August 2008 Issue

In this issue:

A Big Problem; A Powerful Solution
Joseph & Louise Simone Shoot
New Instructional DVD at VB

Rick & Deborah Ferro Workshop
Only a Few Seats Left

Photokina - The World's Fair
of Photography

Featured Photographer:
UK Photographer, Stanley Burgin

Diane Wilson and Cindy Cofer Present Programs at IPI

Diane Wilson speaking at IPI

Cindy Cofer speaking at IPI

Both Diane Wilson of Toronto Canada and Cindy Cofer of Kentucky were guest speakers at the annual convention of the Independent Photo Imagers (IPI) convention in Las Vegas in August.  IPI members are an association of more than 800 photo labs, originally known as one-hour or mini-labs.  Many one-hour labs have added portrait studios.

Diane spoke on the profitability associated with doing theme photography.  Diane has been featured in The Backgrounder several times about her thriving flea market studio, which is open only two days a week.

Cindy Cofer talked about her success in small town Kentucky.  Williamstown has only one stop light.  Cindy’s unique and highly creative photography, using the Scene Machine, brings her clients from far and wide.

Simone Workshop
at VB is Filled

The Simone 5 day workshop to be held at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Center in Texas in November is officially full, and we are starting a wait list.  There are always a few people who are unable to attend at the last minute and we will immediately contact those on the wait list if this occurs.  People on the wait list also get first choice to register for the next Simone workshop.   If you are still interested in attending a 5 day Simone class, contact a consultant at Virtual Backgrounds.

Double Feature!
VB and Ferro Workshops
Come Together

The September Virtual Backgrounds workshop and the Ferro workshop both occur the same week so attendees can choose to take both while making only one trip to San Marcos, Texas.  The Virtual Backgrounds workshop starts on Monday, September 15 and ends at noon on Wednesday, September 17 with Rick and Deborah Ferro being the guest speakers on Wednesday morning.  The actual Rick and Deborah Ferro workshop begins at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon and will continue until Friday afternoon.  Contact us for information and reservations.

VB Print Competition
December 15, 2008 Deadline

Plans are coming together for the Virtual Backgrounds Print Competition. The deadline for the submission of prints for competition is December 15.

The rules are very simple.  Each entrant can submit as many as 6 prints (8x10).  The prints are to be unmounted.   We want to judge prints on their print quality and salability only. The background in every print, in part or whole, must have been created using Virtual Backgrounds.  We will be judging each print on overall quality and impact which, of course, includes the harmonizing of the subject with the background.  There is NO charge to enter the competition. 

There will be prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.  Also, every entrant will receive a variety of special discount coupons from select suppliers which will make entering this contest worth while for all entrants.

In addition, after the competition, every entrant will receive a professional evaluation of their prints with recommendations from expert VB consultants.

So, start searching your files to come up with your best SIX images and get them ready for submission.

Mail your 8x10 portraits to the following:

Virtual Backgrounds
Attn: Jim Wilson
101 Uhland Road
San Marcos, TX 78666

Limit of 6 portraits can be submitted!

New Slide Storage & Viewing
Cabinet Ready for Shipping in October

In response to frequent requests, Virtual Backgrounds will offer a compact table top slide storage and viewing cabinet.  The cabinet will hold 630 background slides and with the addition of a second set of trays, it will hold 1260 backgrounds.  A drawer on the bottom pulls out and becomes a lighted surface for easy viewing.  The new cabinet is expected to sell for under $700.  Contact your Virtual Backgrounds consultant if you wish to place an order.

Stanley Burgin

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!

A Big Problem
A Powerful Solution

by Henry Oles

Think about it.  It’s a fact.  There is only one significant product that a professional photographer can use to truly impress clients that the amateurs and low level professionals cannot.  That product is Virtual Backgrounds. 

With the digital revolution, amateurs have moved into just about every sacred space once owned by the professional photographer.  They have super-automated mega pixel cameras.  They often have PhotoShop and even Painter.  They play with green screen paste-in backgrounds.  They buy electronic flash units with soft boxes.  They buy canvas backgrounds, muslins and props.  They often have their own printers including wide format or they can have their printing done at Sam’s, Walgreens or CVS.  They even attend “our” conventions and trade shows.  Now they are even starting to move into school photography, elementary and secondary.

The good news is that they don't have a powerful tool that is at your disposal. They don’t have the magic that comes with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system or the “know how” to use one.  Also, they typically do not have a real studio camera room.  In many cases, they do not know the basics of posing and lighting.  However, their general lack of knowledge of posing and lighting is tricky because they can take hundreds of pictures and some will be “good enough” for enlargement which completely skips the professional photographer.  When they photograph on location, such as in the park, they work in the exact same spots as the professional.  Professionals are seriously being squeezed out.

