July 2006 Issue

Touch of Warmth Reflectors
available at
Virtual Backgrounds and
Web Photo Supply

Great news! Effective this issue The Backgrounder is being published as a web page instead of a PDF file. We hope this will allow all of our readers to successfully view the eNewsletter and images in order to gain a great deal of information and ideas!

Simones Scheduled to Teach Four Day Class
in San Marcos this October!

Mark your calendar for October 23-26, 2006 and get registered early for this event that is sure to be a sell out!  One of the biggest events of the year will be happening right here in San Marcos, Texas.  Joseph and Louise Simone will be traveling to Virtual Backgrounds to conduct a four day workshop at our studio/teaching facility. 

One cannot adequately express the emotion felt when looking at a Simone portrait. The Simones’ class entitled “Unveiling the Spirit Within” explores the elegance of portraiture and tells the story within each image crafted with light and composition.

Watch these two design and create portraits that reach a unique level of professionalism yet have a timeless beauty.  The Simones will share their secrets on how they create their timeless masterpieces, which will send you home with tools and techniques that will greatly enhance your style of photography.

During the course of the class, Joseph and Louise will be conducting live shooting using their Virtual Backgrounds system.  Before and after each session, Virtual Backgrounds consultants will be available to answer any questions that you may have about Virtual Backgrounds.

The class will be limited in number and will sell out early, so get registered today!  The tuition per person is $450. In addition to the excellent instruction, lunch will be served each day (included in the tuition price).  Virtual Backgrounds will also host  a welcome reception on the evening of October 22nd, and an evening social during the week is being planned.  Contact us to secure your spot today!

Special Edition Supplement for The Professional Photographer's Perfect Storm Now Available

Things are moving so fast with the Perfect Storm that writer Henry Oles has already created a supplement with the latest developments.  It will be included with all books.  If you have received a copy of The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm without a supplement, simply contact us and we’ll get one in the mail to you immediately! It's free!

Send Us Your Experiences

If you have any stories or experiences with Virtual Backgrounds that you would like to share with the readers of The Backgrounder, please submit them to us.  Perhaps you have had an especially successful experience or perhaps you solved an issue that would be helpful to others.  Let us know about it and we'll share it with all of our readers!

They Didn’t Have to Die

You probably remember the very popular movie The Perfect Storm which came out a few years ago.  It is a true story about the sinking of the fishing boat, the Andrea Gail.  The crew of the Andrea Gail did not have to die in the huge storm.  They made a variety of decisions including ignoring warnings, and they were all lost at sea.

Much the same thing is true about the storm that is brewing within professional photography, as discussed in the new book The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm, written by Dr. Henry Oles.  Our industry is facing tremendous challenges, more challenges than we have ever experienced.  A few are prepared.  Some are kind of oblivious.  Most know that something is happening, but they don’t know what to do about it.  Many are waiting to see just what happens.  As with a hurricane, waiting around to see what happens can be the worst decision of them all.

Professional photographers are facing a storm that is never going to go away.  It will be with us forever.  Amateur photographers who are encroaching on our professional space are never going to go away.  The new digital cameras with auto everything are never going to go away.  The public’s rejection of traditional photography is not going to go away.  The ability of the public to have quality prints made at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club or their local supermarket is never going to go away.  Home computers are never going to go away.  The public’s disdain for photographers who try to maintain copyrights is never going to go away. 

The only answer is to develop new styles of photography that the public gets excited about but can’t do on their own.  One example is the exciting senior photography being created by Larry Peters. Larry is using Virtual Backgrounds with his props that are specially coated with reflective material and blends the props with the background (see the June 2006 issue).  Another answer is the work of Joseph and Louise Simone.  Still another answer is to diversify into other areas of photography that are hot, such as sports photography.

In every case, the Virtual Backgrounds process plays a very important role in providing professional photographers with a powerful tool that enables them to operate at a level significantly above the amateur.  Virtual Backgrounds becomes even more than a life support system.  It can be a photographer’s ticket to new opportunities and new profits.

