July 2009 Issue

In this issue:

Creating Your Own Custom

How to Get People in Front of the
Camera During Football Season

Featured Photographer:
Shauna Gustavson

Keep It Simple Silly

We hear it all the time.  “That’s too much trouble.  I don’t’ want to work that hard.   It’s not really necessary to do all that.  My customer’s don’t care.   It’s good enough.  I believe in the KISS concept.  I don’t need to bother with a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system or anything else like that.  I don’t want to change now.” 

Not too many years ago, professional photographers could get away with KISS.  It was promoted frequently as the way to go.  Then the Perfect Storm hit and changed everything.  Then the bottom fell out of the economy making KISS for many photographers the kiss of death.  The public can do their own photography and if all that the professional provides is the same old traditional and simple to do products, the digital revolution has empowered your clients to satisfy their own photographic needs.  They don’t need you anymore, unless you truly produce a product that entices them - and one they cannot do on their own.

Now, these changes are forcing photographers to take a new approach.  Instead of following the KISS philosophy, at least some photographers are asking what can I do that is really unique and special to entice my customers to come to me and to buy more.  Maybe it means using an extra light.  Maybe it means bringing in some props.  Maybe it means moving towards using a Scene Machine to bring in more WOW factor.  Maybe it means having customized backgrounds for specific subjects coupled with customized lighting and posing.   Maybe it means enrolling in some workshops to learn the latest techniques.  Moving far away from KISS is the only way for the professional to regain their market.  Those who don’t update every aspect of their business certainly won’t be in the mainstream if they are in any stream at all.  Look to your left and to your right.  It’s happening all around you.  Look at your own business.  Is there any other option?

New Simone Workshop
Scheduled for October, 2009

VB is now taking registrations for the Joseph and Louise Simone classic timeless photography workshop, October 12 – 16 2009.  There is no doubt about it; Joseph and Louise Simone are simply the best. Some photographers come back again and again to study with the Simones and practice their amazing techniques.   If you are looking to be the very best, if you want to be steps above other photographers, this is a must experience.  Contact your VB consultant now before all seats are sold out!

Click on the above video to see Joseph & Louise Simone in action!

Texas BS or a Miracle Pill

Learning the Facts can be Lifesaving for Your Studio

What is reality?  Can the implementation of Virtual Backgrounds really help you turn your studio around and make it into a money machine?  Does Virtual Backgrounds really work?  Does it measure up to what is claimed?  Is it worth the investment?  There is a way to learn the facts once and for all.  Dare to attend a Virtual Backgrounds Success three-day workshop.  It could well be the most important three days of training you will ever receive.  No other product has more power to help you develop your business.  No other product can be such a powerful promotional product.   Guaranteed!  Most studios are experiencing a decline caused by the Perfect Storm digital revolution and now the economy.  The VB workshop offers no BS.  We offer the facts and direct hands-on experience.  It is one of the most powerful educational experiences available.

If you are ready to take the challenge, contact a VB consultant to learn how you can turn things around.  If VB is not BS, then think of what you are missing. 

Who Said You Can't Do Groups with a Scene Machine?

Todd Hickens of Impact Photography in Heber City, Utah does group shots all the time.  Todd has had his Scene Machine about a year.  He primarily uses it to produce classic canvas and muslin backdrops. 

Some would say, why bother getting a Scene Machine to do simple canvas backgrounds?  Todd's answer is simple.  "I got tired of buying, hanging, changing, and storing canvas and muslin. The Scene Machine makes it so much easier and I can offer so much more variety."  Now with the Scene Machine, he has photographed his favorite traditional backgrounds and projects them, changing them instantly, and without a storage problem.  Todd's primary camera is a Hasselblad with a Phase One digital back.

There is Money in School and Church Photography -
A Lot of Money!

Chris Wunder will tell you how to get it in his powerful two-day workshop to be held at Virtual Backgrounds this October.  Learn the tricks and methods that have been kept secret for so long from the independents by the big boys.  With modern technology, you can cash in on this lucrative market and with the right tools and methods; you can be far more successful than the big boys who are forced to use the cookie cutter approach.

