December 2009 Issue

In this issue:

Photographers Turn Christmas
Magic into Dollars

Can You Honestly Call Yourself
a Professional?

Diane Wilson to Teach Children's
Theme and Enchanted Photography

Featured Photographer: Lori "Lens" DeRouen

Season's Greetings

We at
Virtual Backgrounds wish you and your family the very best this holiday season!

What will 2010 be Like for Photographers?

This year was not a good year for professional photographers.  Nearly every photographer was down in business, some as much as 90%.  Bankruptcies are up.  Studio closings are up.  Downsizings are way up.  So, what can we expect in 2010?    The answer is pretty simple to see – it will be more of the same unless individual photographers change their ways.  The digital disaster is not going away.  The economy may improve, but it is not the primary cause of our problem. The digital revolution is the real problem.

We have to face the facts realistically.  Our customers can now fulfill much of their own photographic needs without our help.  They even have fun doing it.  We even see this happening with senior yearbook portraits.  Wedding photography has taken a big beating.  Our only solution, besides moving to another way to make money, is to offer our customers products they really want but cannot do on their own.  This involves a combination of our talent, our effort, our marketing, and our tools.  Performing as we have performed in the past just isn’t going to work anymore.  Our old paradigms won’t work and we cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with paradigm paralysis.  We must be willing to develop new ones.

We have to find new ways to bring customers to our studios.  Here’s a simple example.  Moms no longer have a compelling reason to bring the family to a studio for a traditional family portrait. They have so many pictures already that are good enough.  That business has faded.  However, if the photographer gets active in church directory photography, the need to be in the directory can serve as a powerful motivating factor for the family to be photographed either at the directory studio or on location at the church.  Either way, once photographed, they still buy family photographs.  The fundamental challenge is to get them in front of the camera. 

Because of this paradigm change, directory photography is growing in popularity.  Following the advice of educator, Chris Wunder, many independent photographers are moving to directory photography.  School photography forces school kids to be photographed and then parents buy.  Dance school is another example of photography which results in significant purchases.  As Chris Wunder states, the business is still out there, but the photographer is going to have to change their ways to get it.  Also, the photographer is going to have to demonstrate the uniqueness of their product to both get the contract and to enhance sales. 

Virtual Backgrounds will continue to play an ever more important role in this brave new world we now live in.  Amateurs do not have Virtual Backgrounds.  To the public Virtual Backgrounds is magic that results in product that they like but cannot do on their own.  We’ve lost most of our traditional photo magic, but VB is still magic.  Combined with the photographer’s talent and training, a unique product can be created causing the consumer to buy.

Technology has definitely slammed some doors shut, but it has also opened many windows.  Are you prepared to pass through those windows to the new world?   We can’t control change, but we can change our ways so we effectively deal with the change.  It’s in our hands.

Richard Sturdevant Workshop on Creating Commissioned Custom Composite Images

Texas photographer, Richard Sturdevant, will be teaching an intensive two-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds March 18-19, 2010.  The workshop will cover how photographers can create personalized composite images.  Richard’s work is well known.  He might be the only photographer who has earned five 100 point competition prints (four in the last year alone).  Richard is teaching a concept that only a trained professional photographer can do.  Unlike an ordinary portrait sale, personalized composite images can be sold as commissioned art pieces, framed and ready to hang.  They can easily sell for $1,000 and higher.

Richard’s workshop will immediately follow the March VB workshop, so it will be possible to attend either or both workshops the same week.  Contact your VB consultant for more information.

2010 Virtual Backgrounds Workshop Scheduled Announced

Make 2010 the Year You Discover How VB Can Help You Grow

Virtual Backgrounds’ next three-day workshop will be January 25- 27, 2010.  The workshop draws photographers from all parts of the world who are interested in learning how Virtual Backgrounds works and how it can help them expand their business, even in these difficult times. 

The VB workshop is designed for new owners of a Virtual Backgrounds system as well as for those who want to learn all about the process.  Nothing is held back.  The workshop presents a clear and comprehensive presentation on the total Virtual Backgrounds concept.  Everyone in the workshop gets hands-on experience. 

The workshop is facilitated by Jim Wilson , Cr. Photog. of Virtual Backgrounds and Trevon Baker, Master Photographer, from Trevon Baker Photography in Kalispell, Montana.  If you are looking for a powerful solution to declining sales, Virtual Backgrounds can be the answer you have been seeking.  It is important to note that a Virtual Backgrounds system is no better than the photographer who operates it.   Virtual Backgrounds has tremendous power to draw in customers for the total experience.

The Virtual Backgrounds workshop comes with a 100% money back guarantee.  If any registrant is unhappy in any way with the workshop, they will be offered a full refund of their tuition.

Click here to get more information and to see other upcoming dates in 2010.

VB Workshop Fee Slashed!

