March 2008 Issue

In this issue:

The March Simone Workshop -
Beyond Indescribable

Candid Comments from Workshop

The Colorado Workshops -
A Really Special School

Owning a Virtual Backgrounds System
Can Equal Money in the Bank

Featured Photographer: Rainy Chastine
A Bundle of Creative Energy!

Now Available!
Senior 2009


Order your Senior 2009
set now!

Create sample images now to help promote your senior sales.

Click here to view the complete
Senior 2009 background library set.

On Sale Now!
Senior 2008

50% Off
(while supplies last)

Regular price $159

Special price only $79.50!!!

Click here to view the complete
Senior 2008 background library set.

Have You made a Conscious
Decision to NOT participate in
the Economic Downturn

There is an economic downturn going on across the country.  Photographers have been feeling it for a long time since it began for them as part of the Perfect Storm.  Every time we turn on the news, we hear about the recession.  Yes, photographers have some big problems and the country now also has economic problems.  The question is this, “Is participation in the downturn mandatory or optional?”

Pessimists will surely say that there is no choice.  The lot has been cast.  Everyone is going to suffer.  Optimists on the other hand continue to look for new opportunities - new ways to grow their business even in difficult times.  Who is smarter - the pessimists with doom and gloom or the optimists with a drive to surge forward?  At Virtual Backgrounds, we believe in the optimists!

The Founder and President of Virtual Backgrounds, Dr. Henry Oles, wrote the book The Professional Photographers Perfect Storm but some have misinterpreted its intention.  It is his fundamental philosophy that it is critically important to take a realistic look at the facts and then make an intelligent plan to deal with reality.  The ultimate message in the Perfect Storm is that there is more opportunity than ever for success in professional photography.  We just have to be cleverer than ever before and utilize the latest tools that are now available.  Those who just complain about the storm but do nothing to help themselves will suffer the most.  The storm and the economic downturn are real but we don’t have to go down with it.

Things are changing.  A glance at photographer’s websites is showing huge changes in style.  Attendance at business/marketing workshops is way up.  Aggressive, enterprising photographers are quickly changing their methods and reinventing their businesses.  They can’t succeed if they move toward producing work that amateurs can also produce.  They have to concentrate their efforts on producing work amateurs cannot come close to producing.

Remember, the major difference between a professional photographer and an amateur photographer is the number of shots it takes to get a good one!  The difference is clearer if the professional produces products that the amateurs cannot duplicate, even if they take hundreds or thousands of photographs.

Virtual Backgrounds is a tool that can clearly help the professional photographer produce an infinite variety of work that cannot be done by even advanced amateurs or low level professionals.  Virtual Backgrounds is the most powerful product available to help professional photographers fight the downturn.

Focus Groups can Provide
Valuable Information 

When was the last time that you went directly to your clients to ask them what they wanted their photographs to look like?  Don’t assume that you know best.  Continually ask your customer base what they would like to see.  This is the best way to run a successful business and keep up with the times.

California photographer, Bill Hodge, plans to expand his sphere of influence by conducting focus groups.  Throughout the year, he plans to organize several such groups to help him learn how his customers respond to Virtual Backgrounds.  He will also ask them how they suggest he market the new concept.  Can you imagine a better way to learn about what customers want than to simply ask them directly?

Conducting a focus group does not have to be expensive.  You can do it on your own.  Let’s say you want to better understand the high school senior market in your area.  What better way to learn about that market than to bring in a group of “advisors” from the junior class for a pizza party?  Ask the right questions, be receptive, and they will tell you what they really want in photography.  Show them samples of various kinds of photography and let them rate the images. 

Not only will you learn a lot, but the “advisors” will be thrilled that you cared enough to ask their opinion.  Those who participate and see the special work that you can do, such as the magic that is created with the Scene Machine, will likely tell others.  Many of them will become your customers, regardless of who has the high school contract.  Ask the teens what they want to see because even though you were a teen once, it doesn’t mean that you understand what today’s customer base is interested in also.

With focus groups, your customers will tell you what they want, and then you must deliver! That is the key to success!

The VB Mail Bin

Images by Don Hileman

Don Hileman from Boardman, Ohio writes-

I was listening to a local radio talk show last week. The topic was this, "Are you better off now than you were five years ago?"  The host of the talk show likes to find fault with anything in government and at times he can be irritating.  A woman called in and said she has a photography business.  She stated she is not doing the business she had 5 years ago because of the popularity of digital cameras.  “People are satisfied with any photos and really don't put emphasis on quality,” she said. 

