August 2011 Issue

In this issue:

New Zealand Photographer, Phil Teague

Learn What Customers are Learning

Another Nail in the Coffin

After 24 Years , Jim Wilson Retires; Trevon Baker to Lead VB Workshops

Phil Teague Images

Get the Whole Scoop on How to Turn Backgrounds into $$$

Image taken with projected background

The very best way to learn all about how you can be far more creative and successful through using Virtual Backgrounds is to attend a VB workshop.  The September workshop is scheduled for September 12-14, 2011.  The workshop will be taught by Montana Master Photographer, Trevon Baker.  The workshop covers not just the technical aspects of using Virtual Backgrounds but also includes considerable hands on experience with special emphasis on integrating background variety with lighting, posing, and expression.  The workshop also includes experience in how to capture your own backgrounds. 

Contact VB for further information and registration.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Simone Workshop

The Joseph and Louise Simone workshop was a big success!

We thank all those who attended!

The One and Only Tool That’s Still Exclusive to Professional Photographers

VB Express

Amateurs have just about every tool that once was exclusive to the professional photographer.  They have great cameras that work automatically.  They can use Photoshop to enhance or they buy Portrait Professional retouching which is nearly automatic and pretty darn good.  A growing number have Correl Painter.

They may print their own images or they get them done cheaply at Walgreens or Sam's or many similar places.  They are investing in studio lighting and taking training in lighting and posing.  Some may even have a dedicated studio space in their home. They may even use the same lab you use.  They work in the same parks and other special locations just as you do.   Many are now using green screen which they can get for almost nothing.  Swapping heads comes for free on their computer system.  They can get canvas and canvas wraps very cheap.  They buy their frames cheap.

There is only one tool left that is exclusive to the professional photographer, and that is Virtual Backgrounds. 

It is still a tool that seems like magic to the customer, and it enables the photographer to do many things amateurs cannot do on their own. Therefore, people have to go to a professional to get the results.  Fortunately, Virtual Backgrounds is still exclusive. 

Next Trevon Baker
Workshop Scheduled for
September 2011

Trevon teaches special workshops at his Montana studio.  His next workshop is September 26-28, 2011.  

Many attendees at Trevon’s Montana workshop are those who first attended the Virtual Backgrounds workshop in San Marcos. 

A unique aspect of Trevon’s workshop besides the intensive training is a day long photo safari to nearby Glacier National Park.

Click here for more informaiton and to register.

Cut Your Overhead by 50%

McDonalds is Doing it.

  Subway is Doing it.

Why aren’t photographers doing it too?

Many photographers are moving out of their commercial location studios because they can no longer afford the rent. Know that there is an alternative.  It’s called sharing. 

Why can’t a photographer share retail space with another photographer or perhaps with a related business such as a caterer, bakery shop, florist or any of many other retail shops?  Fast food places like McDonald's, Subway, and many others are sharing the same property to cut their costs and add to their visibility.  Are photographers so head strong about independence that they would rather die than share?

The typical photography studio is empty much of the time, and it doesn’t take a full time receptionist to answer the phone and greet customers.  However, if two photographers got together and shared the same location and receptionist, costs could be greatly reduced.  This would be especially desirable if the sharing photographers had somewhat different specialties.  Even if they both did the same kind of photography, sharing common space could still work.  Think of how many physicians even with the same specialty work out of the same office but each remain independent.

Sharing space also has the advantage of greater visibility and shared presence.  For example, if a photographer shares space with a caterer, the customer may come to visit the caterer and notice the photography studio in the same location. As a result, they may end up talking with the photographer about covering an event. 

Hard times sometimes force one to engage in creative thinking.  There is no rule that says a professional photographer absolutely must work independently.

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!

New Zealand Photographer
Phil Teague
Has Dealt with Two Earthquakes
and The Perfect Storm

Phil Teague has been facing far more challenges than the average photographer.  In addition to the effects of the perfect storm which is a major problem for professional photographers worldwide, Phil has experienced two devastating earthquakes that severely damaged his studios to the point where they were not usable.  The second and much stronger earthquake took out most of the central business district in Christchurch, New Zealand.  He does not expect to be back in operation for a few more months, but he is definitely coming back.  Even Phil’s home has been earthquake damaged, however, his spirit remains strong.

Phil’s entire life has been in photography, beginning as a boy in the early 1970s when he did candid photography on the streets of Christchurch with print pick up the next day.  He joined the NZ air force in 1974 and became an air force photographer. He returned to Christchurch, got married, and set up the PT Photography Studio.  Then 15 years ago he purchased his competition, While You Wait Photography, which then specialized in Polaroid passport photos.  He broadened its offering to all kinds of professional photography services.  He took the downtown Christchurch studio to full digital in the year 2000.  While You Wait had been in the same location for 60 years.

The first earthquake hit in September 2010, which did so much damage to the building that he had to move the entire studio operation to another building across the street.  Then just as business was picking up again, the February 2011, earthquake took out his new location.  The government gave him only a few hours to get in and remove what equipment he could before all access was closed because of the danger of the building collapsing.  Phil’s Virtual Backgrounds system was one of the first things he saved.  It wasn’t damaged by the quake. 

At the moment, While You Wait Studios is closed, but he is hoping to reopen again in the central business district before Christmas.  Fortunately, Phil has business interruption insurance. 

