November 2008 Issue

In this issue:

Week-long Simone Workshop at VB:
A Huge Success!

VB Print Competition Update:
Photo Contest Gets even MORE Prizes!

Reflective Material for Your Props

It's Not Too Late to Get Money
Back from the IRS

Featured Photographer:
Esso Nordhoff III

“I want to thank you for writing the book The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm.  Because of it, I was more prepared for the type of photography world this has become.  Furthermore, I would like to use your booklet for a class I am teaching for the Michigan Professional Photographers.”

Chris Miller

December 22: The Last Day
for Shipping in 2008

If you want to get a Virtual Backgrounds system and have it on your books for 2008 so you can get the big government instant deduction that can save you up to 35% of the value on your 2008 income taxes, you had better hurry.  Our last day for shipping products out this year will be December 22, 2008.  After that, we will be closed so our employees can enjoy the holidays with their families.

A Key to Fighting the Storm:  New Educational Programs at Virtual Backgrounds

Virtual Backgrounds will be significantly expanding our highly successful educational programs in 2009 utilizing our new San Marcos Texas classroom studio facility.  San Marcos is half way between Austin and San Antonio which makes it easily accessible by plane and by car.  It is also serviced by Amtrak.  There are major airports with low rates to both Austin and San Antonio.

In addition to the three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshops that are scheduled every month, there will be workshops by Joseph and Louise Simone, Debbie and Rick Ferro, Diane Wilson, Rick Avalos, Rick Harding, Cindy Cofer, Greg Stangl, Trevon Baker, Chris Wunder, and many others.  Each presentation is structured to help the participants grow their businesses even during these difficult times.   Virtual Backgrounds is rapidly developing the reputation of being an outstanding educational center for professional photographers who really want to grow.  We conduct workshops by photographers who actually do what they say they do.  Stay tuned to The Backgrounder for specific events and dates of these highly anticipated events!

Virtual Backgrounds also has a policy to sponsor speakers for local and regional convention presentations.  Virtual Backgrounds president, Dr. Henry Oles, a former university professor and lifelong professional photographer, and designer & manufacturer of Virtual Backgrounds systems, strongly believes that “the future of professional photography lies in photographer education in not only technology but also in business management and marketing - the key to success is found in education.”  Oles is the author of numerous books and articles including The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm and BACKGROUND POWER!  He also was the author of a monthly column titled, “Your Bottom Line,” which ran for ten years in The Professional Photographer magazine published by PPA.  He has been a featured speaker in most states and a number of countries.

If your association is looking  for sponsored speakers who can bring your members new ideas and methods for building studio profit while under these stormy conditions, contact Virtual Backgrounds for more information on our line-up of fabulous speakers!

Diane Wilson’s Theme It Up Workshop Scheduled for February, 2009

Want Profits Up? 
Then Theme It Up!

Diane Wilson, the Toronto area children’s theme photographer who operates a weekends-only studio in an indoor flea market, will be conducting a four-day workshop at VB in San Marcos on February 9-12, 2009.  The class will be limited to 8 participants with a total cost of $595 including lunches.  It is being kept very small, because it involves extensive hands on experience.  A special $45 hotel rate has been arranged at the nearby Comfort Inn.

Diane first presented this workshop in July, 2008 to a very enthusiastic group which included Elma Flores who then created such terrific images that she was a Featured Photographer in the September 2008 edition of The Backgrounder.  The class will cover all aspects of theme photography for children including image enhancement.

Diane is creating an inspirational theme portrait photo calendar in conjunction with Marathon Press, Virtual Backgrounds, American Photographic Resources and Enchanted Costumes, with guest photographers Cindy Cofer and Elma Flores.  The calendar will be distributed at the PPA, PMA, and WPPI conventions!

If you are looking for a dramatic new way to expand your operation, reserve your seat now.  This class will fill quickly.   Contact us today!

Click here to go to Diane’s Web site.

Rick Harding to be Guest Speaker January 26, 2009

How to Make Money in Event and School Photography

Known as the Prom King of San Antonio, photographer Rick Harding will conduct a full-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds on special event photography such as proms and school photography including high school seniors. The workshop will be held on January 26, 2009.

Following in the footsteps first established by his father, Rick is a high volume photographer.  He is the owner of eight Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds systems, and often has all of them in use at one time.  Rick is known for doing the impossible, such as the number of clients he moves past his camera set up per hour and also for his unique customized backgrounds for special events.  Rick got into using Virtual Backgrounds to clearly distinguish his product and to not have to be the cheapest photographer in order to secure contracts.

