March 2009 Issue

In this issue:

VB Print Competition Winners Announced!

Helping Others - The Way it Should Be!

Take a Look! Seeing is Believing!

Next VB Workshop - April 20-22, 2009

Joseph and Louise Simone
Five-Day Workshops

PMA Trade Show Recap

Virtual Backgrounds once again exhibited at Photo Marketing Association (PMA) in Las Vegas the first week of March.  PMA is the major US photography trade show, designed primarily for photo retailers but also for professional photographers.  Virtual Backgrounds had only a single booth but still did live demonstrations using only a 4 x 6 foot screen.  The total working area was 10 x 10 feet, and this included print display and literature distribution.  A 4 x 6 screen was chosen not only because of the small area in which to work but also to prove just how much can be done with a Virtual Backgrounds system in such limited space.  Many photographers feel that they absolutely must have at least an 8 x 8 screen to start with Virtual Backgrounds which just isn’t true.  Starting out with a 4 x 6 screen not only makes it less expensive to get into Virtual Backgrounds but is also very simple to carry to on location assignments such as to pre-schools.

In the April edition of The Backgrounder, we will have a more complete report on PMA and we will publish dozens of photographs taken at PMA in the very restricted area with the 4 x 6 foot screen to put to rest once and for all the notion that nothing much can be done with a small screen.  The variety will be amazing.  We recommend that if you find that a full Virtual Backgrounds system is too expensive right now that you consider starting with a small screen, earn new profits, then later purchase a larger screen to do full length and family portraits.  We offer a special trade-up program.  Ask your VB consultant today about the new Virtual Backgrounds Trade Up Program!

The PMA show did have considerably fewer exhibitors, smaller exhibition stands, and much lower attendance than in years past which is a direct reflection of the current economic conditions and the consolidation that is taking place in the photo industry.  Virtual Backgrounds, however, had a very busy stand with professional photographers from throughout the United States and a number of other countries looking at Virtual Backgrounds as a tool to help them fight the storm and the combat the poor economic conditions.    Photographing the model also brought a lot of attention.  Montana photographer, Trevon Baker, did the photographs of the model with the express intent of generating wide variety on the small background screen.

Trevon Baker in the Virtual Backgrounds trade show studio booth

Green Screen Pasted-in Backgrounds

A growing number of photo labs are offering photographers the opportunity to have green screen backgrounds pasted into their photographs.   The process works but it is extremely limiting.   The subject is photographed blindly against a green background.  The lab simply erases the green background and pastes in the requested background where the green originally existed.  It is an entirely automated process with no room for creativity.  The subject is not posed to the background, and the background is not adjusted to the subject.  The resulting photograph has a simplistic pasted-in look.

The process works reasonably well with simple portraits such as high volume elementary school photography, but it provides absolutely minimum creative expression.  In addition, the process has problems when the subject wears anything that is close to the color green that is being extracted.  Anything near the shade of green that is extracted will be replaced with the background which makes it necessary to carefully inspect every photograph after the extraction replacement process takes place.  Improperly extracted parts have to be put back in.

Green screen is simple for the photographer, especially when the photographer’s lab pastes in the background for them, but it does not begin to represent what can be done by a creative professional photographer working with a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system where there is direct control over all elements of the photograph.

The optically based Virtual Backgrounds process does not have these problems and enables the photographer to inject their own creative judgment into each photograph.  Backgrounds are matched to the subject and vice versa.   The photographer can add props and other effects to create a totally realistic result.

It boils down to the difference between automated assembly line techniques versus utilizing the photographer’s professional judgment and skills.  It’s the difference between a department store photograph and a professional portrait.   One size fits all is not really what professional photography is all about!

WPPI Town Hall Meeting - A Forum about the Future of Photography

It’s no secret that professional photography is in the middle of a perfect storm which has been made much worse by the economic crisis.  WPPI recently took on the challenge of hosting a combination of leading industry executives and a handful of today’s top professional photographers to discuss the ever changing landscape of portrait, wedding, and commercial photography in a town hall meeting format.