The options, of course, rest with every individual professional photographer.  You can wait around and see what happens or you can get going and prepare new methods to deal with the perfect storm.  Learn how to combat the perfect storm by ordering your FREE copy of the new book, The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm.  Remember, the crew of the Andrea Gail did not have to die, and neither do you!  It’s time to make positive changes now!

Guest Speaker Program
Very Successful!

This is the first year that Virtual Backgrounds has extended the originally 2-day workshop to 3 days with a guest presenter on the third day, and it has been a rousing success.  The guest speakers have provided complementary presentations on how they use the system in their own studios.  They clue the attendees in on marketing ideas, workflow solutions, and how they use Virtual Backgrounds for success!  So far, we have had Rick Avalos from Colorado; Trevon Baker from Montana; Dave Filler, also from Montana; April Helsel from Pennsylvania; and Rick Harding, “The Prom King” from Texas.  If you haven’t come to a workshop this year, make plans to attend as soon as possible.  July’s workshop is full and the remaining dates for 2006 are filling up fast! 
Click here for more information about upcoming workshops!

The Virtual Backgrounds Annual Print Competition

Virtual Backgrounds is holding its Annual “Best Of” Print Competition. This competition is open to any professional photographer who uses a Virtual Backgrounds system. The only criteria is (of course) that images submitted must have been created using a Virtual Backgrounds system.  It is an Open Category only.

The top three prints will be awarded valuable prizes, and the owner of the winning print will be a Featured Photographer in the October 2006 edition of The Backgrounder.

Entry Deadline: October 1, 2006
Maximum entries: 5 per studio

Virtual Backgrounds
c/o Jen LaGrange
101 Uhland Road, Suite 106
San Marcos, TX 78666

We are really excited about the generous sponsors of this year’s competition: 

Albums Inc. Nichols Photo Lab Web Photo Supply
Buckeye Color Lab Photogenic The F. J. Westcott Company
The Levin Company Virtual Backgrounds

Show Your Results Instantly

It has been shown that the sooner clients see their results, the more likely they are to order more prints.  Fifteen years ago, photographers started doing video proofing, so they could show results immediately after a sitting was complete.  Today, with everyone having digital cameras, your clients want to see their results now, not an hour from now and certainly not tomorrow.

This is a primary reason why Virtual Backgrounds is a far superior way to create backgrounds compared with Chromakey (green screen).  With green screen, the photographer has to sit at a computer and take time to paste in backgrounds on every proof before showing the client.  That usually means a lot of post production time which results in showing the proofs the day after the sitting, at the earliest.  With optical Virtual Backgrounds, the background is captured the instant the photograph is taken.  A client can be shown the results immediately.

Instant viewing means that clients are in a position to purchase right away, when they are most excited about their experience.  Don’t let that interest cool by showing proofs days later.  Get them while they are hot!

Virtual Backgrounds to
Exhibit at Photokina in Cologne Germany

Virtual Backgrounds will again attend the huge event held every two years in Cologne Germany called Photokina.  We will be there exhibiting our products and conducting live shooting in the trade show booth.  The dates for this phenomenal show are September 26-October 1, 2006.  To our international friends, we hope to see you there!
Click here for more information!

Which Virtual Backgrounds Projection Screen
is Right for You?

A Virtual Backgrounds projection screen replaces just about every other background including canvas, muslins, colored paper and, of course, any scene you can imagine.  It also greatly enhances foam core props.  As long as the screen is well-kept by the owner, a Virtual Backgrounds system will last a lifetime.

Background screens are custom manufactured in varying size from 4’ wide x 6’ high to 10’ wide x 12’ wide.  Each screen consists of two components, the actual reflective surface and the very finely woven light filter material called the Blackscreen.  The reflective surface is the actual projection screen while the Blackscreen controls excess studio light from affecting the background image on the screen.  The Virtual Backgrounds process is compatible with just about any studio lighting situation.  The screen and Blackscreen typically come as a combined package but can also be sold separately.