The fact is, a Virtual Backgrounds system, operated by a competent photographer in a fixed or location studio, is the only significant tool that is, at least at this point, still both exclusively professional and highly impressive to the public.  It's a strong statement, but it’s true.

In the hands of a competent trained professional, the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system is real magic that makes the clients say "WOW."  In minutes, the professional, armed with a Scene Machine, can produce a wide variety of images from conservative traditional to contemporary designer.   Variety and magic impresses the client.  Variety made possible with the Scene Machine makes money.  It’s that simple.  It’s uncontestable.  There are no computers or software involved in creating Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds.  They are instantaneous.  That means no more of your precious time used up struggling with the computer.

A Virtual Backgrounds system is an investment that quickly pays for itself. Because of that, it’s almost like being free.  Beyond that, it continues to play a key role in enabling the photographer to continue to make big profits.  Therefore, a Scene Machine is a powerful positive investment paying big dividends in helping the professional photographer stand far above the growing masses of low level professionals and the shutter bug oriented public.

Backgrounds are the big “secret” in professional portraiture.  Many photographers don’t yet “get it. Those photographers who do get it often keep their success with Virtual Backgrounds secret from their competitors.  The background can be an extremely powerful component of a portrait, especially when the background clearly harmonizes with the subject.  It’s even more powerful when the background is customized to the subject’s life and personality.  We recommend that photographers take every opportunity to learn the secrets that can lift them high above the storm, with concepts like Cindy Cofer’s “Do You Want To Be A Rock Star” and Diane Wilson’s theme photography.  The Scene Machine opens so many money-making doors.

Virtual Backgrounds has always been dedicated to teaching professional photographers how to use the background to enhance both their photography and their profits.    The opportunities to learn are there.  The profits are there.

The facts are clear but only for those who are willing to look with an open mind and who are willing to make the necessary investment to rise above the Perfect Storm that is devastating photographers world wide.  The do-it-yourself shutter bugs can only do so much.  The professional must clearly show why they are the better choice.  Fortunately, there is a way to rise above the storm with a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system. 

Yes, these are difficult times for professional photographers.  There are more and more challenges to the professional.  There are also solutions.  My personal motto is this: Pessimists see difficulties in their opportunities.  Optimists see opportunities in their difficulties.  Which one are you? 

Joseph & Louise Simone Shoot
New Instructional DVD at VB

Joseph and Louise Simone check a recent “take”
with videographer Gary Burns

Joseph and Louise Simone recently spent a week at Virtual Backgrounds, using our Learn and Earn classroom facility for the filming of a major part of their new educational DVD.  The DVD will present many of their unique methods of creating classic portraiture whether it is in the studio with high key or with select props or with Virtual Backgrounds.  They will also demonstrate on location portraiture.   Every Simone portrait looks like an artistic masterpiece.  About 75% of the Simone’s work is done with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.

The new Simone training DVD is expected to be ready for release in November.

Rick and Deborah Ferro Workshop
Only a Few Seats Left

There are still a few seats left for the September 17 - 19, 2008, Rick and Deborah Ferro workshop.  Fresh off their 21 city nationwide tour where they presented a high energy 4 hour program, the Ferros will conduct an in depth 3 day workshop at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.  Rick Ferro will primarily be teaching the Ferro method of creative lighting and posing along with Rick’s highly creative use of the Scene Machine.  Deborah Ferro will be the primary instructor on her special methods for using PhotoShop and Painter to enhance all of their images.

The Ferros operate Signature Portraits, a highly successful upper end studio in Jacksonville, Florida.  When they finish the 3 day workshop, they will return to their studio to get ready for the Christmas portrait season.

Photokina -
The World's Fair of Photography

Every two years, the photography world gathers in Koln Germany for Photokina.  It is hard for anyone who has not attended Photokina to conceptualize the size of this massive show. Photokina is spread across as many as 10 large show buildings, most of them two stories tall and all buildings are interconnected.  Essentially anyone who is anybody in photographic product manufacturing exhibits at Photokina.  Many products exhibited at Photokina are never shown in the United States.  An entire building, much larger than a total WPPI or PPA trade show may be devoted entirely to one product such as albums.  At one time, Kodak, Fuji and Polaroid each occupied all or much of an entire building.  Those days are gone but other companies now occupy the space.

Virtual Backgrounds has exhibited products at Photokina for many years in one of our largest trade show booths.  Most of our world wide distribution of Virtual Backgrounds equipment has come through our exhibition at Photokina.

The September issue of The Backgrounder will include a report direct from the trade show floor at Photokina.

Click here to view Photokina's Web site

Featured Photographer
UK Photographer, Stanley Burgin
A True Virtual Backgrounds Pioneer

Stanley Burgin self-portrait, captured with his Scene Machine

“Since I began using my first Scene Machine in 1981, it has been absolutely fundamental to my creativity and my success as a photographer."