Although the intent was right, the actual event did not meet the expectations of many of those who attended and a number left during the forum.  Most of the presenters did not get to the key elements with the exception of the representative from Miller’s Professional labs who stated quite clearly that there is chaos in the industry and that wedding production at Miller’s is down.    The panel of photographers generally talked about working to create a buzz, doing more promotion, getting involved in charity events, creating a blog, selling the total experience, and differentiating between taking a picture and creating a portrait.

One point that was hammered home was that with the blurring of the differentiation between the professional and the amateur, the professional must concentrate on doing what Aunt Betty cannot do.

This is exactly what makes the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system so important.  Aunt Betty does not have a Scene Machine and, therefore, there is no way she can produce the results that can be obtained when it is used.  The Scene Machine becomes an important component in creating a unique experience for the client which in turn leads to sales and profit.

It is our opinion that a town hall type meeting and presentations about dealing with the future of professional photography should be part of every convention.   After all, nothing else matters if we do not have customers.  Without customers, professional photographers are not much more than hobbyists.

Diane Wilson Fantasy and Theme Photography Workshop
April 27-30, 2009

Diane’s next fantasy and theme photography workshop is scheduled for April 27-30, 2009, at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.  In order to enable Diane to give maximum personal attention to each attendee, the class is limited to only 12 photographers. 

You’ve read about Diane’s flea market studio in Toronto, Canada. You have seen her photographs.  And now, one of her students from the February workshop, Elma Flores, just took first place in the VB annual print competition and is receiving $2950 in prizes.  Elma’s entries in the competition were all theme and fantasy images.

Future Diane Wilson‘s Theme It Up workshops will be announced in the May edition of The Backgrounder.

If you are looking for a way to bring new profits back into your studio, book your seat at a Diane Wilson Theme it Up workshop today!  Seats fill fast.  The price is only $595 which includes most materials and lunches each day.  Lunches are served on the VB private railroad dining car for another unique experience.  Hotel accommodations at the nearby Comfort Inn are at a specially arranged price of only $45 per night.  What a deal!

The above images were taken by participants at the recent February Diane Wilson workshop. All attendees take home the images created in the class!

Trevon Baker to Teach at Colorado School
May 18-22, 2009

Imagine attending the Colorado School for a week with Montana photographer, Trevon Baker, high up in the mountains at a Brackenridge ski resort.  You’ll learn all about implementing the Four Dimensions of Studio Portrait Photography to enhance both your quality of photography and your bottom line profits.  Imagine:  Five days at the ski resort in the early spring.  There will still be snow on the mountain tops.

Click here for information and registration.

Rick and Deborah Ferro Coming to VB
June 29-July 1, 2009 

How to Make Money with
Photographic Art

Jacksonville, Florida photographers, Rick and Deborah Ferro will present a special three-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds featuring their money making ideas for selling what they call Photographic Art.  The Ferros just recently did a 21-city nationwide tour teaching their methods but the tour classes were only three hours long and just barely whet the appetites of the attendees.  In this three-day presentation they will be able to delve into the techniques and methods they use as well as conduct numerous demonstrations. 

Deborah is also known nationwide for her Photoshop techniques and her absolutely excellent teaching skills.  Her methods for print enhancement will definitely be part of the course.

It isn’t too soon to call Virtual Backgrounds to register for this exciting course.  Contact us!

Check out Rick and Deborah’s Web site:

Visit Us at the Following Upcoming Trade Shows

*PP of California, Pasadena, California, March 21 - 23, 2009

*Heart of America, March 28 - 30, 2009

Southeastern PPA, Atlanta, April 25 - 27, 2009

*VB is sponsoring Greg Stangl at PP of California and Heart of America

Free Fantasy Photography Calendars Still Available

Virtual Backgrounds in conjunction with Marathon Press and American Photographic Resources is offering a free 2009 photo calendar.  Contact Virtual Backgrounds today for your free copy!

Got a Better Idea for Growing Your Business and Profit?

If so, please share it with us!

We’ve been saying for a long time that there is no more powerful tool for the professional photographer to grow their business and profits, even in these difficult times, than implementing a Virtual Backgrounds system.  No other tool provides the photographer with so much creative versatility and variety that will make your clients buy more.   We don’t know of any, but, if you have a better idea, please tell us what it is!

