January 2010 Issue

In this issue:

What's New for 2010

Portrait Art Collages: New Money Making Concept - Learn About It

VB Used to Photograph Degree Recepients at Imaging USA

Simones to Teach Five Day Workshop in Montreal

How It Was Created

Featured Photographer: Craig Weiglein

VB Launches
New Web Site


January 1, 2010, was the official launch date of the comprehensive new Virtual Backgrounds Web site.  Henry Oles, VB President explains, “ It was time to completely redo our site and expand it to make it more educational with many new features all combined in one site.

”The new site is an educational tool to help photographers realize that Virtual Backgrounds is not just another piece of photo equipment but actually a total concept that integrates with every part of their studio operation.  There is too much in the new site to go into detail here.  Instead, take a look for yourself and come back often as we will be continually adding new things to it including more personal stories. 

Go to www.virtualbackgrounds.net!  Take a look! You can spend hours and hours learning about the Virtual Backgrounds concept and how to turn it into more business and significantly greater profits. The site is continually updated.

Our New Year’s Resolution

We at VB will work harder than ever to help you in every way we can.  Virtual Backgrounds is one of the most powerful tools you can use to help fight the perfect storm, the digital disaster, and the economic crash.  It is in everyone’s best interest to get maximum return from your investment.  If you are just thinking about adopting Virtual Backgrounds, we want to assure you that we will do our best to help you.  Contact us - we are here to help!

Your New Year’s Resolution

Resolve now to find the new cheese.  It’s out there.  It’s better than the old cheese but it will take special effort to find it.  Many photographers will resign themselves to trying to stay alive on left over crumbs.  However, if you make the effort to find and develop the new cheese, the rewards are fantastic.  You can do it!

Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson Schedule 11 VB Workshops in 2010

The very successful new format for the three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshops featuring Montana Master Photographer, Trevon Baker and VB photographer, Jim Wilson will continue throughout 2010.  The workshop is designed for those photographers interested in learning how Virtual Backgrounds can help them reinvent their business.  It is also for those who already have a system and are looking for new ways to use it to generate profits.  If you are looking for ways to grow your business, this workshop is a must.  Nearly 100% of the attendees state that this is one of the best and most important workshops they have ever attended. 
See the testimonials on our Web site.

If you are looking for a powerful way to fight the Storm, a way to grow your business and profits even in these difficult times - this workshop is for you.  It will turn you on to a huge dimension of professional photography that so many photographers have not understood.

Click here for more information!


Webster defines differentiate as
to mark or show a difference in :
  • constitute a difference that distinguishes

  • to develop differential characteristics in

  • to cause differentiation of in the course of development

  • to express the specific distinguishing quality of : discriminateintransitive verb

  • to recognize or give expression to a difference

  • to become distinct or different in character

  • to undergo differentiation

As a professional photographer, how do you differentiate yourself from other professionals and especially from the amateurs?  Virtual Backgrounds can clearly help you.  Richard Sturdavent’s Portrait Collages can help as well!  Take time to to be unique and differentiate yourself from the competition in 2010 and beyond.  It’s the key to success!

Change starts with an individual’s decision to change things.  It doesn’t happen on its own.Do something good for yourself.  Plan now how you are going to be different in 2010.


Professional photography is not at a dead end.  Professional photography is changing with the times and photographers have to change as well.  Change can be good or bad.  It’s important to change in the direction that will lead to sustained growth.

There are a lot of exciting things going on in the photography industry that are highly successful.  It just isn’t business as usual.  It’s the unusual that brings in the dollars.  Virtual Backgrounds will continue to present a wide range of information throughout 2010 about how photographers are finding their way through the storm and into the sunshine of profits.  Come along on this ride!  You’ll be glad that you did!

Accept Change – Move Forward in a Positive Direction!

No one ever said dealing with change was easy.  It’s always a challenge and it can be painful in more ways than one.  We recently cleaned out a truck container full of traditional processing and printing equipment that we once sold.  We’ve known for years that it had become worthless in this digital world but it was difficult to actually take the necessary action and haul nearly $200,000 worth of equipment, some of it brand new, to the recycling center.  Rather than face the final pain we had let the equipment just sit in the container when in fact we could have been renting the container space out to others.  Hanging on to the now worthless equipment was costing us money every month.

