Scene Machine.  She shows samples of her work in the window as well as on her walls.  Her unique approach is to send out very simple “ticklers.”  They show a variety of images and there is a brief explanation on how she is able to create this kind of work for her clients, work that other photographers cannot do.  With image after image having totally different looks, a key element in her ticklers is variety .  She gets as far from the cookie cutter approach as possible.  If you want something special, created just for you, then come to Cindy Cofer Creations.  The images tell the story.

Customized images all taken in the convenience of the studio can be a strong draw to potential clients in the area.  Everyone is looking for “something different.”  Cindy Cofer provides that something different and more and as a result, she has a thriving studio business!

Below is text taken from a recent promotion by Cindy Cofer along with the images that accompanied the promotion:

HOT Images! Cool Indoors!  This is what I did yesterday inside my air-conditioned studio while the Kentucky region is experiencing record breaking temperatures of nearly 100 degrees!

This Senior Gal brought in some clothing, old fans, hats, and jewelry that once belonged to her grandmother.  She, her mother and I had a great time as we pulled together the feathered fans, batten burg lace parasol and fine jewelry to bring one-of-a-kind images they will cherish.  All of this thanks to my Virtual Backgrounds Scene Machine!

Note: The pink flowering tree in the outdoor background is actually in the side yard of my studio.  It only blooms for one week a year in the early spring.  Now, with my Scene Machine, I can use this background year round!  It’s wonderful!  It’s cool!  And it’s Oh-So creative!

Click here to see an enlargement of
three of Cindy's promotional "ticklers."

Rick Avalos is Riding the Storm

“I need to cancel my portrait appointment. My husband just got a new digital camera and he wants to do it.”   Far fetched?  Not at all for many professional photographers. For those who adapt, business can still be very good.  Such is the case for Colorado photographer, Rick Avalos who was the feature speaker for the August Virtual Backgrounds workshop in San Marcos, Texas.

Rick sees two fundamental weaknesses in studios today: poor marketing and poor basic photography skills.  Too often the photographer depends on “walk ins” and uses automatic digital methods to do the work. They must clean up mistakes on PhotoShop or Painter. They do not provide the client with anything new, different and impossible for them to do on their own.

A key factor in Rick’s success is what he calls the “visibility factor.”  Through partnering with other businesses, Rick makes certain that his work is always being shown in the public arena.  The local mall is his major showroom outside the studio.  He also works closely with “Dream Weavers” as a method to give back to his community while also establishing visibility.

Another key factor is relationship building and creating rapport with the customer through design consultations.  Rick insists on meeting with each customer before the sitting to map out what is going to be done.  Customers are planning where they are going to hang their wall portraits before they are even taken.

In Rick’s studio you’ll see examples of big wall portraits, from 40 x 60s down to 16 x 20s.  Customers will buy large prints if they see large prints.  Customers are resistant to buying large prints only when they don’t have the proper perspective on how the print would look in the home.

Still other promotional programs include gift certificates, co-promotions with other businesses, participating in local “Parade of Homes” and gathering testimonials from past customers about the services and products they received from Avalos Photography.

For four years now, Virtual Backgrounds has become a key element in Rick’s studio.  He uses his Virtual Backgrounds system for 99.9% of his studio work.  He credits it as being an important factor in enabling him to “ride the storm” that is hitting professional photographers everywhere.  Rick states that the only problem with Virtual Backgrounds is that it provides the photographer with more creativity than they know what to do with.  He loves the ability to have total independent control over the background and to be able to change backgrounds in seconds.

Rick has just completed putting many of his strategies into a DVD titled Profit Building Strategies and Promotions for the Portrait Photographer.  For information on how to acquire his success plan, contact Rick directly.

In summary Rick Avalos states, “There is no reason to be depressed about what is happening in our industry.  We just need to work harder and create more positive outcomes.”

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.

To unsubscribe from this emailing, click here. Type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.