January 2009 Issue

In this issue:

2009 PPA Imaging USA Portraits

Three Steps to New Profits in 2009

VB Print Competition Update:
Deadline Extended to January 31, 2009

Virtual Backgrounds Begins the
Formatted 2009 Workshops

Featured Photographer:
Bonnie St. Pierre

Sample PPA Images Captured by Trevon Baker and Cindy Cofer

Virtual Backgrounds is the only way to create images like these in the very limited space available in a trade show booth.  Imagine the Possibilities in your studio.

A Realistic Look at the New Year

No one really knows where 2009 will take us.  The economic storm is making the digital revolution far more challenging because when economically stressed, today’s amateurs will often opt for do-it-yourself photography.  The only way they will consider hiring a professional is if they feel that the professional will create something for them that is highly desirable and that they cannot do on their own.  That’s all there is to it.  It’s that simple.

Therefore, the professional must do all of the above and at the same time, make a major marketing effort while  controlling costs.  It means climbing out of the box and trying new and different things.  When times get tough, the tough get going!  There is a lot of truth to that statement.  Even if the recession actually gets much worse, there are still those who will survive and even thrive.  Who lives and who dies is not random.  It’s a reflection of what each has done to stay afloat. 

A number of people today brag that they predicted this recession long ago.  We’ll make a prediction today.  This recession will end and things will get much better.  Sooner or later, our predication will come true.  Our job is to both survive and be ready for the better times that are coming.  That takes work, education, research, flexibility, and much more.  Will you make it through?

Special Financing Available at Virtual Backgrounds

Financing is not a problem!

For years now, Virtual Backgrounds has offers and continues to offer a unique in-house financing program.  This means that professional photographers who are US residents are automatically approved!  There are no banks or finance companies involved.   We have found that professional photographers are a good credit risk, especially those who are actively using their Virtual Backgrounds systems to build their business and profits.  From experience, we know that a Virtual Backgrounds system can quickly pay for itself.  It’s the best investment a photographer can make!  Because of this confidence, we offer this unique in-house financing.

With the VB financing program, you pay 50% of the total cost up front and then make 12 equal monthly payments.  In 12 months, the system is yours!  During those 12 months, you would have made tremendous profits and can easily pay it off!  Contact your VB consultant for more information on this special program.

Imaging USA Report: 
Newbie’s were Everywhere

Phoenix, Arizona was the sight of the 2009 Imaging USA convention and trade show which attracted approximately 7,000 photographers.  A number of major changes were observed including the nature of the programming.  Just a few years ago, there were few if any business operation programs.  Now there are many business programs which is a clear reflection of the need for photographers to think in terms of operating a true business in order to make a profit.

The number of newbie photographers attending the show was astounding.  A large percentage of attendees were completely new or relatively new to the business.  Most of the newbie’s are women.  Many are following their dream to become a photographer and are either moonlighting or moving into photography after retirement.   

The trade show is becoming more of an album show with many new suppliers of the new styles of albums.  Many suppliers also provide album design services so the photographer does not have to get involved.   Many pro labs are also providing album services.  

The new interest in backgrounds has led to attendance by a number of background suppliers, most of whom offered traditional canvas and muslin versions but with a much wider variety of painted scenes.  There were software companies providing various methods to digitally remove a plain background and paste in a new background.  A new company offered giant 8 x 8 foot back lit scenic transparencies to create a background.  Virtual Backgrounds is the only company that offers the many significant advantages of optically projected backgrounds which enables the photographer to actually see both the background and the subject live in the camera viewfinder and have the final result the moment the image is captured. 

Theme Photography Calendars Given Away at Imaging USA

Thousands of photographers at Imaging USA received a free 2009 portrait calendar featuring the theme photography of Diane Wilson, Cindy Cofer, and Elma Flores.  The calendar is a joint project of Virtual Backgrounds, Marathon Press, and APR Props.  Calendars will be given out at WPPI, PMA, and many smaller trade shows.  Besides being practical, the calendar provides a wide variety of sample images of theme photography.  If you can’t pick up a theme portrait calendar at a trade show, contact us for your free copy today!

Test Drive Virtual Backgrounds

Many people have skepticism about the true value of acquiring a Virtual Backgrounds system.  Is it really a good investment?  Is it really easy to use?  Is it all that we say it is?