She went on to talk about her business decline and how she still uses film cameras for most of her photographs.  The cameras are very high quality and do an outstanding job.  She said that the investment in good digital equipment was not possible.

The host of the show seemed surprised at her story.  He stated,  "Gee, you always see the photographer at the weddings.  It is the expected thing."  He did not seem to realize that seeing a photographer at a wedding is not equal to the photographer making money.  He tried to tie her story to the economic troubles in this valley and country.    

My thoughts - while she was talking, I was thinking, has she read the Perfect Storm?  Most likely she had. A Virtual Backgrounds system could be a big asset to her business, enabling her to provide more variety to her customers and that would help sales.  That’s what people want today.  We have to offer a product that people can’t create themselves.

I Cannot Afford a
Virtual Backgrounds

We hear this all the time, but it is really true?  Can a professional photographer afford not to own a Virtual Backgrounds system? Many photographers want a system but think in only terms of a top of the line projector and a huge screen.  On the other hand, if they were to start with a Spectravue 200 and a small screen, the total cost could be about $4000. With our 50/50 financing plan, the down payment is only $2000 (followed by 12 equal monthly payments with zero interest).  In addition to this, we have a trade up program!  As you turn your Virtual Backgrounds system into new cash, you can trade up to a larger screen or higher end projector.  There is also the option of purchasing a refurbished system.  You will be amazed how much highly creative work you can do with just a 4’ x 6’ screen.

Very often, money is poured into a newer digital camera or computer when current equipment is still working quite well.  Success in business means carefully managing, spending, and investing in things that will bring you new business and sales to give you a high return on investment (ROI).

Talk to your Virtual Backgrounds consultant about our many special plans to help you get into the new magic of Virtual Backgrounds for your studio operation. It can make all the difference!

Save $50 by Registering Today for the Upcoming Children and Family Photographers Association of America Conference!

Click here to be directed
the CFPA website.

Jim Richard Shares
a Spring Promo Image

Jim Richard, a frequent contributor to The Backgrounder, generously shares his spring 2008 promotion with our readers.  Jim has shared his Christmas Santa photos, Easter photos, and his Spring specials.  Jim is an ardent user of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system which enables him to continually create a wide variety of exciting new images. Keep up the great work Jim, and thanks for sharing your outstanding work with our readers!

Studio Pro Monostands
Now Available!

Click here to see an enlarged image of the Studio Pro monostand.

The Studio Pro Monostand has become so popular that we were temporarily out of stock.  The good news is that we have received a new shipment of the monostand, backorders are currently being filled, and new orders are being taken now.  Furthermore, in anticipation of more sales, we have ordered more stands which should be arriving soon!

The Studio Pro Monostand is the perfect stand for professional photographers.  It is highly professional-looking and enables the photographer to work from above head height to almost at floor level.  A special feature of the Studio Pro Monostand is the accessory tray.  One tray is included, and a second optional tray conveniently holds the photographer’s laptop computer or flat screen monitor for immediate viewing on a large screen.  With the new live action viewing cameras, photographers can also see the image as it is being composed.  The Studio Pro Monostand is perfectly suited for use with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.

Contact your Virtual Backgrounds consultant for more information!

Stepping Outside of One's Comfort Zone is a Huge Step Towards Success!

This is a topic that we recently posed to Leann Kucerik of Wakeeney, Kansas, a participant in this month’s Simone workshop at Virtual Backgrounds.   Leann has only been in photography for three years, but she purchased her Virtual Backgrounds system two years ago to help her be distinctively different.

“It’s a comfort zone thing,” Leann said.  “I feel that too many photographers get into their comfort zone and continue to do things as they have always done them.  They are afraid to move out of that comfort zone and try new and different things.  The Scene Machine makes my work in the studio so much easier.  I don’t have to worry about changing canvas and muslin and buying new ones.  It’s the way to go!”

Leann further states, "Virtual Backgrounds is the type of tool that one has to try for themselves.  Yes, it is a challenge.  It may be outside of the comfort zone for some.  For those who think outside of the box and embrace change, the rewards are enormous!"

Remember -
Nothing Ventured,
Nothing Gained!

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!

The March Simone Workshop
Beyond Indescribable!

Pictured left to right: Henry & Marian Oles and Louise & Joseph Simone

Beyond indescribable! That’s what participants in a Joseph and Louise Simone workshop said about their experience.  There are no words to sufficiently describe what a Simone workshop means to the professional photographer who desires to move to the highest level of artistic expression in portraiture.  There is no other workshop that compares in terms of teaching excellence, passion, feeling, and technical information.  These things combined lead to the creation of absolutely stunning and timeless portraiture. 