Along the way, we learned a very interesting lesson.  Once we began dumping the equipment, it was like a weight was being removed.  It actually felt good to get the equipment out of sight and now be able to rent the floor space and go to the next level.  The first step was the hardest.   Once that first step was taken it got easier and easier.

There is a lesson there for all of us.  Once we know that a specific action must be taken, delaying the inevitable is not a smart response.   We wish now that we had junked the outdated equipment years ago.  We would have been much further ahead.

The digital revolution has changed professional photography forever.  We can try to fight the changes that are necessary; we can delay making changes.  However, in the end we know that we must change with the times as so many people have had to do before us.  We need to remember that the most difficult part of making those changes is taking the first step.  Once those initial steps are taken, we are on our way to a more successful future.  Delaying helps nothing.

At every convention we meet many photographers who have been thinking for years about getting involved in using Virtual Backgrounds.  Thinking about it doesn’t change anything.  If you are on the fence, do something.  Call a VB consultant.  Enroll in a workshop.  Talk to other photographers who use Virtual Backgrounds.  Discover what you are missing and do something about it!

Diane Wilson to Teach Fantasy and Theme Workshop

March 1-5, 2010

Diane Wilson is known as the fantasy and theme flea market photographer from Toronto, Canada.  She built her highly successful business in just a 15 x 18 foot area. We are pleased to announce that once again she will teach her very popular workshop at Virtual Backgrounds.  The five-day workshop covers everything from costume making to marketing. It provides plenty of time for hands-on experience creating images of models.  Participants take home numerous sample images they can use to start their promotion.  The class size is limited to just 10 photographers.

Participants in her previous workshops at VB rave about the value of the workshop.  Fantasy and theme photography is one of the few areas of the photographic industry that can really thrive, even in these difficult economic times.  The public loves Diane’s style of fantasy and theme photography, but it cannot be done by the amateurs and low level professionals.  They have to go to a trained professional.

Most photographers around the world are hungry for new business and sales.  Here’s your chance to learn how to do it - in just 5 days.

Contact VB for further information.

SPI – Senior Photographers International Make a Strong Comeback

Naysayers were claiming that Senior Photographers International (SPI) was dead but it just wasn’t true.  Instead of being dead, Terry Harris’s specialty convention put on a strong showing in early January at a resort near Fort Myers Florida.  There was an excellent line up of speakers, including Cindy Cofer, sponsored by Virtual Backgrounds.  Cindy spoke about her use of Virtual Backgrounds to grow her senior business.   Personal relationships have always been a key reason to attend SPI.

There are several unique components of SPI.  First, not just anyone can join up and attend. Multiple studios from the same area cannot all join.  Also, in order to become a member, a studio operator must show that they are a legitimate business and submit a tax ID number.  Most other photography groups allow anyone who pays the membership fee to join up.

Many members have come to the show for years and have developed close personal relationships with other members.  This is a factor that is mostly lost in the mega shows that attract thousands.  The SPI trade show is small and provides members with plenty of time to interact with suppliers.

There is little doubt that SPI will grow stronger and be back in 2011.

Bites the Dust

Kiddie Kandids has announced bankruptcy, liquidation, and the immediate closing of 200 stores that offered baby, children, and family portraits, mostly through Kids R Us locations throughout the US.  There funding sources refused to provide them with additional funds.  Their debt is in the many millions while their cash assets were just $50,000.  The perfect storm, mainly the digital revolution coupled with the economic conditions and producing relatively plain photographs brought them crashing down.

With the public taking so many of their own photos, the mass market studios must offer products that are clearly different from what the amateur can do on their own.  Otherwise, their future is in great jeopardy.  Most of the mass market operations are showing steady declines in sittings, even after going to digital.  A constant decline in sittings leads to extinction even if sales averages are flat or growing.