Rick will reveal his methods of acquiring contracts, keeping contracts, and producing the products that his clients will want to buy.  He will talk extensively on how he utilizes his Scene Machines to make his work special and how to sell more products. 

This workshop immediately follows the three day January 23-25, 2009, Virtual Backgrounds workshop taught by Jim Wilson and Trevon Baker. Photographers attending the VB workshop may choose to stay for the Rick Harding fourth day or photographers may elect to attend only the Rick Harding workshop.  The cost for the Harding workshop is only $89 and will include lunch.

Contact Virtual Backgrounds today to register for the Rick Harding workshop.

2009 Virtual Backgrounds Workshop Schedule Announced!

The schedule has been set for the very popular three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshops held monthly in San Marcos, Texas.  This year, the workshop will be taught by both Jim Wilson, Cr Photog and Trevon Baker, Cr Photog.

January 26 - 28
February 23 - 25
March 16 - 18
April 20 - 22
May 18 - 20
June 8 - 10
July 13 - 15
August 10 - 12
September 14 - 16
October 19 - 21
November 16 - 18

Many classes will have an optional special fourth day workshop event. Contact your VB consultant to make reservations.

Is This the Time to Purchase New Equipment?

The stock market is crashing. Home prices are crashing.  Business is down for just about everyone.  Is this a good time to think about purchasing new equipment?   Well it all depends.  Most business people will probably say no.  Hang on to your cash.  There is some truth to that.  For example, if you don’t really need to purchase a newer model camera, because your current cameras are doing just fine, then you should probably wait.  Your customers will never know the difference and the new cameras won’t bring you any new business or profits. 

However, if you are looking at a new tool such as Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds, or any product that you do not now have that can significantly help energize your business providing you with new ways to attract customers and grow sales, then you need that new product now more than ever.  If business is down, you can just sit and wait for it to come back or you can take overt action to bring business back. 

That is exactly what Virtual Backgrounds can do for you!  It stimulates business growth!  It increases sales!   It is an excellent investment!

Perfect Storm Rocks Professional Associations

The perfect storm is now affecting our professional organizations, especially some of the smaller ones.  Major suppliers like Kodak and Fuji have severely cut back on financial sponsorship support that.  Other smaller suppliers are limiting their support as well.  Membership and attendance at conventions is being affected.  As a result, speaker fees are being reduced, and associations have to carefully monitor all of their expenses sometimes having to lay off employees. 

The future for many smaller associations is questionable.  Larger associations like the Professional Photographers of America and WPPI are growing in members, a direct reflection of the huge numbers of amateurs who are now becoming professionals.    However, the Photo Marketing Association International, the largest organization for the photographic industry, has suffered severe reduction in membership and trade show participation.  Its once popular magazine, Photo Marketing, is now just a shadow of what it was only a few years ago. The future is cloudy.  Some of these organizations will have to merge or disappear entirely.

An association is in many ways no different from an individual.  It has to keep up with the times or the world will pass it by.  Too many of our associations have spent too much of their resources on social and other internal functions and too little of their resources on developing the public’s taste for professional photography.  This should be their primary job.  As the public loses interest in professional photography and doesn’t know the difference between amateur and professional work, both the associations and their members suffer.

Jay Marino's New
Concept Photography

Your Pictures - Your Way!

Florida photographer, Jay Marino of New Concept Photography, has a new marketing strategy for bringing in business using his Virtual Backgrounds system.  Most system users select backgrounds themselves for their clients after they have a general idea what the client is seeking.  Jay sends his clients to his Web site where they can view over 100 potential backgrounds and make their own selections or what he calls pre-selection.

Jay reports, “This way, the clients get directly involved with the process.  They select their own backgrounds, they choose clothing to bring and they also even come up with some pose ideas.  They often bring a list with them of what they are looking for.  This process gets the client directly involved, and they are more likely to like images that they had a role in planning. Of course we reserve the right to make changes.   It’s all part of our new concept - Your pictures! Your way!

Keep up the great work Jay!

Make Sports Portraits
Really Special

Lora Yeater of West Virginia knows how to make her sports photographs really special.  She uses her Scene Machine to project appropriate sports backgrounds.  It’s the best of all worlds - quality photography with great lighting and posing coupled with a sport-related background.  The only possible improvement in this portrait would be a stadium full of football fans.  It is important that the stadium be their own stadium.  The background can play a critical role in not only bringing subjects to the studio but also helping to significantly increase orders.   Try it for every sport!  The kids will love it!


The Only Book Ever
Written on Backgrounds

Background Power!, a 225 page hard cover book by Dr. Henry Oles, is available from Virtual Backgrounds, Marathon Press and Amazon.  Background Power! It provides the reader with a wealth of ideas for turning backgrounds into new profits.