Compare the profit producing potential of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system with an investment in a new expensive canvas background or polystyrene studio set costing $5,000 or more.  With Virtual Backgrounds, a better more realistic background can be created with a single slide costing no more than $20.  Compare the profit producing potential of a new camera with features you don’t really need with the creative magic a Virtual Backgrounds system will bring.   Virtual is your best investment for growth – bar none!

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!

VB Print Competition
Winners Announced!

Elma Flores Takes the First Prize!

1st Place Image by Elma Flores

Dripping Springs, Texas photographer, Elma Flores took first place in the Virtual Backgrounds print competition.  Second Place went to Paul Kuroda of Piedmont, California.  Third Place was awarded to Sandra Pearce of Okeechobee, Florida.  The first place list of prizes is valued at $2950, while second and third place prizes are valued at $1550 and $850 respectively.

Elma’s winning print is a classic example of fantasy and theme photography.  Elma is completely new to fantasy photography, having attended the Diane Wilson’s course at Virtual Backgrounds in November, 2008.  Elma immediately went back to her studio and started creating great work.  All of Elma’s contest entries represented fantasy and theme photography.

2nd Place Image by Paul Kuroda

The Virtual Backgrounds print competition is unique in many respects.  The emphasis is on the print and not on such things as print matting.  Up to five unmounted 8 x10 prints were accepted from each participant.  Every print had to have been created using a Virtual Backgrounds system to create the background.  Judging was conducted by a team of judges led by Montana photographer, Trevon Baker.

3rd Place Image by Sandra Pearce

Over $5,300 in prizes went to the first, second and third place winners combined.  Honorable mention participants received a certificate of recognition.  All participants received special discount coupons worth more than $1,000.  Entrants are also eligible to receive a free print critique.

It was interesting to note that a number of the prints entered involved fantasy or theme photography.  This is a direct reflection of the popularity and success of this new style of photography that is rapidly growing across the country. 

Prizes for this year’s competition have been generously donated by these sponsors:

American Photographic Resources
Buckeye Color Lab
Diane Wilson
Denny Manufacturing
Excel Picture Frames, Inc
Greg Stangl – Consultant
Nichols Photo Lab
Photogenic Professional Lighting
Posh Props
Rick and Deborah Ferro
Rick Avalos
The Levin Company
Virtual Backgrounds
WEB Photo Supply

The print competition will be conducted against next year.  Now is the time to start identifying your very best prints for next year’s competition.

Helping Others - The Way it Should Be!

These are difficult times for professional photographers and most of their customers.  Recently Diane Wilson, the photographer we know of as the flea market fantasy theme photographer received this note from someone she has never met in person but who she has extended a helping hand.

Allen Johnson

Heaven Sent!


I wrote an entry on my blog and wanted to share with you what I said:

Have you ever felt in over your head?  Bitten off more than you can chew?  Well, all have, if we are willing to admit it.  I am.  And I was, that is until I met Diane Wilson.  I had just received my new baby, the Virtual Backgrounds system.  This is one investment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt had great potential, but I needed to know how to unlock it.

Enter, Diane Wilson.  I perused the company’s Web site of the Virtual Backgrounds system to see how other photographers were utilizing this fabulous tool.  While I thought I would get some helpful hints and maybe a few suggestions, I was never prepared for what I received when I contacted the owner of Until Dawn Photography.  Let’s face it, photography is a competitive arena, and artists aren’t always willing to share their wisdom or insight.  So understand my surprise when this angel gave to me by way of her valuable time more answers and direction than I could imagine.  Sounds like I am gushing, doesn’t it?  Well, I am and rightly so.  Remember my opening questions.

Diane went beyond even common courteousness in the support she offered.  She directed me to manufacturers of prop supplies, gave me leads on customers and even had slide images that would assist me in building up my library of backgrounds.  She kindly walked me through setting up my staging area.

What really sent it over the top was when she shared some of the magic-making secrets of PhotoShop that really bring the final image to life.  I sent her some of my images and she took the time to make adjustments and send them back to me so that I, too, would be able to understand and apply what I was seeing.

Diane has graciously spent more than just a couple of hours with this grateful photographer.  I acknowledge that I know of no way to repay her for her kindness and servant’s heart, than to express my most sincere thanks and prayers of blessing on her - personally and professionally.

Thanks for everything!