The bankruptcy of Kiddie Kandids offers the enterprising professional photographer some significant opportunities.  First when removing 200 volume studios from the market place, those customers who frequented those studios now will be considering other options.  Second, independent professionals can offer their public highly distinctive product that will bring them to the studio.  Although most,mass market studios promote a $9.95 special when their actual goal is to sell at least $100 in prints.  The independent professional can take that number up considerably!  Dare to be different!

Kiddie Kandids is leaving another big hole in the portrait market.  There will be more holes.  Are you prepared to capitalize on the death of Kiddie Kandids?  Somebody should.  But the most successful will be those who fully understand why Kiddie Kandids died in the first place.

Click here to see the Kiddie Kandid news report.

Pro Photographers
Go on the Offensive

At the SPI show, one speaker from Florida talked extensively about his feelings about amateurs who are taking away business from the professionals by using unethical and illegal methods.  While most established professionals properly charge and pay sales tax and income tax, a great many of the amateur pros do not follow the rules by either not collecting sales tax or by collecting sales tax and not paying it to the State and by not paying the IRS.  In Florida, sales tax violations are a felony.  Many of these part time photographers also are often not paying sales tax on their equipment purchases.

Some professional photographers have become so fed up with their competitors that they are starting to turn them in to the state and federal tax authorities for investigation.  In addition, the money hungry tax authorities are investigating photographers on their own.  It has been reported that Florida tax authorities have gotten hold of the convention attendee list and are going down the list investigating attendees to see if they are properly licensed and paying the appropriate amount of tax.  The IRS is also very interested in finding photographers who are not paying  income tax on their photographic operation.    Violation of the law could be devastating.

Some SPI members were uncomfortable about turning in their competition to the government authorities but professionals are struggling and are irate about their competitors, both amateur and professional,  not operating under the law.  So beware, the tax man may soon be knocking on your door in Florida and other states as well.  Uncomfortable as it is, this action can be a blessing that will help to level the playing field.

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!

What’s New for 2010

Now is the time to reinvent yourself and deal with the perfect storm that has hit professional photography!  Here at Virtual Backgrounds we are making things happen.  We hope that you are too!

Here’s a capsule summary of the latest developments at Virtual Backgrounds.
  • We have created a new Scene Machine, a highbred of the Scene Machine Universal and the Scene Machine Digital.  It is ideal for use in cramped areas where the photographer still would like to do full length and groups.

  • We have released a new Web site - www.virtualbackgrounds.net.  Take a look.  You can spend hours and hours learning about the Virtual Backgrounds concept.  The site is continually updated.

  • We’ve completely revised the camera elevator assembly on all of our projectors when it comes to raising and lowering the camera into position.  It is far improved, more precise, and easier to use.

  • Throughout 2010 we will be presenting new profit makers that clearly separate true professionals from all others.  Richard Sturdevant’s Artistic Portrait Collages are a prime example.  More profit makers are coming soon!

  • We will soon release an update to The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm, the book that five years ago predicted the revolution we are now experiencing.

  • We will be introducing new backgrounds including ones from Joseph and Louise Simone.

  • VB is now offering a new group poser for working with groups of all sizes up to a dozen or more.

  • VB will be presenting more workshops to provide specialized studio training.

  • A new asymmetric softbox, ideally designed for use with Virtual Backgrounds, is now available.

  • Virtual Backgrounds can be used with green screen to minimize or eliminate some of the key problems that come with using green screen to create backgrounds.

Portrait Art Collages:
New Money Making Concept
Learn All About It!

It isn’t very often that a really new and exciting concept comes along that has big profit potential.  Imagine a new photographic product that could require the customer to commission you, the professional photographer, to create what is best called photographic art collage portraits.  Imagine having the order for a large wall portrait in advance of the sitting and getting a significant advance deposit, just like a brush artist!  Imagine being able to put real artistry into your product, customized for each subject.  It’s a professional photographer’s dream!

What are we talking about?  We’ve discovered the work of Texas Master Photographer Richard Sturdevant.  He may be the only photographer ever to earn a score of 100 on five of his print competition entries, four in just the past year.  His primary specialty is creating composite or collage images. While his earlier work was more tailored for print competition, he has now moved into creating collages that represent the subject’s life.  The highly appealing prints beg to be large wall portraits.  They are far above anything a low level professional or amateur could create. They are indeed a work of art.  Now, Richard is creating special software to help photographers more easily create this style of work.  His software will be known as the Sturdevanci series.