Traditionally, portrait photographers have placed minimal attention on the background, often just using one or two canvas backgrounds.  Background Power! shows how background variety and especially customized backgrounds can generate entirely new profit centers for the portrait studio. Backgrounds are a key way to gather new sales, enhance total sales average, and translate into profit for the studio owners.

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!

Week-long Simone Workshop
at VB: A Huge Success!

November brought 33 photographers to San Marcos as Joseph and Louise Simone conducted their 5th week long workshop at VB.  Eight attendees came from Mexico, one from the Dominican Republic, one from Columbia and one from Sri Lanka.

The workshop began with a special reception on Sunday evening and continued until noon on Friday with social events each evening.  The Simone workshop covered the use of Virtual Backgrounds, high key, and outdoor photography.  They also demonstrated how to create your own backgrounds.  The Simones emphasize the creation of timeless portraits that are always in demand.   Twenty-five photographers are already on the wait list for the next Simone workshop. Contact us to be added to the list for priority registration!

Only a Hop, Skip, and a Jump!
Sri Lanka Photographer Comes to
the US Three Times in One Year

Ranjith De Silva decided to come to America from Sri Lanka to attend the February 2008 PMA show in Las Vegas.  It was at the PMA show that he first saw the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  He was so captivated by it that he flew back to the US to San Marcos, Texas to attend the June three-day Virtual Backgrounds workshop and to order a system.  Then he heard about Joseph and Louise Simone presenting a five-day workshop in November at VB so he flew back again.  After all, it is a mere 23 hour trip from the other side of the world.   Upon leaving San Marcos, he said, “Let me know what other workshops you are going to have in San Marcos.  You may see me again.” 

Ranjith makes time to learn about the latest technology and methods that he can bring back to Sri Lanka.  He makes learning as much as possible his top priority, because he knows that this is the key to success in the portrait photography industry!

VB Print Competition Update:

Virtual Backgrounds Photo Contest
Gets Even MORE Prizes!

2008 Sponsors

Click here for a PDF download of
the model release and entry form!

Everyone who enters the Virtual Backgrounds photo contest WINS!  Every entrant receives valuable coupons from a select group of suppliers plus the opportunity to win big prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.  Every entrant can also ask for and receive free print evaluations.  Unlike most print competitions that require entry fees and the submission of large expensive prints, this competition limits entries to 8  x 10  unmounted prints.  All the focus of the judges will be on the photography, as it should be.

The deadline for submission of prints is January 15, 2009.  Photographers can submit up to 6 prints.  Click here to download the PDF entry form.  The only requirement is that Virtual Backgrounds was used to create the background for every print.

Now is the time to identify your best prints or shoot some special prints specifically for the competition.  You can’t lose.  Everyone wins and some photographers will really win big!

Listed below are the competition sponsors and what each place will win in the contest.  There are thousands of dollars in prizes for the winners plus the special coupons and other benefits for every entrant.  You simply can’t lose in this print competition!

1st place:
  • 1 AKC 160 Mono light ~ Photogenic Professional Lighting ($259 value)
  • 20% off any Custom Molded Frame ~ The Levin Company
  • $165 Standard Screen with Croplines
  • 3 Hours of Private Business Consulting with Greg Stangl ($750 value)
  • Set of Mixed slides created by Diane Wilson ($600 value)
  • 5’ x 8’ FlexTex Backdrop of choice ~ Denny Manufacturing ($600 value)
  • $150 Credit toward any Canvas Wrap Print ~ Buckeye Color Lab
  • Set of Profit Building and Marketing Strategies by Rick Avalos ($129 value)
  • 20 x 30 Standout Print ~ Mpix ($110 value)
  • $100 off of one Complete Prop Set ~ Posh Props
  • 16 x 20 Portrait Frame ~ Excel Frames
  • Instructional How To CD on lighting & posing by Rick & Deborah Ferro ($40 value)
2nd place:
  • Set of Mixed slides created by Diane Wilson ($400 value)
  • 2 Hours of Private Business Consulting with Greg Stangl ($500 value)
  • Set of Profit Building and Marketing Strategies by Rick Avalos ($129 value)
  • VEST-(size) & Monopod (WT1003) ~ Denny Manufacturing ($115 value)
  • 20 x 30 Standout Print~ Mpix ($110 value)
  • $100 Lab Credit at
  • $75 off of one Complete Prop Set ~ Posh Props
  • 16 x 20 Portrait Frame ~ Excel Frames
  • Instructional How To CD on lighting & posing by Rick & Deborah Ferro ($40 value)
  • 15% off any Ready Made Frame ~ The Levin Company
3rd place:
  • Set of Mixed slides created by Diane Wilson ($200 value)
  • 10% off any mat package ~ The Levin Company
  • 1 Hour of Private Business Consulting with Greg Stangl ($250 value)
  • 20 x 30 Standout Print ~ Mpix ($110 value)
  • $75 off of one Complete Prop Set ~ Posh Props
  • $50 Lab Credit ~ Buckeye Color Lab
  • 16 x 20 Portrait Frame ~ Excel Frames
  • Denny Monopod (WT1003) ~ Denny Manufacturing ($35 value)
  • Instructional How To CD on lighting & posing by Rick & Deborah Ferro ($40 value)
All Entrants:
  • Coupon for $25 off 1 order of $50 or more ~ Nichols Photo Lab
  • Coupon for $25 off 1 order of $100 or more ~American Photographic Resources
  • Coupon for 10% off of any 1 order ~ Virtual Backgrounds
  • Coupon for 10% off of any 1 order ~ Web Photo Supply
  • Coupon for 10% off of any 1 order ~ Rick and Deborah Ferro Signature Studio Clothing Line
  • Coupon for 10% off of any 1 order ~ Posh Props
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