In life, there are "must see" experiences and participating in a Simone workshop at least once should be a goal for any photographers who aim to become professional portrait artists.  Some participants come back again and again because there is so much to learn.  One photographer, Jenhor Siow, flew 20 hours from Kuala Lampour in Malaysia to attend the recent Simone workshop held at Virtual Backgrounds this month!  Others came from in Mexico, Canada, and all parts of the US

Since this workshop so quickly filled to a capacity of 26, we started a wait list for the next Simone workshop to be scheduled later this year at Virtual Backgrounds.  The Simones are also offering a special workshop at their new private vineyard facility just north of Montreal as well as a unique week long workshop to be held in Tuscany Italy this fall.  Tuscany includes the opportunity to capture innumerable old world backgrounds for use with a Virtual Backgrounds system.  Both the Montreal and the Tuscany workshops are nearly full.

The Simones use the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system for about 75% of their work, using special background transparencies that they created themselves.  The bulk of the remaining 25% is done on location.  In their classes, the Simones demonstrate many different kinds of photography including outdoor work with minimal light.

What is so fascinating about the Simones' work is that their style is continually evolving and changing.  The masterpieces they produce today are quite different from what they created just a few years ago.  In every case, the images are timeless and reflect a style of artistry that will never go out of date and will not in any way be affected by The Perfect Storm that is devastating so many photographers today.

Pictured above with the Simones, Jenhor Siow (center) from
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia flew 20 hours to attend
Joseph & Louise workshop in San Marcos, Texas this month!

For information on the Simones workshops in Montreal and Italy, contact Joseph and Louise directly in Canada by visiting their website at   To place yourself on the wait list for the next Simone workshop at Virtual Backgrounds in San Marcos, Texas, contact us at [email protected].

Too many photographers think and act like paparazzi photographers and wonder why they don’t sell much.  It’s not how many shots you take - it’s the quality.

-Joseph Simone

Candid Comments from Those Who Attended the Recent Simone Workshop

“This is the best seminar I have ever been to.  I have learned so very much and I can’t wait to put it all to use.  Thanks very much for the opportunity, hospitality and all the information!”

Leann Kucerik – Wakeeney, Kansas

“Wow!!!  Outstanding.  Inspiring.  Learning at the feet of the masters.  Many instructors show you your ignorance by making you feel stupid, but the Simones are more like loving parents who nourish you with their love of photography.”

Elton Reynolds - Pflugerville, Texas

“It was a fantastic week with the Simones.  I loved the creativity of making a beautiful portrait out of fabrics and paper.  They have a wonderful way of teaching, and you feel the passion in your heart and are so excited and cannot wait to practice what you have learned.  Truly inspirational!”

Debbie Pretsch – Montgomery, Texas

“Way above my expectation and definitely worth the long trip from the other side of the world.  Not only have they taught me photography, they also taught about the journey as a photographer through highs and lows.  They have changed my life!”

Jenhor Siox - Kuala Lampur Malaysia

"The Simone workshop was all that I expected and more - much more.  To learn in a small class with one on one communications is great.  The Simones are grand instructors.  I have attended many seminars and workshops.  This Simone workshop was the best!”

Jim Tisby – Waukegan, Illinois

“Knowledge, creativity, passion.  I absolutely loved the program and am honored to have been taught by two of the most wonderful Masters.”

Jackie Koscinski - Morristown, NJ

“Phenomenal!  They are not only master artists but master teachers.  They are warm, friendly, genuine and very approachable.   They were willing to answer and address any and all questions.  Their class has opened my eyes and helped me set the course for changes in our studio to take me to the next level.”

Karen Crowder - Pendleton, Oregon

“The Simone workshop was a wonderful opportunity to learn, absorb and understand the absolute passion and dedication they have for their breathtaking work.”

Charlie McDonald - Naples, Florida

The Colorado Workshops in Breckenridge
A Really Special School

Many state and regional associations bring in special instructors for week-long photography schools.  None of them, however, have a setting quite like the Colorado school.  High up in the mountains at Brackenridge, attendees experience springtime in the mountains.  It’s a perfect time of year! This is one of the most beautiful seasons, and the summer tourists have yet to arrive meaning low hotel rates.  It’s a great place to spend a week, let alone grow your knowledge of professional photography.  This year’s Colorado Workshops are scheduled for May 18 – 22, 2008.