The proof is in the pudding!  You can test drive a Virtual Backgrounds system and find out for yourself the value of the system.  Just come to a trade show or attend a training workshop and get your hands on a system and test it out.  You don’t have to be skeptical when you can test the system and find out the facts for yourself.  If you can’t get up close to a system, call a current user and get their opinion.  You’ll soon learn that a Virtual Backgrounds system is one of the most powerful tools you’ll ever acquire for your studio operation.

Diane Wilson’s February Theme Photography Workshop –
Fully Booked!

Additional Workshops to be Scheduled!

Toronto theme photographer, Diane Wilson, also known as the flea market photographer and the fantasy photographer, is scheduling a second workshop at Virtual Backgrounds.  Her first four-day workshop in early February quickly filled to capacity.  Only ten photographers are registered for each workshop to allow for plenty of personalized and hands on training.

Theme photography represents a special bright spot in portrait photography today, bringing a growing number of photographers significant new profits.  Some photographers, like Diane Wilson, only offer theme photography.  The theme concept is new and is developing far beyond just using angel wings.  The possibilities are infinite and the beautiful thing is that amateurs do not have the means to create these kinds of images on their own so the work has to be done by the professional photographer.

For information and registration for the next Diane Wilson workshop, contact Virtual Backgrounds.  Children’s theme photography is thriving!  Get in on the action now!

Cindy Cofer Presented to Triangle Photographers

Kentucky photographer and avid Scene Machine user, Cindy Cofer, was a feature speaker for the Triangle Institute winter seminar in Pittsburgh, January 18.   Cindy showed how she is able to offer a phenomenal variety of images for her clients.

Save on Demo Equipment

We still has a few demonstration systems for sale at a special reduced price.  The equipment has been only slightly used for demonstration at trade shows and special programs, and therefore is essentially new.  This is an ideal way to obtain a Virtual Backgrounds system at a special reduced price.

 Contact us for pricing information!

Earn Big Profits in Event and School Photography with
A Day with Rick Harding

Rick Harding isn’t feeling much pain from the recession.  He is still chugging along with his prom, event, and school portrait operation in San Antonio, Texas.  On January 29 and February 26,  Rick will offer a day long workshop at Virtual Backgrounds on exactly how he keeps his business humming.  Rick owns 8 Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds systems.    The Rick Harding program is only $89 (including lunch) and immediately follows the regular January and February three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshops.  It is possible to attend both workshops or just the Rick Harding workshop. 

Contact us for more information on the Rick Harding workshop and the Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop.  There has never been a more important time to learn from innovative proven leaders like Rick Harding.  The business and profits are out there!  Rick tells you how to get it.

Is Virtual Backgrounds for You?
Here Is How to Find Out For Sure

Can Virtual Backgrounds really be as phenomenal a tool for the professional photographer as claimed? It is possible to find out by attending a three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshop.  At the workshop, you’ll learn both the technical and aesthetic components.  You’ll get hands on experience.  You’ll learn new marketing tips to attract business and make sales you never would have had.  On top of that, you’ll have fun.

You’ll see why 90% of those who attend this workshop get their own Virtual Backgrounds system within three months and the ones who don’t order it have it high on their wish list.  Attend this workshop and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it long ago.

Click here for all of the 2009 dates!

Imagine the Possibilities Free DVD

Contact us for your free copy of our Imagine the Possibilities DVD with four new chapters now featuring the work of Winifred Whitfield and Diane Wilson along with a gallery of images from many photographers from around the world who use Virtual Backgrounds.

How to Fight the Storm
and Win!

The International Portrait and Wedding Academy (IPWA), based in Australia, is announcing an intensive management and marketing workshop, to be held in Mexico March 7 – 14, 2009.   

The academy will emphasize how to avoid becoming a victim of the current economy by learning new ways to take advantage of these difficult times and flourish.  The IPWA is headed by Michael Warshall, owner of Nulab, the primary professional lab for photographers in Australia and New Zealand. 

Click here for further information.


Fortunately for professional photographers, there are solutions to the problems so many of us are experiencing from both the Perfect Storm and now the economic problems that are intensifying the Storm.   We have a real problem only if there are no solutions.  