The cost to attend the Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop which has drawn thousands of photographers to San Marcos, Texas from every part of the world has been slashed from $495 to only $295

VB president, Henry Oles, said that the price was reduced to enable more photographers to attend the workshop so they could discover how the Virtual Backgrounds process can be the key to turning around their business in these difficult times.   Oles states, “Photographers absolutely positively must operate using equipment amateurs do not have to produce products that amateurs want but cannot possibly do themselves, regardless of what camera they buy.  That is what Virtual Backgrounds is all about.”

Come and see for yourself what all the VB fuss is about!

Watch for New Announcements in January!

Virtual Backgrounds will be making a number of announcements starting in January about new innovations that make the Scene Machine a better tool than ever before.  Don’t miss it!  Virtual Backgrounds continues to move forward in bringing photographers the finest in Virtual Backgrounds equipment and accessories.

Refurbished Systems Available

If a professional photographer really wants to start enjoying the use of Virtual Backgrounds to enhance their business, price really should not be a show stopper.  If price is a concern, be aware that Virtual Backgrounds has several fully refurbished systems at surprisingly low prices.  When combined with VB’s 50/50 finance program, it is possible to get into Virtual Backgrounds for not much more than the cost of two or three regular canvas backgrounds.  We even have two of our original projectors available, fully refurbished and still meeting original specifications on sale for just $500 each.  All refurbished projectors come with a warranty, free registration for the VB monthly workshop, as well as continuing customer support and a trade up program.

Contact your VB consultant for more information on refurbished equipment.

Some Things to Ponder

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist
sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

- Winston Churchill: Was a British statesman, author, and soldier 

In this day and age, it seems as if nobody is a pessimist. People label themselves either realists or cautious optimists. Nope, they're pessimists. Which are you, an optimist or a pessimist? Here's a test: Picture a garden overrun with weeds. Now what do you see? The backbreaking work, the nuisance of the weeds, or a lush garden that will soon look like new? That answer has everything to do with your future career success.

The Lost Art of Posing and Lighting

Hanson Fong of San Francisco is actually teaching a class at the Texas School in May by this title.  Hanson states, “The key element to being a successful photographer is to make people look great.”  To do that, the professional photographer must always make use of the basic time-tested principles of both posing and lighting.  It’s the difference between the professional and the amateur.  If you haven’t done so in a while, brush up on the latest posing and lighting techniques.  It will greatly enhance your professional photography.

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!

Photographers Turn
Christmas Magic into Dollars

Image by Trevon Baker

Christmas is a prime photo time and professional photographers who create special settings with the help of Virtual Backgrounds are able to capture imaginative, delightful, and desirable images of children that are far beyond anything a department store can do and most important, beyond anything the parents can do on their own.  As a result, the parents buy.  It is not unusual to take orders for $100 and more with images like these.  Of course, parents can take their own photos with their digital cameras, but not like these.  This is the key.   These images are examples of the success professional photographers like Trevon Baker, Jim Richard, and Diane Wilson are enjoying because of their creative thinking, assisted by their Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.

Image by Jim Richard

Images by Diane Wilson

Can You Honestly Call Yourself a Professional?

Where have the Artists Gone?

Challenging words but this is the theme of Joseph and Louise Simone’s lecture to be presented on the evening of January 10, 2010, at Imaging USA (a.k.a. PPA’s National Convention) in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Simones are known worldwide for their incredible classic style portraits as well as for their teaching.   The Simones have become very concerned about the future of the photography profession as so many professionals move toward a more candid photojournalistic style of photography.  This type of photography looks like snapshots that could often be duplicated by the new amateur equipped with their own digital cameras.  The Simones state, “If professional photographers do not make good use of their talent and training, working with the lighting and posing to create a really special series of images, why would the public want to pay for what they can do themselves?”

To emphasize their point, the Simones will be showing photographs created by amateurs as well as those created by professionals.  The Simones see a merger between the painter and the high end professional photographer in their efforts to create a timeless masterpiece that the public will pay for.  They see the current trend of shoot and scoot snapshot type of photography playing directly into the hands of the amateurs.  On the other hand, high end photographers creating outstanding artistic portraits will continue to do well.

We at Virtual Backgrounds could not agree more with the thinking of the Simones.  The more photographers move away from the time proven artistic side of photography, the more difficulty they will have in surviving what we have called The Perfect Storm.  It is no longer the situation of a professional competing with other professionals.  Now it is a matter of professional photographers competing with amateurs.  The professionals can only win this battle if they produce work the amateurs cannot.  This comes from using their talent, training, and special tools like Virtual Backgrounds to produce results the amateurs love but cannot recreate on their own.

Many professionals think that their lack of business is a direct result of the economic conditions that plague us now.  While the economy does have an effect, the real problem stems from the digital revolution which enables the amateur to easily and effectively create images to fulfill their needs without going to the professional.

We strongly recommend that you plan to attend the Simone’s program.  We will have a complete report on their program and Imaging USA in general in the January issue of The Backgrounder.

Diane Wilson to Teach Children’s Theme and Enchanted Photography Course

Reservations are now being taken for Diane Wilson’s hands-on workshop on how to become a successful studio by offering children’s theme and enchanted portraits.  The dates for the class are March 1 – 5, 2010.  The class size will be limited to 12 attendees so that each participant can have plenty of experience creating images.  The images created in the class will be later used to advertise and market their new specialty.  The registration fee for the five-day workshop is $595 (including lunches).  If you register before February 1, 2010, the reduced registration fee is $545.

