July 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Virtual Backgrounds Learn
and Earn Program

Turning Your Workshop into
a Mini-Vacation

What You Should Expect at a
Virtual Backgrounds Workshop

April and Larry Helsel Share Their
Experiences with Virtual Backgrounds

Special Sale on New Monostand
Save $100

Featured Photographer -
Seung Hyu Baek

Turn Your Workshop
into a Mini-Vacation

There is a lot to do and see in and around San Marcos, TexasAustin is just 30 minutes to the north and the San Antonio River Walk is just 50 minutes south.  Also, only 15 miles south is the world famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark, the largest water park in the country.

San Marcos itself has many attractions, especially our own spring fed river.  Texas State University serves approximately 25,000 students.  The largest attraction for many visitors is our outlet mall.  Two of the largest outlet mall developers (Prime Outlets and Tanger Outlets) are located side by side just 4 miles south of town.  The outlet mall attracts people from hundreds of miles, many of whom come to stay for two or more days of shopping.  San Antonio offers the world famous Missions Trail, a group of old Spanish missions built around the same time as the Alamo.  All of these locations offer excellent background opportunities.  So, come ready to learn and to have some fun and a wonderful Texas experience.

San Marcos is best known for its beautiful artesian spring fed river.  Hundreds of millions of gallons of water bubbles out of the ground at its source and flows through town.  The river maintains a constant temperature of 71 degrees so it can be enjoyed year around.  Tens of thousands of people tube the river each year, including some who attend the Virtual Backgrounds workshops.  It’s a leisurely 45 minute trip ending with a slide over a small dam (see above).  It’s an experience never to be forgotten. 

Our Facility

Virtual Backgrounds is just one company in our 120,000 square foot facility located in the beautiful university river town of San Marcos, Texas.    Virtual Backgrounds occupies about 10,000 square feet of space.  Our new 2000 square foot classroom can handle as many as 50 photographers, but we usually limit the monthly workshop to about 20 for more personalized attention. 

Participants enjoy a special rate of only $45.00 per night at one of the local hotels.  Participants can fly into Austin, Texas (30 miles) or San Antonio, Texas (50 miles).

About the Instructor

Jim Wilson has been with Virtual Backgrounds for 20 years and has helped the company grow from a small operation to one that serves photographers world wide.  Before joining VB, Jim, a graduate of the Brooks Institute, was a photographer for Abey Studios, the leading studio in Youngstown, Ohio.  Abey Studios was one of the very first studios to implement Virtual Backgrounds.

Among Jim’s many responsibilities at VB, his most important functions are monthly workshops, technical support and working on product development. The monthly workshops are one of our most important activities.

Jim is a “no nonsense” instructor who takes his teaching very seriously.  He feels that whether a photographer travels 7000 miles or just 70 miles to attend a workshop, he or she can expect a powerful class where time is effectively and efficiently used.

Our Trains

Virtual Backgrounds is located next to a major north-south Union Pacific railway line.  Our main building is served by an old siding, and we’ve placed 7 railroad cars on the siding.  The cars include our dining car where we serve all meals, two 1947 Pullman sleeping cars, a 1930s caboose and 3 box cars that are used for storage and shop work.

Workshop participants receive a tour of the historic cars in addition to having all meals served in the dining car .  Trains pass at least once an hour giving a "real train ride" experience.

PPA Merits Earned

The Virtual Backgrounds workshop is approved by the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) Continuing Education System for one merit upon course completion.  It’s one more bonus that comes with attending the VB workshop.

Double Headers

Some workshops combine the regular VB workshop with a second workshop that immediately follows, thus enabling participants to attend two powerful workshops in one trip.  Watch for announcements for the next double header.

Other Upcoming
Learn and Earn

January 2007 Simone Seminar

In early 2008, Joseph and Louise Simone will return to present a 5 day workshop on their powerful methods for creating timeless portraiture emphasizing the techniques of the Old Master painters.

Greg Stangl, one of the countries most popular speakers on business development and marketing, will present a 3 day workshop on marketing and how the Scene Machine plays an important role in his overall studio promotion.

Deborah and Rick Ferro will present a workshop combining PhotoShop and Scene Machine applications.

Announcements will be made in future issues of The Backgrounder.

A Special Workshop for
Our Spanish Speaking Friends

A special Spanish speaking edition of our workshop is being prepared for our Spanish speaking friends who will travel to San Marcos from all parts of Mexico or other regions. This workshop (dates soon to be announced) will be custom tailored just for you.  Simultaneous translation will be provided. Please contact Maria Batte for further information (Se Habla Espanól).

Jim Stevenson Comments
on The Perfect Storm

I purchased my Scene Machine way back in May 1990.  I drove down to San Marcos from Carrolton, Texas, met Dr. Oles in person who gave me a tour, and placed my order at that time.  I am sill using it, now with my digital camera instead of my Mamiya RBs. 

I just finished reading the publication, The Professional Photographers Perfect Storm and boy is it very realistic!  I am turning 80 but am still active.  My weddings and seniors have dropped off, but at my age, I don’t really mind.  I would like to receive The Backgrounder regularly.  Thank you very much!