Richard will be teaching this style of work at Virtual Backgrounds March 18-19, 2010.  It will be an intense two-day workshop.  The regular price for this workshop is $495.  Because VB and BWC are is sponsoring this workshop, there will be a special price of only $295 – that’s $200 savings and it could well open the door for you to a new and potentially lucrative style of photography. Be the first in your area to offer this concept.

Richard’s Artistic Portrait Collages workshop immediately follows the regular monthly Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop which is March 15-17, 2010.  This makes it possible to attend two powerful money generating workshops with just one trip.

When the winds of change come along, some people build walls, other build windmills! Which person are you?

Once Again, VB Used to Photograph Degree Recipients at Imaging USA

For the seventh year in a row, Virtual Backgrounds was used to create the backgrounds for the 2010 degree recipients at PPA’s Imaging USA.  Enlargements of bronze plaques were projected behind each degree recipient, their sponsor, and Ron Nichols, PPA President.  Before using the Scene Machine to create the background, the background was just a standard photographer’s canvas.

Texas photographer, Richard Sturdevant is shown below with PPA President Ron Nichols receiving his Master of Photography degree at Imaging USA in Nashville.  The background was projected by the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Richard is teaching a workshop at Virtual Backgrounds March 18-19 on his new concept of Portrait Art Collages.  Contact Virtual Backgrounds for information on this unique new workshop.

Simones to Teach Five-Day Workshop in June at Their Vineyard in Monteal

The dream of Joseph and Louise Simone has always been to teach their workshops at their Chateau which is part of their Montreal working vineyard.  They are now living their dream!  Their next workshop, limited to just 10 photographers, will be held in June.  Contact the Simones for additional information. 

The Simones will also soon be scheduling their next five-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds.  Soon, we will announce the dates in The Backgrounder.

Professional Photography is More than Just a Snapshot

At Imaging USA, Joseph and Louise Simone presented a powerful program that urged professional photographers to clearly distinguish themselves from the snapshot shooters by treating each and every client as special and creating for them a quality professional portrait.  A detailed report on the Simone presentation will be in the February issue of The Backgrounder.

How It Was Created

 Colorado photographer, Rick Avalos, explains how he created this beautiful loan collection print using Virtual Backgrounds to create the complementary background.

Click here to see an enlarged version of the above imate.

Featured Photographer:
Craig Weiglein

Turning Negative Subjects
into Positive Customers

Recently, a particularly pouty and very negative high school senior boy was almost dragged by his mother into Craig Weiglein’s Mansion Hill Photography and Gallery in Newport, Kentucky for his senior sitting.  Being photographed by a professional photographer was about the last thing on this guy’s wish list.  After the experience, his mother reported that her son said to her, “At least it didn’t suck!”  Craig’s goal is to provide his clients with a total experience that they love, even if they start out totally negative about professional photography. 

Craig Weiglein, like most of us, never intended to be a professional photographer.  He earned a degree at Miami University with a major in microbiology and intent to go into business to serve hospitals, but it never happened.  His dad had a successful garage door business, and Craig began working for his dad.  That work wasn’t his passion.  Craig’s parents had given him a 35 mm camera for Christmas and he later noticed a help wanted ad in the newspaper from a studio in Cincinnati.  Craig quickly learned to shoot weddings and portraits and found that he liked it.  It wasn’t long before he totally turned his back on his education and opened his own studio in Newport, Kentucky.  That was 20 years ago.

From the very beginning, Craig always wanted to be truly different from his competition.  Being not much older than his wedding customers back then, he understood what was popular at the time which enabled him to deliver exactly what they were looking for.  He remembers doing a bridal show that brought him 28 weddings! 

Over the past several years Craig definitely knew that the winds of change were blowing. He began to worry about the future of photography and realized that he had to either get out of the business or evolve.  He chose to evolve because he liked being an independent businessman, because he was still making more money than what he would if he were doing something else, and he also realized that if he were working for someone else, he would never know when he would get a pink slip.  He has always loved the independence that comes with owning his own business and photography was still his chosen profession.