Contact your VB consultant for more information on this workshop that occurs only once each year.

You Snooze, You Lose

The Perfect Storm caught many photographers asleep at the wheel.  They were okay as long as the road was straight, but when the Storm threw them a curve, they found themselves in trouble, sometimes fatal trouble.  Translated this means that many photography studios survived by offering their standard stuff without doing much of anything really different and unique.  They got by.  However, with the transition to digital and with the public now thinking they can do their own photography because they can produce good enough photography, they stopped visiting the professional.  Those who are least affected are photographers who routinely produce exceptional work that the amateurs cannot duplicate.  Those who are falling behind have to wake up before it is too late! 

We see this hunkering down in low workshop attendance.   Attendance at many conventions is down. Attendance at most photographic schools is down and sales of important differentiating equipment are down.  In addition, photographers are advertising less and business continues to decline.  It’s wakeup time before it is too late.  It’s a perfect time to redress your whole operation to make it more attractive and to develop new products that will WOW your public and increase sales.  The old expression, if you snooze you lose, is very appropriate for what we are seeing today. 

Top Ten Beautiful Things about Virtual Backgrounds

  1. No Computers
  2. No Software
  3. No extra time pasting in backgrounds
  4. No special lighting to illuminate the green screen
  5. No limitations of colors on subjects
  6. The photographer sees the total image in the camera as each photograph is composed
  7. The resulting images (subject and background) are ready immediately for showing and printing
  8. You can use props, even green props!
  9. The results look significantly more real (no fake cut out look around the edges)
  10. The VB Success workshop is available to help you learn to get the maximum return out of your investment!

The Next VB Workshop
August 10-12, 2009

Your next chance to learn all about how Virtual Backgrounds can grow your business and profits is August 10-12, 2009.  This powerful career changing workshop is taught by Montana photographer, Trevon Baker and long time VB photographer and consultant, Jim Wilson.  Most attendees call it the most powerful and profitable workshop they have ever attended.

Virtual Backgrounds is far more than most photographers ever imagine.   It is a very comprehensive concept.  This workshop is designed to break the myths and help photographers move to a new more creative and profitable level in their photography.

Click on the above video to learn more about the Virtual Backgrounds workshops.

Diane Wilson Workshop Set for September, 2009

Looking for a new avenue to generate dollars?  The next Diane Wilson enchanted photography workshop is set for September 21 – 25, 2009.

Only 12 participants are allowed in each Diane Wilson workshop to insure plenty of time for hands-on experience.  There is no other workshop like this one.  Diane covers everything including making costumes, creating sets, shooting, advertising, and sales.  It’s a total package coupled with post workshop consulting if needed.

Diane’s workshops are held at the Virtual Backgrounds’ Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.

Diane’s enchanted photography is something that really excites the public.  Unlike so many other kinds of photography today, the public cannot create images like these no matter what camera they own.   This is exactly what makes enchanted photography so special.

Contact us now to secure your seat in this very special workshop.

Click on the above video to learn more about Diane Wilson Workshops

The World’s Most Unique and Probably Most Expensive Photography Workshop

Once a year, a unique workshop convenes at a lavish resort in Los Cabos, Mexico.  It is conducted by the International Portrait Wedding Academy (IPWA).  The dates are February 26- March 5, 2010. 

This workshop is open to all professional photographers.  Despite its expense, it is a very unique event with maximum emphasis on marketing.  The workshop is organized by Michael Warshall from Australia who we have known for many years.  He is regarded as one of the most successful marketers in the world.

Click here to see what this workshop is all about.

The Real Paul Wingler

Paul Wingler was our featured photographer in the June 2009 edition of The Backgrounder.  We published a portrait of a man and identified him as Paul Wingler, a self portrait.  Paul notified us immediately that the photograph we published was a portrait he took but it was not of himself!  Here is the real Paul Wingler, authenticated by Paul himself.

We Make it Easy to Start Using Virtual Backgrounds

Contact Us to Check on Our Latest Financing Options!

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!