Contact us for your
FREE copy today!

Career Opportunities
with Virtual Backgrounds

VB seeking assistance
in Consulting and
Customer Service

Dr. Henry Oles, Founder and President of Virtual Backgrounds, recently announced that the company is seeking both part and full time assistance.  All of the positions are restricted to professional photographers or those with careers in the photographic industry.  Some positions require relocating to San Marcos, Texas while other opportunities are available to working photographers or retired photographers who can work from their home location.

Virtual Backgrounds is looking for Consultants who can demonstrate Virtual Backgrounds for professional photographers in their region.  Ideal candidates will have had successful experience in using Virtual Backgrounds in portrait studio work, however, the company will also consider photographers who have yet to experience Virtual Backgrounds themselves but who are willing to learn the process and achieve quality results they can share with other photographers. Successful candidates will receive extensive technical and practical training at the Texas headquarters. 

Virtual Backgrounds is also seeking full time assistance in the role of customer support.  Virtual Backgrounds has acquired an outstanding reputation for providing our customers with free unlimited technical support which even includes assistance in photographic techniques. The successful candidate will relocate to San Marcos, Texas and be involved in technical support, assisting in the teaching of workshops, and engage in consulting.

For further information and an application, contact us at [email protected] or call 1-800-831-0474.

Christmas is only five months away! Have you planned your holiday promotions yet?

Virtual Backgrounds is set to be a large part of the upcoming Texas PPA Fall Seminar.
Click here for more details.

Annual Print Competition

It's time to start gathering up your best prints to submit for our Annual Print Competition. More details coming soon!

Click here to view last year's winners!

2006 first place portrait by
Jessica Laredo de Sierra

Sale on Studio Lights

We have a special sale on a limited quantity of quality studio lights as well as AC/DC battery operated lights which can be used indoors on a regular power line or outdoors on the built in battery.  These lights are sold at a fraction of the cost of the Quantum battery light.

Closeout pricing means an approximate 50% reduction from the regular price.  Contact us for more details.

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!

Back Issues of
The Backgrounder
Available Online

Photographers can review all past issues of The Backgrounder by going to the Virtual Backgrounds website and clicking on the dancing Backgrounder icon or by clicking here.  There is an enormous amount of information in The Backgrounder about how to turn backgrounds into new profits.

Check it out!

Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Program
Helping Photographers

to Fight the Perfect Storm

One photography company states it very strongly:  Adapt or Die.  For many photography studios, the death of their business is a distinct possibility as a result of the Perfect Storm.  There is hope, however, for those who learn the latest methods to produce photographs the amateurs cannot. The possibilities are truly endless.

Virtual Backgrounds has always emphasized customer education.  For those who have a curiosity about Virtual Backgrounds, we offer an intensive 3-day workshop every month in our San Marcos, Texas facility.  The workshop draws photographers from around the world.

Photographers come to our workshops and quickly realize that this is a total concept for their business.  The VB workshop covers everything from setting up a Virtual Backgrounds system to the technical aspects of operation. We provide plenty of hands-on training.  The third day of the workshop always features a professional photographer who makes extensive use of Virtual Backgrounds in their daily work.  Guest speakers have included Larry Peters, Rick Harding, April Helsel, Trevon Baker, Greg Stangl, Dave Filler, Rick and Deborah Ferro, Rick Avalos and others.

If you have any interest in growing your studio as you navigate through the Perfect Storm, consider attending the Virtual Backgrounds workshop.  Even if you are minimally interested in Virtual Backgrounds, schedule the workshop.  You’ll go home full of new exciting ideas to energize your business and profits.

VB Workshop – 100% Guaranteed

Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you come to the workshop to find out about Virtual Backgrounds and decide that it wasn’t worth your time, you will receive a check for a full refund.  It’s easy to make that guarantee because we have never had to issue a refund!  Attendees generally report that the workshop was much more than they expected.   It’s a “no brainer.”  You can’t lose with this type of guarantee.  Open your mind to the new dimensions made possible with Virtual Backgrounds.

What You Should Expect at a
Virtual Backgrounds Workshop

1. A great deal of learning new ideas and hands-on experience

2. Excellent hospitality with meals served on board our historic train's dining car

3. Networking opportunities with people from all over the world

4.  A guest speaker who will give you the inside perspective on a very successful studio business

5.  Personalized attention and excellent customer service

This is a no nonsense class from beginning to end.  The class starts promptly at 9 a.m. on Monday and runs till noon.  Lunch is served on the historic railroad dining car.  The afternoon session runs from 1 to 5:30.  A special dinner is served on our railroad dining car.  A more informal session runs from 7 until about 10 with very specialized attention to individualized needs.

Tuesday morning starts at 9 a.m. and runs until noon with lunch served on the rail car.  The afternoon session runs from 1 p.m. until 5 or 6 depending on individual needs.  Tuesday emphasizes hands-on experience with Virtual Backgrounds.  Participants take turns photographing each other.