You need to choose a screen size that is adequate for the work that you will be doing.   A 4’x6’, 5’x7’ or 6’x8’ is ideal for use on location for school photography.  The minimal recommended size for on-location, full-length and small group work is 8’x8’ while the largest size available for portable location work is 9’x8’.    Most studio (non-portable) screens are 8’x8’, 9’x8’, 10’x8’, 10’x10’ and 10’x12’ and can be used for full length and group photography.

Special reflective floor panels are also available if the photographer wants to project an image on the floor, under and in front of the subjects.

The Projection Screen & Blackscreen can be created in three different ways:

1.     A “Framed” projection screen is a screen that attaches to the wall.  The Blackscreen mounts in front of the projection screen onto one side of a rigid aluminum frame.  The frame creates a separation between the two screens and holds the Blackscreen taut and wrinkle free.

2.     A “Roll Up” portable screen is mounted with a pair of hand operated “roll ups.”  The operator simply mounts the screen assembly on two heavy duty light stands, raises it to the proper height and unrolls it.  This method is available for any screen size up to 9’x8’.

3.     A “Sandwich” projection screen is a screen where the reflective surface is attached with Velcro to one side of a rigid aluminum frame and the Blackscreen is mounted with Velcro to the other side of the frame, forming a “sandwich.”  Instead of attaching it to a wall (as in option #1), the screen can be leaned against the wall and moved around the studio.

If you have questions about which projection screen is right for you, contact us and one of our friendly consultants can help!

Virtual Backgrounds Offers Maximum Variety with Ease in Studio Operation Workflow for New Zealand Photographer

“I recently had a session with a client wearing a traditional bird feather cloak who is a Maori ‘healer.’  She was unsure what colour backgrounds would suit – white is regarded as neutral, pure or peaceful – purple is a sacred colour – green is regarded as precious from the Maori jade (pounamu).  In the end she purchased all four portraits including both shades of green.  Not a wildly exciting portrait but commercially quite successful!!  This serves as an interesting example of using the Virtual Backgrounds system quickly and easily to give customers options that would normally be difficult to provide.”

Colin Probst
Making Faces Studio
Whangarei - New Zealand

New Life for Computer Graphics Backgrounds

When it first became possible to create computer generated abstract graphic backgrounds, they were a hot-selling item for Virtual Backgrounds system users.  Over the years, the fad declined, as fads so often do.  That’s all different now that Larry Peters of Ohio has introduced the concept of covering props with reflective material in order to make the props reflect and blend in with the background projection screen!

While it does not make sense to cover a prop with an indoor or outdoor scene, it does make sense to reflect either a solid color or better yet, color patterns and designs onto both the props and the screen!  Our computer graphic sets are just perfect for this. 

Virtual Backgrounds offers two sets of computer graphic backgrounds.  Each set has 80 backgrounds.  When combined with props covered with reflective material, the possibilities are absolutely endless.

It is also possible to come up with custom abstract backgrounds for projecting onto the props.  Imagine projecting the school logo or the year of graduation on the props.  There is no limit to what you can do.

Not only do these backgrounds capture the customer’s attention, they also represent a style of work that can’t be done by the amateur.  They are a perfect way to deal with the perfect storm. Click here to view the Computer Graphics collections.

Unlimited Technical Support

Most products come with a limited amount of technical support with a fee assessed after a year or so of product ownership.  This isn’t the case with Virtual Backgrounds.  Our system owners receive free unlimited technical support.  When a customer has a question, all they need to do is contact us for help!

Email is an especially good way to communicate, because it is so easy to send our technical support department a file of any image that you may have a question about.  It is much easier for us to make an evaluation, diagnose a problem and help to remedy the situation when we have images in front of us.  So, be sure to call on us when in time of need!  Help is always available.