Creating Your Own Custom Backgrounds
by Trevon Baker

The biggest advantage to owning a Virtual Backgrounds system is the fact that you can create your own custom background library. Clients are getting ever so sophisticated, and their search for something different has never been so prevalent in our business.

With a background projection system, it’s easy to provide that something different. What’s more, however, is the variety that can be achieved in a single portrait session. As you may know, changing backgrounds is as easy as changing transparencies on the projector. I feel that having the ability to create your own transparencies extends the creative process to long before clients even come into the studio for their sessions. As photographers, we look at the world through a viewfinder, even though we may not even have a camera with us at the time! As an owner of a Virtual Backgrounds system, I look at the world for backgrounds. Over time, I’ve been able to discover unique backgrounds in the most unlikely places. With some manipulation in Photoshop, some of my digital captures have the potential for being my next popular background.

There are a few choices in creating your own background transparencies. First, you can photograph scenes and abstracts with slide film and process it old school, or you can create the file digitally from scratch in Photoshop or Painter and then have your commercial lab create the transparency from your digital file. Lastly, you can capture digitally with any digital camera with adequate resolution (six megapixel minimum) and enhance the file in Photoshop prior to sending to the lab for a transparency.

Most all of my backgrounds are created by capturing various scenes with my digital SLR. I always suggest to people who are new to creating their backgrounds in this manner to have someone stand in a scene that you discover would make a nice background. Photograph this person, creating a nice portrait of them with limited depth of field, paying attention to light patterns and ratios. Some scenes will photograph much better earlier or later in the day rather than when the sun is high in the sky. The important thing to remember is that the light that you see illuminating your scene (and subject) needs to be replicated in the studio later. So learn to look for light patterns in nature that are similar to those you create in the studio (i.e. 45º soft, loop pattern). I’ve also learned over time that in order to create a transparency that is as versatile as possible, I go for scenes and abstracts that may not have any distinct light pattern.

Figure 1

In Figure 1, you see a scene in the alley behind the studio. Seniors are gravitating towards graffiti, old warehouses, and staircases. This No Parking sign has been the site of many senior portraits.

Figure 2

Figure 2 is a quick shot of my assistant for reference. Notice the lighting pattern (open shade) is not going to be easily reproduced in the studio later. I then had her step out of the scene and re-photographed the scene with a wide angle lens setting (See Figure 3). I focussed the camera on the foreground so that when I project the scene later, I don’t have a portrait of my client with them sharp, the foreground out of focus and then what is furthest from the camera sharp again. That wouldn’t be natural.

Figure 3

With some help from Photoshop, I quickly run a couple of filters and do some retouching to create an image worthy of sending off to the lab for a transparency (See Figure 4) .It’s important to not crop the scene too tight. Remember, you can always enlarge it with the zoom lens of the projector. I have also found that the images need to be warmed up considerably for use with background projection. I usually start with about 15 points of Red in the Midtones and 10 points of Magenta to the Highlights (Color Balance). This is because of the fact we are photographing the reflection of the image off the projection screen. Additionally, feel free to play with Lighting Effects, Artistic Brushes, and other filters.

Figure 4

With my digital file ready to go to the lab (minimum of 2400 pixels x 2400 pixels), I save it as a high quality jpg and e-mail it off  for a 35mm slide to be made. Once I have an opportunity to use the background in the studio for a couple weeks, I can make further adjustments to the file, if needed, before sending it to the lab to have a glass mounted super slide made.

Figure 5

How cool is it to create your own backgrounds that fits your style and your customers demands? Think of the possibilities! What is also important to keep in mind is how growing your library of backgrounds allows you to offer your clients backgrounds that no one else offers. This makes a Virtual Background system a very powerful marketing tool as well as a powerful creative tool!

Here are other ways to increase your background library! Virtual Backgrounds has hundreds of background transparencies available and are adding to their libraries all the time. View VB's Background Libraries online. I have also just made available three new sets of my own too! Click here to view and purchase these new sets.

Henry’s Tips
How to Get People in Front of the Camera During Football Season!

by Henry Oles

Image by Lora Yeater

In the portrait business, you can’t make money if you don’t get to photograph people.  How do you entice people to come to you and not some other photographer or just have their friends shoot their pictures?  The answer is simple.  You have to offer them something that is really special that they can’t do on their own but really want.