Diane has become well known throughout the country as the Canadian enchanted children’s photographer working in only a 15 x 18 foot area in an indoor flea market north of Toronto.   Contact your Virtual Backgrounds consultant for more information and to register.

Click here to see a short video of Diane Wilson’s photography.

Featured Photographer:

Lori Lynn DeRouen,

a.k.a. Lori Lens

Lori Lynn DeRouen, a.k.a LoriLens, has a history in photography not all that different from many others.  In some ways, photography was always part of her life.  Lori comes from a family of seven.  In high school she was a photographer for the yearbook although she had no real training.  Lori states, “It was 1983 and they pretty much stuck the camera in my hands.”

After high school, she began doing office work for the Port of Port Arthur, Texas. Lori married and became a stay at home mom, but the photography bug continued to grow, leading her to taking pictures at weddings and for families.  Back then she was known as the free photographer because she was just charging cost as she gathered experience. This led to her creating some outstanding images.  When Lori's youngest child was a few years old, a friend mentioned to her that she knew a professional photographer who was retiring and that his equipment might be available.  Not only did she get the equipment, but she also got some much needed advice. That was the beginning of a serious career in photography.

A dance school teacher heard about Lori and asked her to photograph her dance school kids.  That brought Lori cash which she immediately reinvested.  Lori describes those days as boot strapping.

Realizing that she needed a studio, she converted a 10 x 12 foot storage building that was falling apart in her backyard into her first actual studio.  Lori became full time in 1999.  Today Lori’s children are now 15 and 18.  Both kids help out in the studio, at major events, and especially in doing her Photoshop work.

Hurricane Rita destroyed Lori’s home but didn’t destroy her shed studio, so she was able to continue her photography as her home was put back together.  During the rebuild, she converted her two car garage into a full size studio and the shed studio became storage for props.

Lori has a great deal of competition in her small town of Nederland.  The competition includes seven studios with commercial locations and at least five studios working out of homes.  She purchased a Scene Machine system to clearly differentiate herself from all the others by offering more variety and more exciting images. 

Lori first saw a Scene Machine in 1997 at a trade show in Houston. She immediately knew that this was a tool she absolutely had to get, but it was well beyond her budget at that time.  It was at the Virtual Backgrounds booth at Imaging USA in San Antonio where she met Marian Oles at the VB booth and actually had a chance to look through a camera mounted on the Scene Machine. Lori states,  “I could not stop thinking about it.  I talked with Jim Wilson at VB a few more times, attended a Virtual Backgrounds workshop and purchased  a system three months later.”

“I had a few issues at first but Jim Wilson was always there to help.  I also attended a Trevon Baker workshop and things began to fall into place with VB. Then, I attended the Simone seminar and learned so much more!  I am really glad I found you guys.”

Lori purchased a 9 x 8 foot background and has been able to do groups as large as 14 people.  Lori states, “My customers love it!  They see my Virtual Backgrounds system as state of the art.  Virtual Backgrounds gives me an endless supply of backgrounds.  Clients come in and initially I do the selection of the backgrounds. Much of the time, however, when they realize what all I have available, they ask if they can help me choose their backgrounds.  This gets them directly involved.  I show them that I am really interested in their ideas, but usually in the end, I choose the ones I feel are best but they at least feel involved.”

Lori continues, “No one else in my area has a Virtual Backgrounds system.  There is one person that might have green screen but my Virtual Backgrounds system is much better.”   Lori reports that her business in 2009 is about the same as it was in 2008 which is actually good since most photographers are down.  Lori says she would like to be bigger, but overall she is content where she is today.

“I have a photographer friend about 25 miles away.  She absolutely drools over my machine.  I keep telling her that she needs a Scene Machine, especially since her space is so small.  I would recommend the Scene Machine to anyone.  It’s tons of fun and very profitable.  When you have a small space, you would not want to fill up your space with muslin backgrounds that can take 20 minutes to set up.  Even on a track system, they get all wrinkled up and I was so tired of trying to steam the wrinkles out.  The Scene Machine was a great solution for me because it gives me so much more variety without the hassles.  I only wish I had gotten it earlier.”

Lori’s plans for 2010 are to continue doing exactly what she has been doing and also working on the yard so she can do more outdoor work.  She is also looking forward to creating new backgrounds.  “We have a very popular park in town that had a white gazebo.  Unfortunately, the gazebo was destroyed, but I have slides of it so I still have the gazebo in my studio.  No one else can do that!”  She is planning a trip to New York City and intends to come back with a ton of backgrounds.

When the interview ended, Lori stated, “You all have been so encouraging.  I really appreciate it.”  Lori’s complement is encouraging for all of us at Virtual Backgrounds.  We work hard to go the extra mile for our customers!

Visit Lori’s Web site at

Click here to view more of Lori Lens' images.

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