Allen Johnson

In these difficult times, we can help each other develop new ideas and grow through sharing.  We at Virtual Backgrounds are thrilled to have been a part of this growth for both Diane and Allen.  At Virtual Backgrounds, we do everything we can to help our clients grow their business and profits.

Take a Look!  Seeing is Believing!

See Samples of Portraits Taken at Major Convention
Trades Shows with Virtual Backgrounds

Photographers are picture people.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  If you ever had a doubt about the Virtual Backgrounds concept, prepare yourself for a big surprise.  See for yourself the results that were captured  under the most inhospitable conditions within trade show booths as small as 8 x 10 feet and during the trade show using only a main light, reflector, a separation light, and with little or no props.

Look at the backgrounds.  Look at the variety.  Look at the imaging magic that could be enticing new customers to the studio and all the new profits that will result.   A Virtual Backgrounds system is the most powerful tool you can add to your studio.  The proof of the value of a Virtual Backgrounds system is in the photographs!

Take A Look!

Photokina – Koln, Germany

Virtual Backgrounds exhibits at Photokina, the world’s largest photography show held every two years in Koln, Germany, attracting nearly 200,000 photographers.  Photographers, Joseph and Louise Simone, Trevon Baker, Cindy Cofer, Marian Oles, and Greg Stangl were able to quickly capture exciting sample photographs of Photokina attendees who stopped to have a look.

PPA’s Imaging USA – Phoenix, Arizona

Photographers Cindy Cofer, Trevon Baker, Joseph and Louise Simone, and Greg Stangl captured hundreds of photographs of both trade show attendees and amateur models.  Over 7,000 photographers attended the event.

WPPI Las Vegas, Nevada

Photographers Cindy Cofer and Trevon Baker captured images of dozens of photographers attending the WPPI show and several amateur models.  Over 12,000 photographers attended WPPI this year.

PMA Las Vegas, Nevada

Working in a exhibit area only 8 x 10 feet with only a 4 x 6 foot background screen, photographer Trevon Baker was able to capture these images of show goers and amateur models.   There is no better way to make maximum use out of minimum space.

Times may be difficult right now, but the implementation of Virtual Backgrounds can help you fight the storm and earn big profits.  Aunt Susie and Uncle Fred cannot take images like this, even if they spend a ton of money on their digital camera!  Can you see why Virtual Backgrounds is the most powerful and the most creative tool a professional photographer can add to their studio?  Let Virtual Backgrounds help you be more creative and more profitable.

Next Virtual Backgrounds Workshop
April 20-22, 2009

There is no better way to learn about Virtual Backgrounds and how you can implement this phenomenal process in your studio than to attend a three-day intensive workshop taught by Jim Wilson and Montana photographer, Trevon Baker.   The next workshop will be held on April 20-22, 2009.   This workshop can be a career-changing experience for all photographers.  If you are truly looking for a way to grow your studio in these tough times, this is the most important workshop you can attend.  It is not a touchy feely workshop.  It is all business.

The April VB workshop is scheduled just a few days before the next Diane Wilson fantasy and theme photography workshop.  Some photographers will attend the VB workshop, take a few days off to enjoy central and south Texas and return to attend the Diane Wilson workshop all on the same trip.

Contact us for information and registration.

Joseph and Louise Simone
Five-Day Workshops

Joseph and Louise Simone will be teaching a five-day workshop at their chateau near Montreal, Canada from June 22 – 26, 2009.  In addition, Virtual Backgrounds is very pleased to announce that the Simones will again be conducting a workshop at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Education Center in San Marcos, Texas in November, 2009.  The exact dates will be announced next month in The Backgrounder.

Joseph and Louise Simone – in their own words:

During these hard economic times, we should rise to the opportunity of distinguishing ourselves by further developing our creativity and growing toward the achievement of higher quality. Let us offer our customers images that will undoubtedly convince them that they invested their money in a signature portrait rather than a common snapshot.  Join us at the Cote-de-Vaudreuil Vineyard, as we will guide you in bringing your artistic talent to greater heights! 

For more information and to register, click here to be directed to the Simones’ Web site.

Learn how to fight the Perfect Storm and
now the recession too.

Learn the secrets of Virtual Backgrounds!

Plan now to attend the April 20-22, 2009,
workshop with Trevon Baker and Jim Wilson!

Contact us to get signed up now!

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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