Phil’s attitude about life and the future of his business is remarkably positive.  Before the earthquakes, he had been experiencing the so-called perfect storm which was presenting challenges. He left doing wedding photography and outdoor photography because of the amateurs taking over. He then concentrated doing quality studio work with Virtual Backgrounds being a key component to enable him to produce unique products that the public wanted.  He matches unique backgrounds to the client and provides them with a great deal of variety through changing both backgrounds and poses.  He intends to go back to the same working formula as soon as he is in his new building.  His space in the original building was only 10 feet wide which made getting into Virtual Backgrounds all the more important so he could make maximum use of very cramped quarters.

Phil purchased his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system six years ago after seeing  work created by Joseph and Louise Simone of Montreal and Trevon Baker of Montana when they did a workshop tour of New Zealand and Australia.  “I just knew that this was the exact tool  I needed to be truly different.  I use it for everything I do.  The screen never gets rolled up.  Virtual Backgrounds is just a fundamental part of my business.”  To get really acquainted with the whole Virtual Backgrounds concept, Phil flew to Texas from New Zealand to take the Virtual Backgrounds 3 day workshop.

Just about everything in Phil’s life has been altered by the quakes.  His wife is a school teacher.  Her school was destroyed.  Now school is conducted in half day shifts in temporary facilities with boys attending school in the morning and girls in the afternoon.  His home suffered enough damage that it may have to be eventually rebuilt or even torn down.

Virtual Backgrounds will continue to play an important role in Phil’s new studio.  He clearly states, “I would not be in business without Virtual Backgrounds. The system certainly helps me to upsell my clients.  They love the unique products I am able to create for them.”

Phil Teague is ready to get started again as soon as his new building is ready.  He absolutely loves what he does.

Phil Teague’s website is   

Learn What Customers are Learning
About Photography

Be Concerned; Be Very Concerned

Many photographers hide from reality with their heads in the sand.  They don’t visit their competitors, including Walmart, Sears Studios, or Target.  They don’t check into what their customers are doing.  They operate business as usual even though it isn’t.

Here is your chance to take a peek into another example of what your clients are learning - information that will help them eliminate you!

Click here to read the article.

Notice what they say about the importance of having good backgrounds in your photographs, such as your child’s school classroom.  Also take notice of the big ad for Portrait Professional retouching - even including a free trial.  And you thought digital retouching was limited to professional photographers?  Think again!  Your customers are gaining on you every day unless you are sprinting ahead and staying at least a step or two ahead.  Otherwise, it’s game over.

Success today is totally tied to your talent, training, and through using specialized tools like Virtual Backgrounds.  You have to be truly different to succeed.

Another Nail in the Coffin

Is the professional photography industry destroying itself?  The evidence was there at the recent Florida Professional Photography convention in Orlando.  Florida now accepts digital files and prints for competition.  As a result, many photographers sent in digital files and the print display racks were mostly empty thus taking away one of the more important components of a professional photography convention: visiting the print display and having the opportunity to study the high scoring images and discussing them with friends and others. Missing was the personal pleasure of seeing your own winning prints on public display.  The sparsely populated print display racks drew very few visitors and a lot of negative comments were heard.

Two reasons were given for the change in competition rules.  First, digital submissions reduced the cost for individual photographers to submit images.  Second, it was less expensive and less troublesome for the association to conduct the judging.  Are these really legitimate reasons for switching to digital submissions?

Many people seemed to be quite unhappy with the new rules.  Color labs were especially hostile to the new rules.  After all, they make the prints and they are the primary supporters of the conventions.  Photographers who normally enjoyed viewing the prints on display expressed their negative feelings.  Digital submission does reduce cost but at what price?  The lack of much of a print display also eliminates the opportunity for associations to have print displays that clearly show the public the level of work that can be created by a real professional photographer.  Going digital also encourages photographers and the public to go “paperless” even though most photographers make most of their money with paper prints.

It is feared that taking away the traditional display of prints will remove one more reason for attending the yearly convention and thus result in lower attendance numbers

After 24 Years Jim Wilson Retires from VB

Jim Wilson, Director of Photography, Education and Technical Support for Virtual Backgrounds for 24 years announced his retirement effective August 23rd.   Jim has performed just about every function at Virtual Backgrounds, but his main responsibilities included teaching the VB workshops and providing customer service support.

Jim has taught the Virtual Backgrounds workshop over 200 times, bringing photographers from every part of the world to our Learn and Earn facility to learn about the Virtual Backgrounds process and how to implement it to make their photography more creative and profitable.  Education has always been the key component of Virtual Backgrounds.

Travel was very much a part of Jim’s role at Virtual Backgrounds.  He traveled all over North America as well as many other countries including Germany and Korea.

Jim is a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, long regarded as the premier school for professional photography.  Before he joined Virtual Backgrounds, he was associated with Abey Studios in Youngstown, Ohio.  He holds the PPA degree of Photographic Craftsman and is a Certified Professional Photographer.  Jim is a life member of PPA.

We thank Jim for his dedicated years of service to the company and the photographic industry and wish him well in his future endeavors. 

Trevon Baker to Take the Lead
in the VB Workshop Program

Montana photographer, Trevon Baker, Master Photographer, CPP/Photog Craftsman will head the Virtual Backgrounds workshop program.  Trevon has been teaching the workshop with Jim Wilson for several years.  He has a long history with Virtual Backgrounds serving in a variety of roles.  He also worked in production and started the lab where all of our background slides were made.  However, Trevon's first love has been operating Trevon Baker Photography in Montana.  He commutes to San Marcos from Montana to teach the workshops and serve as a consultant. Trevon also participates in our major trade shows.

7 Piece Poser

In a word: Versatile

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.