Virtual Backgrounds is collaborating with Greg Stangl and a select group to come forward with a wide variety of solutions to the dilemma.   Stay tuned, details will unfold in upcoming issues of The Backgrounder.

Virtual Backgrounds Shown in January Studio Photography Magazine

Look on pages 40 and 42 of the January, 2009 Studio Photography magazine for an article on Backgrounds and Props.   The article presents a number of perspectives including that of Dr. Henry Oles, founder and president of Virtual Backgrounds. 

The key photograph in the article was taken by Lara Yeater with her Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  It is a portrait of a football player in uniform, football in hand, looking as though he was photographed in his stadium under the lights.  The quality of the image is, however, far better than what could have been achieved on site. 

Pick up your copy of the magazine today and see, yet again, more examples of what Virtual Backgrounds can do for you!

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!

2009 PPA Imaging USA Portraits!

Virtual Backgrounds set up a simple operating demonstration studio at Imaging USA which included a Scene Machine Digital, an 8x8 foot screen, a single main light, a reflector, and a separation light, along with props from American Photographic Resources and Denny Manufacturing.  Even with these basic conditions and very limited space, photographers Trevon Baker and Cindy Cofer were able to capture a wide variety of images of local models.  Joseph and Louise Simone also stopped by to demonstrate how they use the Scene Machine.  Imagine how limited we would have been in creating these images and variety without the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system!

With the Scene Machine, the photographer has new magic to facilitate the creation of an infinite variety in absolutely minimal space with no storage problems.  At the show, captured images were instantly displayed on two monitors.  A number of attendees tried their own hand at using the system and were surprised how simple it was to use.

Virtual Backgrounds will also have a working demonstration studio at WPPI.

Virtual Backgrounds Used to
Photograph all PPA Degree Recipients

For the fourth year in a row, a Virtual Backgrounds Scene Machine Digital was used to create the backgrounds for more than 100 degree recipients at Imaging USA in Phoenix, Arizona.    The background for each degree recipient was a super enlargement of a bronze plaque representing the appropriate diploma.  The photographs were all taken by Trevon Baker of Trevon Baker Photography in Kalispell, Montana and a consultant for Virtual Backgrounds.

Three Steps to New Profits in 2009

Stop worrying about the Perfect Storm and the economic conditions of the country.  It won’t help one bit!  It will just drag you down. Instead, focus on these three central things that you can do to grow your business and profits, even in difficult times.

  1. Your Equipment
  2. Your Talents
  3. Your Marketing

That’s all that any of us have to work with - the equipment we use, the talents we invest in, and our marketing.  If we are low on any of these three fundamental components of a studio, we are in trouble.  Let’s look at each one in a bit of detail.

Equipment:  Today, any amateur photographer can own the very same or better tools than what we professionals own.  Mostly gone is the line between the amateur and the professional when it comes to equipment, with one major exception.  That exception is Virtual Backgrounds.  Amateurs and lower level professionals do not own a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system, and if they did, they probably would not know how to use it.  As professional photographers, we must strive to place ourselves as far above the amateur as possible, in every way we can.  Just buying another camera with a few more megapixels isn’t going to do it.  You need to invest your funds in tools that will make you really different and enable you to provide your customers with maximum variety.

Talents:  Ideally, the professional photographer has natural artistic and photographic talent which has been developed and fine tuned through formal training and practice.  The professional must make every effort to use that talent to produce highly desirable products that the amateur cannot create on their own.  You want to produce work that the public must come to the professional photographer to get.  Avoid snapshots.   Again, this is where the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system can play such a critical role.  Every day needs to be a special day in which you will produce images that are truly different which catch the attention of your clients.

Marketing:   To make things happen, market both yourself and your products!  Marketing and promotion are infinitely more than an ad in the yellow pages.  Marketing is a combination of things that continually remind the public about the services you offer and why they need to buy your products.  The public today has many demands on their time and money.  To be successful, you must develop an aggressive and frequent marketing program designed to pull clients into your studio.  Marketing is always easier if you have something special to market such as what you can do with Virtual Backgrounds without ever having to leave the studio. Backgrounds can play a critical role in your marketing.