Let’s say you want to work your way into a particular high school.  Someone else has the school contract.  How do you get a foothold?  Here’s a highly profitable way that really works.  Football season is coming up.  Take time to photograph the school’s football stadium.  Photograph it from a number of different angles in the daytime and perhaps at night without anyone on the field but with the lights on. Then you can come back and take additional field scene shots when a game is going on with players on the field and people in the stands.  Get up in the stands and photograph looking down.   Get the school flag and perhaps the mascot in the background.  Then invite a key football player in for a free sitting with his football uniform, with his school clothes and with his Sunday suit.  Photograph him holding a football and without the football.  Photograph him with each of the different backgrounds.  Make up a proof book with all the best images and make him an ambassador.   You might set aside a special evening or weekend just for the football team.  Make it a fun event.  Serve pizza and drinks.   Offer it and they will come and sales will happen! 

Then with the same backgrounds, use the same promotional methods with the cheerleaders, the drill team, and with the band, and even the coaches, athletic director, and even the fans.  To further sweeten the pot, offer a percentage rebate to the school to help finance their special events.   Remember, everyone is looking for more money. Get them to help and you both win!

There is a ton of money out there that almost no one is going after.  Why can’t it be you?  Even if you don’t have an official studio, you can set up somewhere just for this photo event.  Try it - you’ll love the results and you’ll see how the use of Virtual Backgrounds with multiple customized backgrounds can make it work profitably for you.  Its business that you probably never would have had and it’s highly profitable.  You may be able to pay for your equipment with just one single school.  The beauty here is that you can do the same thing for all of the sports at the school!  The students, parents, and school administrators will love the results and you love the profits!

Featured Photographer:
Shauna Gustavson

Mother, X-ray & Lab Technician, Combine Driver,
and Professional Photographer

Mother, X-ray & Lab Technician, Combine Driver, and Professional Photographer: this is the world of Canadian photographer, Shauna Gustavson. Her diversity mirrors that of so many women who enter the world of professional photography today.  Shauna lives on a huge grain farm in Eckville, Alberta, Canada which is about 30 minutes west of Red Deer.  She first started in part time professional photography for a while in the 1990s and then returned two years ago.  Her studio is located in her rural farm home in a 14 x 15 foot room that was originally designed to be a storage room.  Most of Shauna’s advertising is by word of mouth although she is participating in several small country town trade shows.  She specializes in weddings, children, and families. 

ust a few months ago, Shauna learned about the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system and enchanted fantasy photography.  She was going through an American Photographic Resources prop catalog and saw samples of the photography being done by another Canadian, Diane Wilson.  She noticed that a key part of her photographs, the background, was created with a device she had never heard of before, the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  The enchanted look for children and the Scene Machine totally fascinated her, tickling her imagination, her love for photography, and her desire to be truly different.

Shauna explains, “I have always been terribly interested in backgrounds.  In fact you might say I have a background problem.   I have about 40 backgrounds, canvas and muslin, in my little studio.  Each new background was making my camera room smaller even though I have them hanging from the ceiling.  It just wasn’t practical, but I wanted even more background variety for my subjects.  Backgrounds are really important to a photograph.  Once I learned about the Scene Machine system, it just seemed like the best way to go even though I thought at first that it was a very expensive piece of equipment for a very small town part time studio.  I really got excited when I realized that I could make my own backgrounds or buy them for just a few dollars each and have no storage problems at all.  Most of all, I can change backgrounds in seconds!”

Today I already feel that it was a great investment because now my backgrounds cost me almost nothing and they don’t take up space.  I have already photographed my canvas and muslin backgrounds so I can now project them and I have so much more room in my studio.  I am also starting to take my own backgrounds.  We have planned a trip to Banff and I will capture a lot of backgrounds there.”