Wednesday begins at 9 a.m. and ends about 12 noon.  A featured speaker gives the Wednesday presentation.  Anyone with additional needs is invited to stay Wednesday afternoon for individual consultation after the featured presentation has concluded. 

When participants leave on Wednesday afternoon, they depart with a mountain of technical knowledge and exciting new ideas that they can put to work immediately.

April and Larry Helsel
Share Their Experiences
with the July Workshop Attendees

April Helsel displays her Virtual Backgrounds studio in Pennsylvania.

April and Larry Helsel presenting at the July workshop in San Marcos.

April and Larry Helsel, owners of 4 studios in Pennsylvania, were the presenters for the third day of the July Virtual Backgrounds workshop.  Relatively new to the business, the Helsels really took off when they implemented their Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system along with a wide variety of props to create a vast array of special settings for their children’s photography.

In the above image, April uses dark mirrored Plexiglas as
the little girl points her toe into what looks like water.

Even though they are up against many long established independent studios and national chains such as Picture People and Wal-Mart,  April’s unique approach has made her highly sought after, drawing clients from all over the region.   April is the primary photographer while her husband, Larry, handles the business and marketing side.  Larry recently quit his regular job as a nuclear medicine equipment technician to work full time with the growing business.

The third day of the Virtual Backgrounds workshop is reserved for a guest speaker, a photographer who makes extensive use of their Virtual Backgrounds system in their everyday work. Larry Peters, Trevon Baker and Dave Filler have all traveled to San Marcos to present at our workshops. Greg Stangl and Rick Harding are scheduled to present in future workshops this year.

Special Sale on Studio Pro Monostand

Save $100!!!

Click on the image to enlarge

Now until August 20, Virtual Backgrounds is offering our new Studio Pro monostand for $100 off the regular price of $950.  The beautifully designed and very professional looking monostand comes with a double arm, a swivel camera mount, and an accessory tray.  A larger notebook computer tray and a gear head are sold separately.

Seung Hyu Baek

Bringing Portraiture in Korea to a
New Level of Excellence

Seung Hyu Baek using his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds System

In the May 2007 issue of The Backgrounder, we introduced you to one of Korea's finest professional portrait photographers, Lee Sang Jun. In this issue, we would like to display the excellent work of Seung Hyu Baek, also from Korea. Both Mr. Lee and Mr. Baek have been using their Virtual Backgrounds systems for only a few months. They both received training at the January 2007 Virtual Backgrounds workshop in San Marcos, Texas, and they are both producing some of the best work that Virtual Backgrounds has seen.

In May, we told you about how before Virtual Backgrounds, photographers in Korea had to construct elegant new studio scenes once every few months costing them tens of thousands of dollars each time. Now, a simple transparent background slide and a few props are not only saving Korean photographers money, but they are also giving the photographers more variety!

Read below as Mr. Baek shares his experiences both before and since he has purchased his new Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.

Seung Hyu Baek - In His Own Words

I have been excited about Virtual Backgrounds for a very long time.  I also remembered that there was once a bad impression on such systems in the Korean market.  This was many years ago.  I chose the Virtual Backgrounds System to try to make highly creative works with it.  I anticipated that Virtual Backgrounds would get me a solution to the time constraints that I always faced in my studio business.

I gained more confidence and trust on Virtual Backgrounds after I had a chance to attend a workshop in San Marcos, Texas in January. 

“God helps those who help themselves.”  Chances come to everyone.  Only the people who have been preparing themselves can catch them.  I have been studying photography for many years and have sharpened my techniques as well as my intuitions.  When I met this new system, I knew this is the tool with which I could use for what I have been preparing.

The Virtual Backgrounds system can create three-dimensional looking images whereas existing conventional backgrounds are more flat and uninteresting.  I learned I could make my own transparency backgrounds and I began to work on proper lighting.  I feel like a dream has come true when I set up with a model and shoot with Virtual Backgrounds.

Photographers are those who create something from nothing, and Virtual Backgrounds is a tool to make the whole process more enthusiastic.  I feel like this system really fits me as I am the kind of person who does not like something normal.  I like the unique.


Sometime, this system came to me as a burden because it takes more time at the beginning to learn, but I believe “no pain, no gain.”  I know that my works with this system will surely make me happier than before. Every single image that has been made could be great materials for the classes I am teaching.

In the near future, I plan to open an exhibition with these Virtual Backgrounds works.  I am teaching, “Photo-therapy for middle-aged women.”  It will be more effectively done with my Virtual Backgrounds System.   Virtual Backgrounds will provide new concepts for portraits to other Korean photographers.  I am creating more of my own backgrounds reflecting the Korean culture.

I have met many middle aged women and other students studying in my classes and all of them say the work of mine using Virtual Backgrounds are the most unique and creative.  I believe more photographers must look for Virtual Backgrounds as people will get more interested in the creative works rather than all boring, monotone works.

Click here to see more of Mr. Baek's photographs taken with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds Image Enhancement System.

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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