Much More Powerful Than Originally Thought

Most photographers who invest in a Virtual Backgrounds system have one specific application in mind to justify their purchase.  This is where they start, but usually they have no idea at this point just how broad based a Virtual Backgrounds system really is.  As time passes, they gradually discover how many other ways they can profitably use their Virtual Backgrounds system, and soon it becomes a basic tool for most everything they do in the studio.  Therefore, it goes from serving perhaps 10% of their work to very often 90%.  That’s a huge change.

This is one thing we try to teach at our Virtual Backgrounds workshops.  Not only are Virtual Backgrounds useful in most all kinds of studio photography, it is also a powerful advertising and marketing tool.  If you do it properly, you can grow your business with Virtual Backgrounds and create products that attract customers and result in larger sales.

Our system owners use it for outdoor backgrounds, indoor backgrounds, graphic design backgrounds, solid color backgrounds, abstract backgrounds…just about everything.  If the machine is turned off, perfect black results.  If the machine is turned on but without a background, the user can achieve a perfect white.  Of course, it is possible to project traditional canvas backgrounds and muslin.  It is also possible to combine muslin with projected muslin.

In some ways, it is like first learning to use a computer.  Perhaps at first, you had just one application in mind, but as time passed, the computer became more and more a basic part of your life doing things that you never thought possible.  That’s the way it is with Virtual Backgrounds.

Abstract Versus Realistic
Indoor/Outdoor Backgrounds

It used to be that photographers thought that the main purpose for using a Virtual Backgrounds system was to bring the outdoors into the studio or to project a realistic indoor setting.  While this is frequently done, it is not the only technique to be used with Virtual Backgrounds.  Many Virtual Backgrounds owners are using their system to generate an infinite variety of abstract backgrounds, often emphasizing background color harmony with the subject.

Generating outdoor backgrounds works just fine, but every amateur photographer is taking pictures with their digital camera in the park.  The professional photographer needs to create images that the amateur isn’t likely to do or cannot create.

Because so many backgrounds are abstract, backgrounds do not have to be cataloged as indoor or outdoor only.  Abstracts are the modern day view of the old photographer’s canvas backgrounds.  This means the backgrounds used may not always be identifiable but instead represent color, texture and depth which harmonizes with the subject.

Examples of this exist in our Background Libraries collections.  Trevon Baker Collection II, Canvas, Snakeskin, Senior 2007, Textures, and the Computer Graphics collections are some examples of interesting background abstracts that will help to set you apart from the amateur photographer.  Abstracts also are a highly recommended way to start when one is first learning how to use Virtual Backgrounds.  Since abstracts do not represent anything specific, the beginning user will find it easier to use abstract backgrounds before tackling the slightly more involved realistic backgrounds.

Because you can change the color and size of the background, generally speaking, abstract Virtual Backgrounds are much more versatile than traditional canvas backgrounds.  This modern version is becoming more and more popular and is certainly a way for the professional photographer to upstage the amateur who cannot produce the same results!

VB People Spotlight:
Elizabeth Trevino

Many of you who call Virtual Backgrounds have already met this most excellent individual! Elizabeth Trevino, or Liz as we like to call her, is the smiling face and friendly voice who among other varied duties, answers the telephone for Virtual Backgrounds. Liz has been with the company for two and a half years. Her duties as the company's administrative assistant include helping out all departments.

Specifically, Liz is charged with coordinating follow up regarding trade shows, telephone and email inquiries, workshops, and direct mail marketing. She also spends time helping our accounting and production departments and serves as Dr. Oles' assistant. From time to time, Liz is even called upon to sit in as a model for workshop "hands on" time.  Whatever the task, Liz is always there with a smile and excellent work ethic. For that, we send out thanks and appreciation to this valuable member of the Virtual Backgrounds family!

You know how to capture wonderful portraits, now let's turn that into exponentially increased profit!

Los Cabos, Mexico
September 30 - October 7, 2006
March 16 - 23, 2007

Join course leader and business coach, Michael Warshall of Nulab in Australia, for a unforgettable week of luxury and learning. This seminar will change your life!

You will learn all about the business of photography. How to embrace constant change and how it affects your income.