Reflective Material for Your Props

Imagine the ability to have props that can essentially be any color you want them to be.  It’s possible when your props are covered with our reflective material.  The reflective material for covering props is sold in various sizes by the square foot.  Think about all the things you could cover with reflective material and all the new, creative images you could create. The possibilities are endless!

It’s Not Too Late to Get
Money Back from the IRS!

There is still time to get a Virtual Backgrounds system this year and get a big tax refund.  IRS SECTION 179 says that small businesses can deduct 100% of new equipment purchases that are put into service before December 31, 2008.  If you lease a Virtual Backgrounds system costing perhaps $8,000, you may only pay a few hundred dollars down this year, but you can still deduct the total amount from your taxable income.  If you are in the 35% tax bracket, you can get $2800 back from the government!  It’s a fantastic deal.  Talk to your tax professional about the details.  This special government incentive may not be around long, and it is one of those things that if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So, if you are seriously thinking about bringing the many advantages of Virtual Backgrounds into your studio operation, it just makes sense to order it now and take delivery before December 31.  Contact your Virtual Backgrounds consultant for details. 

Featured Photographer
Esso Noordhoff III

Combination Photo Lab and Portrait
Studio in Amsterdam

For more than 50 years, Foto Studio Heno has been an industry leader in Holland.  Started by Esso Noordhoff I, passed on to Esso Noordhoff II, and now operated by Esso Noordhoff III, the studio installed the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system early this year to provide customers with maximum variety while working in very minimal space in the city center of Amsterdam.  Esso Noordhoff II checked out the Scene Machine for years at both Photokina and PMA, but it was Esso Noordhoff III who decided to make the leap!  Esso states, “Customers love the results and the Scene Machine is contributing to increasing portrait sales averages.”

Commercial space in Amsterdam is tight.  The total store occupies only about 800 square feet and this includes space for the full Noritsu photo lab for producing amateur and professional prints and the public sales area.  The studio space is squeezed into less than 200 square feet - a perfect situation for the Scene Machine.  There simply was no room for multiple backgrounds and complex props.  The only way to significantly expand creativity in the tight space available was with the Scene Machine system.  They now use it for 100% of their portrait work.

Because they have 5 photographers, Esso decided that the best training solution was to have Virtual Backgrounds send over Trevon Baker for several days of private training for the whole staff.  This worked out especially well and got the studio off to fast start with the Scene Machine with minimal issues.

The studio uses a combination of 4 lights including a main, fill, and overhead separation light.  Portrait photography in Holland is not as common as it is in the US.  Although they will photograph babies and children as well, their primary customer is between the ages of 10 and 80 years.  Because the studio is in City Center, they also offer tourists vacation-type photographs with scenes of Amsterdam as backgrounds.

The studio offers more than 200 different backgrounds, some from VB in America as well as backgrounds that they have taken on their own that are exclusive to Holland. They range from classic to modern.  The customer response has been amazing - especially when they actually see their own photographs with the unique and complementary backgrounds.  The studio prints all of their own prints in their Noritsu lab.

Foto Studio Heno has a second location in Amsterdam, and Esso reports that he will soon be ordering a Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system for that location as well.

Click here to view Esso's Web site.

Click here to view a short video advertisement for Foto Studio Heno.

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

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

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