Instructors include Trevon Baker (4 Dimensions of Portraiture), Sara Frances (Album Design), Scott Dupras (Painter), Ken Sklute (Weddings), Kalen Henderson (Seniors), Don MacGregor (Portraiture), Kevin Kubota (Photoshop), and Michael & Tina Timmons (Fine Art Portraiture).

Virtual Backgrounds is sponsoring Trevon Baker, Cr. Photog. of Kalispell, Montana.  Trevon is a devoted long time user of Virtual Backgrounds and a distinguished platform speaker and educator.  His program weaves through the importance of background variety into the basic components of taking good portraiture in a studio environment.  Trevon’s programs are highly acclaimed.  His Colorado Workshop course is primarily designed for beginning and intermediate level professional photographers who want to learn how to fully integrate the four basic components of a quality portrait.

Click here for more information about the Colorado Workshops!

Owning a Virtual Backgrounds System
Can Equal Money in the Bank

Let’s pretend for a moment that your name is Sam and you run an automobile garage.  Most cars today are computer controlled and require special equipment to test, diagnose and repair.  Sam resists investing in the new equipment, and as a result, there are fewer and fewer cars that Sam can work on.  Now, Sam’s business is dropping, and soon he will be out of business entirely unless he makes a change.

If Sam would invest in the new equipment, he would most likely end up saving his business and earning new profits too!  Sam, who is refusing to change his ways, complains that the new equipment costs too much.  He says, “I can’t afford that and my old equipment used to work just fine.”  Sam is stuck.  He can’t understand why the world of auto repair changed so much that he now has to learn new things and make expensive purchases.   However, if he doesn’t buy the equipment he will go broke.  If he does buy the equipment, it will open his shop to all kinds of new business. The equipment, when properly used, will quickly pay for itself with the new profits it generates.  Furthermore, the new equipment will continue to generate new profits that Sam never thought was possible.  

Of course, this storyline applies to most business owners including the business of professional photography.  The past is in the past.  The world is ever-changing.   In order to function in the present and future the photographer has to change and evolve.  It’s normal to long for the “good old days,” but those days are gone forever!  Live in the now and get ready because tomorrow will be here before you know it!  Be prepared, be flexible, and be successful!

Featured Photographer
Rainy Chastine
A Bundle of Creative Energy!

Click here to see many more of Rainy Chastine's images.

Rainy Chastine is high energy and she is pumped about her new Virtual Backgrounds system. It is obvious within the first few moments of meeting her.  Whatever she does, she does with enormous enthusiasm.  That is exactly what Rainy has done with the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system which she has had for only a short time.

Rainy has known about the Scene Machine system for a number of years but never really put her hands on it.  So when she heard that Austin photographer, Jennifer Turner was taking a serious look at a system for her studio and coming to a demonstration in San Marcos, Texas, Rainy boarded a plane in Atlanta and flew over to be part of the demonstration.  Once Rainy got her hands on the system, she immediately ordered one for her studio.  When it arrived in her Atlanta studio, Rainy immediately put it to work and started creating great images.  Her initial learning curve was almost non existent, but Rainy is never satisfied and continues to push the boundaries.

Rainy opened a studio in Georgia in 1997, in a restored Victorian house in the historical district.  She has a staff of 5 and specializes in babies and families in an upscale community that demands variety and quality.  Rainy services over 600 families a year with an average of about $600 to $650 per sitting.

Always interested in background variety, Rainy owns nine Off The Wall sets which now serve as perfect accessories for her Virtual Backgrounds system.  She has displays her work throughout her community including at hospitals, doctor’s offices, restaurants and community centers.  She is on the board of United Way and donates generously to various community projects.

Rainy is a full-fledged optimist!  Emphatically, Rainy believes that “disappointment only means that something better is coming along” and “the best is yet to come!”

A look at Rainy’s work clearly shows her talent and creativity.  She has her Scene Machine in a separate camera room which she calls her “magic studio.”  She does her regular studio work for a client and then offers to bring them over to the “magic studio.”  The response is always the same - the clients love the magic results!

Rainy’s web site is

Rainy is a perfectionist and has generously agreed to allow us to display her first work with Virtual Backgrounds.  She says, though, that she will send us more of her samples which will be even better than these!  We will display them in upcoming issues of The Backgrounder, and we thank Rainy Chastine for sharing her images with all of us!  Keep up the excellent work, Rainy!

Click here to see many more of Rainy Chastine's images.

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

Click here for our upcoming trade show,
seminar and affiliate school schedule.

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