Stanley Burgin

Stanley Burgin is 79 years old.  He still operates his portrait studio in Mansfield England, about 14 miles from Nottingham.   Without a doubt, Stanley has always been a true photographic artist, pursuing the creation of unique portrait images for his clients.  He always sought to bring the most innovative technology and methods to his studio.  This is what prompted him to look into a brand new concept back in 1981.  It was the Scene Machine from the USA.  He had heard about the Scene Machine and he immediately hooked up with the UK Scene Machine distributor, Peter Stanhope.  Once he saw it and tried it, he knew he had to own one for his studio.

Stanley was one of the very first international Virtual Backgrounds customers.  Back then, it was a very primitive product compared to today.  There was no special coatings on the screen and no Blackscreen to help avoid washout from the studio lights.  The projector had to be carefully manually aligned.  The screen was made up of 24 inch wide strips of reflective material.  Many photographers complained back then that they just couldn’t make it work.  Stanley didn’t know that other photographers were having a hard time and often giving up.  So, he just took his talent, his determination, and for the past 27 years, the Scene Machine has been and still is a key part of his studio. He very seldom works without it.  When his original machine was stolen 12 years ago, he replaced it with what is today called the Scene Machine Universal.  When digital became popular, Stanley ordered a special revolver to convert his Scene Machine to digital camera use. 

It didn’t take Stanley long to master his Scene Machine.  He was using it with customers the day after he received it, and he is still proud of those first efforts.

Stanley Burgin (right) with retired VB UK Consultant Peter Stanhope

Stanley state, “I found that some photographers use their Scene Machine once or twice and when they come up against a little problem, they don’t bother to overcome.  They don’t persevere.  I just don’t understand them.  The Scene Machine is so inspirational.  There isn’t much creativity in a studio without a Scene Machine.  The Scene Machine brings you anything and everything you want - abstracts, patterns, scenes - absolutely anything!  Without the Scene Machine the studio business is boring and repetitive.”

Many photographers in England have been specializing in solid white backgrounds.  While Stanley will do an occasional high key, he clearly sees white backgrounds as old fashioned and very limiting in creativity.  Stanley says, “I use to do white backgrounds back in the 50s.  Plain white is so boring, really.  It seems that every photographer does white background photographs and not much else.  That’s no way to be creative.”

Stanley Burgin poses with his new Scene Machine in 1981.

Stanley’s camera room is only 17' x 17' and yet he is able to do entire family groups.  He has learned to sometimes position his subjects only inches from the background so he can get maximum depth.  According to Stanley, “I don’t get any washout; I just keep an eye on it.”

"When I have a little time in the evenings, I get inspiration from my Scene Machine.  I take the camera off the machine and just look at images through the machine, where the camera normally would go.  I look at different scenes and imagine in my mind where and how I would place a subject.  Sometimes I use the whole scene; other times only part of it.  This is the best way to imagine the poses, so I am really ready when a customer is standing in front of my camera.”

Stanley may be getting older and supposedly retired 11 years ago, but he certainly has not lost is vigor for photography.  Three years ago, he went entirely digital and is continually looking for new ways to use his Scene Machine.  He is an avid reader of The Backgrounder every month and is thrilled with many of the new ideas he sees there such as Diane Wilson’s fairy fantasy portraits.

Stanley concluded his interview by saying, “I do 100% of my work with the Scene Machine.  There is no need for anything else.  Why would I want to work without it?  I feel lost without my Scene Machine.  Without it, there is something missing.  Many of my customers come to me because of the Scene Machine.  Obviously they like it or they would not come."

Stanley Burgin has played a very important role with our company by showing us, years ago, that wonderful high grade work could be created with the Scene Machine.  Whereas Stanley finds his Scene Machine to be inspirational, we find Stanley and his work with the Scene Machine to be highly inspirational.  Thank you Stanley Burgin for making our products shine so bright over there across the pond.

Marian Oles, Henry Oles and Stanley Burgin receiving one of his many awards for photographic artistry

Shortly after getting his first Scene Machine, Stanley submitted a portrait of a young engaged couple with a projected warm fireplace background for the Kodak Gold Award.  The next year, Stanley submitted another portrait again won the Kodak Gold Award. He was later admitted to the Kodak Gold Circle for his Scene Machine artistry.

In the late 80s, Stanley applied for licentiale membership in the Association of Master Photographers of Great Britain.  A panel of judges reviewed Stanley’s work, all done with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system, and he was immediately awarded Associate Membership.  It was the very first time a photographer was granted Associate Membership with images that were all created with the Scene Machine.  It was highly likely that none of the judges ever realized that the Scene Machine was involved in the creation of the images.

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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