Make some special time today to quietly contemplate what you can do to take your studio operation to the next level.  Create the widest variety of truly different as well as traditional products to have maximum impact on your clients.  Invest in equipment that will help you do that and avoid spending on things that won’t make an ounce of difference with your clients.  If you invest properly, that investment will pay rich dividends.  Force yourself to refine your skills and do new and different things every day.  Plan your marketing for the entire year and beyond.  Remember, without marketing, nothing happens.

Offer your clients maximum variety and a great experience.  Market it well, and they will come and they will buy.  Soon afterwards, you’ll wonder what you were so worried about.

VB Print Competition Update:

You have a few more days to get your
prints in for the VB photo competition

Extended Deadline:  January 31, 2009
Over $5000 in prizes for top three winners! 
Plus everyone wins something!

The deadline for the submission of prints has been extended two weeks. Get your prints submitted by January 31, 2009!  The only requirement is that the entry photographs be created with the use of Virtual Backgrounds.  The other rules are simple.  Only unmounted 8 x 10 prints will be accepted.  All attention is on the photography itself and not the mounting, matting, etc.   There is no entry charge.  If requested, every entrant will receive personal consultation on their entry prints.  No other competition offers these features.

The first place winner receives $3153 in valuable prizes
The second place winner receives $1619 in valuable prizes
The third place winner receives $910 in valuable prizes

EVERY entrant will receive a variety of special coupons from competition sponsors.  These coupons could be worth in excess of $1000 when used.  It’s a no brainer. Everyone wins!  Don’t miss out on this opportunity!  Send your prints in today!  Click here to see the full list of prizes and sponsors.

Prizes for this year’s competition have been generously donated by these sponsors:

American Photographic Resources
Nichols Photo Lab
Buckeye Color Lab
Photogenic Professional Lighting
Posh Props
Diane Wilson
Rick and Deborah Ferro
Denny Manufacturing
Rick Avalos
Excel Picture Frames, Inc
The Levin Company
Greg Stangl – Consultant
Virtual Backgrounds
WEB Photo Supply

Click here for a PDF download of
the model release and entry form!

Virtual Backgrounds Begins the
Newly Formatted 2009 Workshops

Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson team up

Rick Harding provides additional day in
January and February

Any photographer curious about how the Virtual Backgrounds process can enhance their creativity and sales should attend the Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop held every month in San Marcos, Texas.  Jim Wilson, Cr.Photog CPP will teach the first day which is primarily about the technical factors.    Trevon Baker, Cr. Photog CPP from Kalispell, Montana will teach the second and third days of the workshop which will emphasize hands-on experience.   An optional fourth full day will feature a special presenter.  In January and February, the speaker will be The Prom King, Rick Harding from San Antonio.  Rick has eight Scene Machine systems, sometimes using all of them in one night!  For more information, contact your VB consultant.

If you want to learn all about the most powerful accessory that a professional photographer can own to enhance your creativity and the variety you can generate,  and how to use this technology to grow your business, attending a VB workshop is an absolute must!

Featured Photographer
Bonnie St. Pierre

Definitely Not Your Average Studio

Pictured above: Dan and Bonnie St. Piere

Bonnie St. Pierre is right on course, following her chosen path in high quality commercial and fine portrait photography.  For more than twenty years, Bonnie has been a “do it all - whatever comes in the door” photographer in the Manchester, New Hampshire area.  Her studio is a separate building attached to her home.  She works by appointment only.

Five years ago, Bonnie made a choice.  She decided to redefine her entire studio operation, moving away from weddings and generalized portraiture, and referring her sports and teams to other studios while preferring to place her emphasis on growing the custom portraiture side of the business and high quality commercial photography.  She has no interest in vying for high school senior contracts or any other production work.  At the same time, she completely changed her pricing, getting a substantial fee up front and having an expectation for a significant order.  By raising her prices, she was now able to spend more time creating in the camera room and in post shoot work to produce end products which were clearly superior.  Bonnie states, “People come to me because they have made a choice to get true high quality professional portraiture.  Everything I do is custom.  I am not interested in assembly line sessions.  Clients know they are not going to an Olan Mills or mall drop-in studio.”

