June 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Jennifer Hudson & Art Rainville use
the Scene Machine at Texas School

Backgrounds Take on New
at Texas School

Larry Peters is Way Out of the Box!

Partnership - An Important Element
at Virtual Backgrounds

Background Secrets Revealed

Lighting Tip - Don't Blast, Feather Instead

Featured Photographer - John Dingo

Backgrounds Take
on New Importance
at Texas School

Not many years ago, photographers had only minimal interest in the background.  A photographer might have two or maybe three canvas backgrounds, perhaps a few muslins, and some rolls of seamless paper including white.  That was it.  Wow, have things changed today.

At Texas School many instructors were involved one way or another with background variety.  While a number of instructors used the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system, others used a wide variety of methods for creating unique backgrounds.  While Joseph & Louise Simone are avid users of the Scene Machine, when they demonstrated high key white, they used plain white paper with a twist.  They hung slightly blue strips of thin fabric in front of the white paper to create a totally new effect with dimensional characteristics.

In addition to his use of projected Virtual Backgrounds, Larry Peters displayed a wide variety of designer backgrounds that he used in conjunction with his props.  Ralph Romaguera and Rick & Deborah Ferro showed many different ways to create unique backgrounds as well.

Studio photography is becoming far less static.  Creative variety in backgrounds is the key to success, and because of this, studio photography will never be the same.

Larry Peters is
Way Out of the Box!

Ohio photographer, Larry Peters, is considered by many as the “King of Senior Photography” in America.  They look at what Larry is doing today to learn what they might be doing tomorrow.   Obviously Larry is doing many things right because he has three studios in southern Ohio, has 26 employees with more during the busy time, and takes in well over $2 million a year.  At a time when many photographers are crying about the Perfect Storm, Larry is brewing up a storm of his own.

What’s Larry Secret?  Take it from Larry himself:  “I do things that no one else wanted to do or had the time to do.  My friends are crying about business but I’m not.  I want to be more creative than the mom photographer.  What is going to save professional photography is doing the extraordinary in the studio with our cameras, lighting, posing, and tools like the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system and doing what the amateurs cannot do even with their super mega pixel digital cameras.”

While most photographers are moving out of their studios and doing mostly location work, Larry takes the opposite approach.  “Location spots are really the camera room for every amateur.  I don’t want to share my spots with them.  I want to be more creative than the super mom.  What will save us is doing the extraordinary.”

"It has been my experience that those who are crying about their business are also doing 20 year old photography when in reality, style should not be the same for even 2 years.  There is more opportunity to make more money in this business than ever before.  I keep changing all the time.  I get my ideas from magazines, the papers, and posters.  I look beyond, way beyond what other photographers do.  That’s how I stay so far ahead.”

Larry is a leader in using Scene Machine as part of his senior photography.  He has pioneered the covering of his props with the same reflective material used in the Virtual Backgrounds projection screens to create truly unique results which he calls "Chaos."  The seniors love it! 

“When I want to buy a new tool, my wife always asks me to show her how that tool is going to make money.  If it won’t make money, she won’t let me go there.  I use Virtual Backgrounds to add more variety and to create certain looks.  The Scene Machine is a God-send for proms.”

Larry has a very interesting way to display his prints.  After he takes a set, he lets the client thumb through them, eliminating the ones they don’t like.  That way he doesn’t have to waste time doing it himself and after all, it is the client who has to be pleased.  His laptop is tethered to his camera, so it is easy to show his results.

Larry doesn’t “machine gun” his clients.  He doesn’t use PhotoShop to fix things that never should have been allowed to happen.  He tries to do it right the first time. Larry also does not pre-touch.  He shows his clients natural images and charges extra for retouching.

Summarizing his philosophy, Larry says, “When you are setting up a shot, if the client’s mother could do it, you are not a professional!  If you don’t hear 'Wow’ now and then you are not doing your job.  Professional photographers have to go for it.  They have to let their imagination go.”

Those who attended the Virtual Backgrounds-Larry Peters workshop in May got their money’s worth and more.  Several attendees proclaimed that they were going home to change the fundamental ways they operate their studio. 

Larry Peters doesn’t do very many workshops or schools, so it is a special privilege to study with him.  Another Larry Peters workshop is being planned for 2008 at Virtual Backgrounds. When the date is finalized, be sure to put it on your calendar as a "must attend." It could be one of the single most important seminars that you will ever experience!

Image by Larry Peters

Lighting Tip:
Don't Blast Your Lights,
Feather Them!

Image by Don Blair

Many photographers think that it is important to direct their light source directly at the subject’s face.  It doesn’t matter if they are using an umbrella, a softbox, or a parabolic reflector.  They somehow think that it is the law to point the light directly at the subject. 