You will also learn...

  • Virtual Backgrounds techniques

  • Stealth Marketing

  • Pricing your work realistically

  • Presenting your images

Michael will teach you the winning techniques that he uses for the world's most discerning clientele, skills which have enabled him to generate portrait sales in the tens of thousands of dollars!

Being passionate, world renowned or even award winning does not generate a good income. You need to learn and understand the right marketing and selling techniques to enable you to have a successful portrait business.

  • Learn the presentation methods and the exact words to use in sales presentations.

  • Learn what to say when the client says, "It's more than I wanted to spend," and get the sale.

  • Learn strategies you must know for success.

  • Develop a referral strategy that works.

  • Take control of your clients and your future.

  • Create a powerful image.

  • Stay ahead of the competition.

Special emphasis will be placed on how Virtual Backgrounds can help to increase sales through multiple background changes.

Click here for more information!

The main propellant of practically any business is the mechanism that keeps it alive!

-Marketing and Selling-

Featured Photographer: Trevon Baker
Fresh from His Recent Trip to Korea

Trevon Baker has recently returned from a trip to Korea where he had a number of speaking engagements and seminars. As this month's featured photographer, we share with you Trevon's journal of this fabulous trip. More of Trevon's work with Virtual Backgrounds can be seen on his website at www.trevonbaker.com.

Through the sponsorship of Virtual Backgrounds and Tony Oh of Bonmatch Albums, it was arranged for me to speak to two different professional trade associations while there, the  Korean Photographers Association (KPA) and the Professional Photographers of Korea (PPK).

The KPA was my first  speaking engagement and it was held in Seoul . There were approximately 80 photographers there. I gave my "Four Dimensions of Portraiture" presentation and shared with them lighting patterns, differences in quality of light, using the appropriate type of lighting for certain subjects, classic posing techniques, drawing out a variety of expressions from the subjects and incorporating unique backgrounds into the portrait to add to the impact, variety and customer satisfaction in a session. This association is best compared to our own PPA in the states. They are older, established photographers that abide by certain rules in photography technique and lean toward the conservative, classic styles. At the end, they presented me with a wonderful crystal "Appreciation Plaque" that I will always treasure.

The next day, I spoke to the PPK in Daejeon, a city a couple hours south from Seoul. Again, about 75-80 photographers were present. This group reminded me of the WPPI photographers that are in general younger, much more contemporary in their style and bend all the rules in photography. Through the translator, I fielded many questions about lighting equipment, workflow and the how the Virtual Backgrounds system works. Some time was given at the end of the program so that they could create shots themselves using the system.

The two presentations generated a lot of interest and the next couple days were spent visiting photographers studios in Seoul and the outlying areas. We did a couple of private demonstrations of the equipment, setting it up in their studios and showing them how easy it can be set up and then packed up for transporting again. The style of Korean portrait photographers currently involves many different "sets" in the studio. In order to provide their clients with variety, they invest heavily in props, and the construction of these sets...only to change them every six months. Many sets cost thousands of dollars to create, and a studio may have 8-10 different sets. Some operations also had as many as 20 locations, so imagine the amount invested in temporary backgrounds. Many of them could see the immediate value of a Virtual Background system.

Working through a translator was challenging. It seemed that I would say two or three sentences and the translator would speak for 5 minutes! I would look at him and say, "I said all that?" Though it was obvious that the styles of Korean portraiture and western societies may differ, the goal of every photographer I met was to provide top quality portraits with lots of variety, boosting their gross sales. Their clients respond well by spending more and returning more often whenever an occasion arises. The Korean economy is doing very well.

Very little time was available for seeing the sights. Tony did take me to an ancient palace that the king and family lived in starting in 1352. It was destroyed twice over the centuries in wars, but rebuilt to preserve the countries traditions. That was what I noticed most about the Korean culture. Everyone is very proud and respectful of their traditions handed down over the generations. Very polite, courteous and helpful people. I'm anxious to go back.

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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