It was four years ago that Craig was first introduced to Virtual Backgrounds at Cindy Cofer’s studio in Williamstown, Kentucky.  Initially he did not take it seriously.  However, after thinking about it and later seeing Virtual Backgrounds at John Dingo’s studio and seeing the results, he began to realize that Virtual Backgrounds was something he had to invest in.  Craig states, “At first I thought VB was like a fad - something from the past, something that had no future and not for me, but I was so wrong.  Cindy and John showed me their contemporary images and I knew this Virtual Backgrounds concept was for me.”  Craig finally made the investment two years ago.

“I knew I had to be different and I knew that the Scene Machine was going help me do that.  People need variety and I needed to give it to them.  With the Scene Machine, I can go into the dressing room and see what the subjects have brought and then I know what background slides I can choose.  It wasn’t that long before I was using just about everything for backgrounds.  I have so many.  I purchased backgrounds from VB and I also went online to find all kinds of interesting backgrounds that I then had made into slides, often after I worked on them with Photoshop to make them even better.  I love to tell subjects that my backgrounds are mine alone and that no other photographer anywhere has anything like them.  They really like that fact.  Now I really rely on Virtual Backgrounds - I would not want to be without it.  It makes me special.  The kids don’t see it at all as old technology.”

“We expose so many kids to Scene Machine - we shoot them and show them the results right away.  They love it.  When they see the plain black screen behind them they look disappointed until I tell them about the magic I can do for them.  I tell them how much better our process is than green screen - and that it is so cool.  I tell them that I want them to think they are in a location such as an alley way.  I describe what I have behind them as part of my conversation.  When I pop some images on the screen mom and the kids say, “OMG - Wow!”  Sometimes I feel that I should wear a magician’s top hat and swing a magic cane.  When they are most excited about the images I am creating, I usually ask them if they will help us promote the technology we have and get us names of other kids.  They always agree to help.”

“The really cool thing about the machine is that it gives you a special layer of creative control that the client cannot see.  They think they understand, but they don’t really.  I don’t let the client pick out backgrounds.  I want to keep control.  I am the professional.  I want to create the looks. It is really cool with VB that the subjects have no idea what the results are going to look like.  For example, I have a background of a weight room.  I also have a locker room prop on one side.  I put the weight room on the screen and the lockers coming out toward the camera.  The kids love it.”

“I’ve learned so much working with Virtual Backgrounds.  It’s fun to come up with new stuff all the time.  There is a certain pleasure in telling kids that we are working with backgrounds that no one else in the world has because I personally found them and they are completely unique.  I should have been doing two years ago what I am doing now.  Yes it’s hard to initially justify the expenditure but the truth is, there is no question about it - it paid for itself quickly and now makes me a lot of money.  I need to have a garage sale to get rid of all my other backgrounds.”

“I really don’t understand why so many photographers say Scene Machine isn’t cutting edge.  They see it as old technology but they never have really looked at it.  They are so wrong.  It is really cutting edge but some photographer’s shouldn’t have it.  It is not something everyone can use.  Some of my subjects want outdoor pictures but I tell them outdoors is overrated.  I don’t have control outdoors.  People shout and honk when I am working with a subject.  Many things interfere with my sittings out in public.  Scene Machine lets me work in MY studio where I have control and I can do so much more much faster and sell more.”

“I love my Virtual Backgrounds system and you guys at VB have been great.  I especially appreciate working with Christian Feigl.  He has been so helpful and never pushy.  He really understands the process and the photographer.  He’s great.  I just don’t understand why more photographers don’t realize how fantastic the Scene Machine really is - how much it could help them.”

Whenever we look at the work of Scene Machine users like Craig Weiglein and then interview them for The Backgrounder, we come away with a new enthusiasm for the work we do and the products we build.  Virtual Backgrounds is really a tool that helps professional photographers fight the perfect storm and win and have fun doing it.  Of course, it doesn’t do all that by itself.  Like any tool, it’s useless without the photographer!

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.