The late great Don Blair, Master Photographer and icon of the photographic industry, used to place special emphasis on the importance of "feathering" lights and not "blasting" the subject with light.  What does this mean?  Instead of directing the light right at the subject, you should light the subject with the edge of the light.  That is, turn the light away from the subject, preferably point the main part of the light in front of the subject, and light the subject with the edge of the light.  This is called feathering.  The result is a much finer quality of light that is clearly visible on the subject’s face. 

It is also by coincidence that feathered light is very compatible with Virtual Backgrounds and actually improves the overall image.  When you feather your subjects with light, make sure that you feather the light away from the background screen and more towards the camera. Take some time to try this and discover for yourself the remarkable difference between blasting and feathering. 

Digital cameras with on board flash are the epitome of blasting the subject.  Professional photographers know how to feather with light. Give it a try and you'll be pleased with the results!

Image by Don Blair

Jim Galeazzo Comments
On The Perfect Storm

I have been in this industry for 40+ years and I am totally amazed at the attitude of today’s photographers.  There seems to be many who are reacting the same way they did in the 60's and 70's when they were losing business to the banking and store photographers.  They are sitting around wondering why they have a decline in business instead of reacting to the changes and doing something positive about it.  Your book (The Professional Photographers Perfect Storm) says everything I have been trying to tell them, plus a lot more.

I feel there are a lot of photographers out there who just need a kick in the right direction and your book will do it.  Thank you, Henry, for writing The Perfect Storm and allowing me to help share it with our clients.

Jim is a Marketing and Sales Representative of several photographic products.

Contact us for your
FREE copy today!

Learn to Use
Virtual Backgrounds
the Right Way

There are many Virtual Backgrounds systems that are not being used to their full potential.  In the past only a small percentage of system owners attended the Virtual Backgrounds workshop in San Marcos, Texas.  In addition, some machines have changed hands and the new owners may not have any idea of how to use the system properly or what a powerful a tool they now own.

The answer is simple.  The best approach is to schedule to attend the next Virtual Backgrounds three-day workshop.  This workshop is offered nearly every month and is usually filled to capacity.  The workshop is taught by James Wilson, CPP, Cr. Photog. and a graduate of Brooks Institute.  Jim has used Virtual Backgrounds for most of his professional photography career and has been teaching the workshop at Virtual Backgrounds for 19 years.  Jim has seen many improvements not only in the equipment but also in the way photographers are now using the system in their studios.

If you have a VB system that might be on the shelf or used only occasionally, you are really missing out on the benefits of owning one of the most powerful tools a professional photographer can own.  Fix the problem by contacting Virtual Backgrounds today to reserve your seat at the next workshop.  You’ll kick yourself for not doing it long ago.

Click here for more information on Virtual Backgrounds monthly workshops.

50/50 Financing Program
You Can't Beat It!

Virtual Backgrounds offers a special program to help photographers purchase their equipment.  It’s called the 50/50 program.  The photographer pays only 50% down on a new system, receives the equipment to begin making money, and the balance is financed over a 12 month period with NO interest.  There are no messy credit applications to fill out.  All that is necessary is a sincere desire to earn new profits with Virtual Backgrounds. 

Plus, most photographers start using their system immediately to earn new profits.  Many of our customers pay off their system in just a few months or less. The 50/50 plan is the best financing deal you can find.  No tricks - just a simple program to help photographers grow their business with Virtual Backgrounds.

Impact of the Digital Age!

John Owen, M. Photog, Certified
President of Michigan PPA writes

"Studios must change or perish. They have got to produce images that chains and consumers can't, and they've got to make their market (area) aware of their truly unique images through increased, aggressive, and innovative promotion and marketing campaigns - year round!"

"If you're promoting today as you did three years ago, you're already behind the innovators. If you don't believe this, look at your bottom line these days."

"Many thought Henry Oles was just trying to promote his Virtual Backgrounds systems with his two recent books (Background Power! and The Professional Photographer's Perfect Storm), but the truth is, he is probably one of the true prophets of our industry!"

"Will your studio be around in two, five or ten years?"

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!

Jennifer Hudson and Art Rainville Use the
Scene Machine in the Opening Night
Presentation at Texas School

Texas School opened with a nearly two hour introductory program designed to stimulate professional photographers to rise to new and higher levels of performance.  One presentation featured Fort Worth, Texas photographer, Jennifer Hudson, and Boston photographer, Art Rainville, using the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system to create some highly innovative images.

Jennifer photographed models on stage using unique backgrounds, ones that she created herself as well as backgrounds of well known paintings while Art explained the proceedings.  The resulting images were displayed on the large projection screen for the audience to view. It was an outstanding presentation!

Images by Jennifer Hudson

Texas School - A Rousing Success!