Shauna purchased her Virtual Backgrounds system without ever seeing one, not even at a trade show.  She read everything she could find and noted that many well known photographers endorse the system including Canadian photographers Joseph and Louise Simone.  She also looked up Diane Wilson’s Web site and was fascinated by the many samples of her work and her story.  Shauna took a deep breath, ordered her system and arranged to have it delivered to Trevon Baker’s studio in Kalispell, Montana.   She drove down to Kalispell and picked up her machine on May 29, 2009. Trevon provided her with four hours of training.  She drove back home and immediately put the system to use.  From the very beginning, her results were just great.  “I didn’t really find the Scene Machine very hard to set up and use.  I just followed the basic directions given to me by Trevon and that was it.  It is really quite intuitive.  Now I hear that some people think it is complicated - I don’t see it that way at all.”

“My mom has always been critical about my spending money and certainly she had second thoughts about me buying the Scene Machine, especially since it costs so much more in Canada than it does in the US because of our dollar and taxes.  Now that she has seen it working she told me the other day that buying it was a really smart move.”

Shauna decided to make maximum use of her minimal space by buying a 9 x 12 wide projection screen so she could do full lengths and groups using her Sony A700 camera.  She wanted plenty of room for backgrounds to surround her subjects.

Shauna decided to attend one of Diane’s five-day fantasy and enchanted workshops in San Marcos, Texas.   She found the workshop to be exceptionally stimulating, upon her return home, she immediately began putting her new ideas to work.  To get started, Shauna placed a notice at a dance studio that she needed models to practice with.  She chose 17 kids.  “The kids absolutely loved what I was able to do with them, with the costumes, the poses, and the backgrounds.  There were two 16 year old female models.   I was concerned that they might not get into the enchanted look, but I was so wrong.  They were among my most enthusiastic subjects, and they told me they were going to tell all their friends about this new kind of photography because it was so much fun.  All the kids loved what I was doing.   They were saying Wow!”

Shauna is now actively making some of her own costumes and creating her own props.   Just last week she found a big piece of driftwood down in a nearby creek bed.  She dragged it home and it is now part of her mermaid beach scene.

“It’s so easy to use the Scene Machine.  I absolutely love it.  I love having so many backgrounds and I really love getting into enchanted photography.  I want to make photography more full time, except when I am driving the combine for 2 months in the fall.  I really don’t understand why every photographer doesn’t have a Scene Machine system.  I just could not do what I have been able to do now if I didn’t have the Scene Machine.  It makes me so different from any other photographer.   The Scene Machine has taken things to a whole new level because of what it lets me do.  My imagination is my only limit.  Just about anything I can think of, I can now do right in my studio.  I started getting good images the very first day I used it.  I am looking forward to doing so much more with it. 

Shauna’s Web site is www.sgustavsonphotography.ifp3.com.  Shauna is another reason why we at Virtual Backgrounds enjoy our work.  We thrive on helping photographers deal with the Perfect Storm and rise to new levels of success.  That is what Virtual Backgrounds is all about! There is no other tool available that has the power of a Virtual Backgrounds system to enhance creativity and grow the business.  Keep up the great work, Shauna!

Click here to see more of Shauna Gustavson's images!

Three Career Changing Workshops

Making Money with Virtual Backgrounds with Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson

August 10-12, 2009 and September 14-16, 2009

There is no other tool that can add more of a jolt to your day to day studio operation. Get the facts! Learn to use the system. Discover how it can become a key part of your marketing. Develop new business and high profits. Amateurs and low level professionals do not have Virtual Backgrounds! Presented by Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson.

Making Money with Enchanted and Fantasy Photography with Diane Wilson

September 21-25, 2009

One of the hottest and most profitable new areas in professional photography that is so much more than just angel wings. The public loves the results, and they cannot do this on their own. The class is taught by Canadian photographer, Diane Wilson, who pioneered the concept in a total area of just 15x18 feet in a flea market.

Making Money with Classic Portrait Photography with Joseph and Louise Simone

October 12-16, 2009

World renowned photographers, Joseph and Louise Simone, return to Texas to teach their methods of creating truly timeless portraits. This course is so special that many photographers take it over and over again. Although this course is on the classic portrait, the methods that the Simones teach apply to all styles of truly professional photography.

Contact Virtual Backgrounds to learn about these career changing events!

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.