Bonnie’s creation fee is $200, and she is even considering raising it.  Her minimal expectation is $450, however, her average sale for custom portraits of babies, families, children, and high school seniors is in excess of $1000.  Executive sessions are $245 including art work, and they get the disk. She doesn’t get every person needing a portrait or business image in her area, but she gets the ones who matter - the customers who know the difference.   She generates enough business to prove her belief that there are clients who want what a dedicated professional photographer can offer.  Because she gets what she needs in upfront fees, Bonnie doesn’t worry too much about customers copying her work.

Bonnie first learned of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system years ago but held off acquiring a system until she went digital.  She viewed it as a natural progression because she was already building backgrounds and was getting overwhelmed with the clutter and storage. In addition, after she went to the trouble of building a background she tended to use it for a long period of time.  Her backgrounds also required that she carefully light them before she even began lighting the subject.  With Virtual Backgrounds, she could have an infinite variety of backgrounds at her fingertips without the clutter.  Furthermore, she could customize her work by changing backgrounds in seconds, never having to be stuck with any one background.  With Virtual Backgrounds, Bonnie did not have to separately light the background as the brightness, focus, position, color and even the proportional size of the background was now all under her control.  She also chose to acquire a Virtual Backgrounds system because she recognized that her customers were more and more often expressing their satisfaction with their own digital snapshots taken in the outdoor environment which they viewed as good enough.  “I wanted to focus on doing things my customers could not do,” states Bonnie.

Bonnie states, “My lab rep, Peggy Hatfield of LenzArt gave me a copy of the book, The Professional Photographers’ Perfect Storm and everything began to fall into place. I realized how I could continue to exist in spite of all the amateurs and pro-ams.  Peggy has always been a source of great support in paying attention to the business end of my studio, and handed me the book to read.  This really got me going.  Virtual Backgrounds has been a blessing.  It has enabled me to be so much more creatively without leaving my camera room.  Though clients sometimes still ask to go outside to use our beautiful grounds, they are coming to realize that I now can bring those outside backgrounds right into the studio, assembling a total environment that supports the image I wish to create.  I now do nearly everything in the studio with Virtual Backgrounds.  I am very pleased with it.  It was a great investment, and  I have no regrets.  I see even more potential developing niche-work that makes the photographer to go to.  It’s unlimited!”

Bonnie has been surprised by the response she has gotten from her colleagues in professional photography in terms of her use of Virtual Backgrounds.  At first, she wanted to stay quiet about her purchase of a Virtual Backgrounds system so she had time to develop her skills.  Her State Competition prints were images with projected backgrounds, judged without any knowledge of the method of creation, and she walked away with two blues!  That gave her the confidence to continue to reach down deeper for even more creative ideas.  She began to share her excitement with her peers, but when she let other photographers know about her new adventure with Virtual Backgrounds, they were interested in the technology but saw it almost as a gimmick.  They didn’t seem to get it as a powerful photography tool.

Bonnie states, “In my opinion, it takes a special kind of person to use a Virtual Backgrounds system - one who is willing to invest in their business beyond the latest and greatest new camera.  One who is able to improve upon style and make business grow.  Most photographers have passion but they don’t place enough emphasis on business.  They may have dozens of canvas and muslin backgrounds and continue producing the same old things they have done for years and years, because that’s what they have available and it’s easier than making a change.  Customers today demand variety.   In addition, they are learning that going outside and pointing and shooting with a digital SLR is not the answer any more.  The amateurs have claimed the outside world.  We, as professional photographers, have to do what the amateurs can’t do.”

“Virtual Backgrounds inspires me!  It helps me be so much more creative.  I customize my work for each customer.  Many of my competitors probably won’t get Virtual Backgrounds.  They won’t make the investment.  They just don’t understand.  But that’s ok with me because it helps to make me more special,” writes Bonnie.

Bonnie feels that the Perfect Storm and the bad economy are going to force more photographers to look into using Virtual Backgrounds because of its many unique advantages.  Bonnie writes, “This is a time when the more serious photographers are going to have to make changes so they can survive.  They really don’t have any other options.”

Virtual Backgrounds is proud of the work that Bonnie St. Pierre is producing with her Virtual Backgrounds system.  We expect to hear and see much more from Bonnie in the near future!

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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