The Scene Machine was Part of Several
Classes at Texas School

Nearly 1,000 professional photographers descended upon College Station, Texas for the 2007 Texas School of Professional Photography held in May on the campus of Texas A&M University.  Virtual Backgrounds played its biggest role ever at the school, being a part of the presentation by four leading instructors.  As always, the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system was an important component of the Joseph & Louise Simone class. It was also part of the Deborah & Rick Ferro, Ralph Romaguera, and Larry Peters classes respectively.

Each year, a growing number of photographic instructors are discovering the creative possibilities that come with using Virtual Backgrounds and are including it as a key part of their classroom instruction.  Virtual Backgrounds has an unlimited application in professional photography.  Users of Virtual Backgrounds are able to develop their own unique styles, so they can offer distinctively different work for their clients, work that is different from amateur photographers and from the studio down the street.

Image by Joseph & Louise Simone

Image by Larry Peters

Image by Rick & Deborah Ferro

Partnership - An Important Element
at Virtual Backgrounds

When professional photographers choose to work with Virtual Backgrounds, they come to know quickly that we are very serious about the kind of relationship we like to cultivate with each and every one of our customers.  We see our customers more like our partners.  After all, our success depends upon our customers' success.  If our customers do well with our Virtual Backgrounds equipment, they will tell others of their success and in turn, we will all grow.

The central element in our partnership arrangement is education both before and after the sale.  We believe that the more professional photographers know about Virtual Backgrounds, the more they will want to own a system for themselves.  As a result, Virtual Backgrounds sponsors nationally known speakers to conduct seminars for local and national conventions and at various national and international professional photography schools.

Photographers are also always welcome to come to San Marcos to have hands-on experience with Virtual Backgrounds.  Each month, Virtual Backgrounds offers an intensive three-day workshop which attracts photographers from around the world.  We also organize special workshops which include Larry Peters, Joseph & Louise Simone, Greg Stangl, Rick & Deborah Ferro, Trevon Baker and other leading photographers.

Our sales team is not just out to make a sale.  They are Virtual Backgrounds Consultants.  It is their job to determine exactly what it is that each customer needs then help the customer select the proper equipment to fulfill their needs and help their business grow.

A new DVD is being created by Trevon Baker that will help new customers with everything from setting up the system to using it effectively in routine studio work.  Keep an eye on future issues of The Backgrounder for news on the release of this highly anticipated DVD.

Image by Trevon Baker

Another special Virtual Backgrounds feature is unlimited FREE technical support for any owner of a Virtual Backgrounds system.  Jim Wilson, a Brooks Institute graduate and long time member of the Virtual Backgrounds staff, is always ready to assist customers with any questions.  Again, we want our customers to be our partners and to be successful.

The partnership formula has worked well for Virtual Backgrounds.  Many of our customers become our friends, and together we grow into the future.  Together, the possibilities are unlimited!

Background Secrets Revealed

What  makes a good background?  How does one find backgrounds?  What is the best way to capture a background?  What about copyright?  Achieving size perspective?  How do I make my backgrounds look more realistic?  How do I do full length?  What’s the difference between Project-a-Floor, Create-a-Floor and Reflect-a-Floor?

These are but just a few of the many questions photographers have about using creating backgrounds for use in a Virtual Backgrounds system.  Properly capturing and properly utilizing backgrounds are two of the most important issues in using a Virtual Backgrounds system successfully.  We will be looking into creating and using backgrounds in this and many future issues of The Backgrounder.

Our question today is whether or not a photographer should capture their own backgrounds?  The answer is simple.  Absolutely yes!  While Virtual Backgrounds offers more than 1,000 stock backgrounds for sale at very reasonable prices, the common element in our backgrounds is that they are all generic.  They can be used just as effectively by a photographer in New York City, Tokyo or Sydney.  What we don’t offer, for obvious reasons, are backgrounds that are highly specific to a particular culture or region.  Capturing specific backgrounds from your own local area, perhaps even backgrounds that are specific to a particular subject or group is where Virtual Backgrounds enables the photographer to become extremely creative and personalized.

The possibilities are absolutely unlimited.  As job opportunities come up, the photographer will need to give serious thoughts on how background choice can better suit the job. The photographer may even want to capture backgrounds in advance of having a contract to help secure the job.  For example, the most lucrative events are usually bid on by many different photographers.  How do you increase your chances of actually being awarded the contract without always having to have the lowest price?  Creative and specific backgrounds can be the key!

Many photographers will tell the decision-maker that their photography is the best available.  Even if the decision-maker looks at samples, it will probably be hard for them to clearly see much of a difference from one photographer to another.  If one photographer, however, steps forward and offers the decision-maker a style of photography that incorporates customized backgrounds which clearly fit with the theme of the event and significantly enhance the impact of the final product, that photographer has a greater advantage over the other bidders.

Rick Harding of San Antonio, Texas is an excellent example.  Many of the larger proms can generate $10,000 to $15,000 of revenue in a single evening.  That kind of money draws a number of bidders, but Rick usually gets the contract without offering the lowest price.  He offers customized backgrounds that the event supervisors or leaders can actually play a hand in creating.  He talks to the planners about the theme of the event and then goes on to show what he has done for other groups and explains what he can do for this event. The event planners love having an opportunity to help create their own backgrounds and to know that the background used for their event will be exclusive to them.

Click here to see how Rick Harding created the
above custom Wonderland background for a recent prom.

The basis for finding the best backgrounds to photograph is relatively simple.  Ask yourself, "If I could photograph my clients anywhere at all, where would I take them to get just the right background?"  For example, for a particular event, the downtown skyline may be perfect.  You can capture the skyline at just the right moment and then enhance it digitally to make it even better than real.

Henry Oles, Founder and President of Virtual Backgrounds recalls, "One time we had a sorority dance in a beautiful downtown San Antonio hotel.  The first floor lobby had a huge fountain.  It was the perfect background.  The only problem was that the dance was on the third floor and the hotel administration would not allow photographers to set up a temporary studio on the very crowded first floor. So, what did we do?  We came to the hotel a week before the event and photographed the first floor fountains and turned the images into slides.  On the evening of the dance, we set up our studio on the third floor and projected the first floor fountain!  It was perfect!"

Since there are infinite possibilities, it is difficult to give advice as to exactly what one should photograph  other than whatever seems to make good sense for the particular job at hand.  Remember that with Virtual Backgrounds, you can make big things little and small things large.  You have full control over color, contrast, focus and more.   As Rick Harding illustrated above, a little extra computer work, and you can create backgrounds that do not really exist but are spectacular.

If you are looking for ways to be really different, and what photographer isn’t, then capturing your own backgrounds to customize your work is the way to win jobs and keep the customers coming!

Click here to learn how to set up your digital files for quick, easy and creative backgrounds.

Travis Cochran, President of TCPICS, Inc., sent us these comments regarding the importance of backgrounds and how it has improved his business:

"Since taking your class in Feb 2005, our business has more than doubled. Producing slides from local landmarks has made TCPICS the place to get your senior photography done in more and more counties in our area. Please let us know when there are more advanced classes available."

Images by TCPICS

John Dingo
Off on the Right Foot After Only 5 Months!

John Dingo

John Dingo, hard at work in his studio.

The Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system is rapidly becoming one of John Dingo’s most important tools to increase his creativity and build new business.  After several years of thinking about getting into Virtual Backgrounds, John finally made the plunge in January of this year.  John recently attended the May Virtual Backgrounds workshop in Texas and once we saw his samples, we knew he was doing great work.

Like most professional photographers, John did not start off as a professional photographer.  He was a Graphic Designer for a lithography company and then worked for Givson Greeting Cards for 14 years. After that he worked with International Paper for 7 years as a Graphics and Imaging Research Scientist.  During his stint with International Paper, John became interested in sports photography.  For 8 years he had a dual career with the last three being a full time professional photographer.  He has a new 5,300 square foot studio on Main Street in Batavia, Ohio.

John has no senior contracts which so far are locked in by his competitors.  So John goes all out to capture seniors in a unique way to set his studio apart from his competition.  This is where his Scene Machine plays a very important role because the competitors don't have Virtual Backgrounds.  Seniors see his mall advertising and get his direct mail and respond by scheduling.  This year he had 300 seniors!

It took John a few years before he truly realized that a Virtual Backgrounds system was for him.  He liked all the sample photographs he saw but wasn’t completely sold until he understood that he could use the Scene Machine to develop his own style.  John says, “I have my style.  That’s important to me.  I just couldn’t see how the Scene Machine would fit at first, and I was concerned about it working with my lighting.  Then I finally realized that I could do this.”

Since January, John has used the Scene Machine on 45 last minute seniors with 60% of the sessions being created with the Scene Machine coupled with foreground props.  “My seniors love it! They absolutely love it!  They don’t seem to care about the technical part, they just love the end results. Scene Machine makes me different.”

John came to the May 2007 double header workshop at Virtual Backgrounds.  This was the regular VB workshop coupled with three days of an outstanding Larry Peters presentation of his senior photography.  John says, “The workshops were great and will significantly help me grow my business.”

Business-wise, John says he knows for a fact that his use of the Scene Machine is sparking a lot of talk among seniors and their friends.  Many of his seniors don’t yet know that he has a Scene Machine but they are saying, “Those backgrounds are absolutely awesome.”   Several customers have mentioned that their son or daughter had so much fun with his “new toy.”

John paints many of his own backgrounds, photographs them and then turns them into slides.  No one else in the world has these backgrounds.  It’s obvious that the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system will continue to be an important component of Dingo Photography.

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.

To unsubscribe from this emailing, click here. Type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.