November 2009 Issue

In this issue:

Richard Sturdevant Scores Big!

November VB Workshop Maxed Out

VB Classroom Gets New Upgrade

What We Learned from a Local High School Group

Surprise Visit with UK Photographer Stanley Burgin



Turn Negatives into Positives

Obstacles are a stimulus for innovation, and most advancement happens when there are obstacles that must be conquered.  When everything is running smoothly, little effort is made to make things better.  But when trouble appears, some of us tend to kick into low gear and devote an enormous amount of energy to solving the problem often resulting in better than ever outcomes. 

Of course there are many different approaches to problem solving.  Photographers are well known for venturing into other business areas such as selling vitamins, weight control products, and many other things that are often sold on a pyramid scheme type of marketing.  Unfortunately, many of these schemes fail to produce the desired results but they chew up critical money and energy.  If you really consider yourself a professional photographer and it is your goal to continue in professional photography, then should your energy not be devoted 100% to reinventing your studio and getting your customers and your profits back? 

You’ve heard the expression, “One can’t see the forest for the trees.”  Negative situations can be blinding, but see the big picture and you will find opportunities out there.  When looking for ways to make new business, look at Virtual Backgrounds.  There are other opportunities developing on the horizon, opportunities that could change the fundamental nature of professional photography forever.  Will your eyes be open enough to be among the first to see it?  It won’t be long. 

The economy will come back but the Perfect Storm as we have called it will not go away because the digital revolution is here to stay.  Fortunately there are ways to be successful even in the middle of the storm.  Rick Avalos of Colorado often opens his programs with a line from the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz.  Dorothy says to Toto, “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more.”   Things have changed and professional photographers need to change too.  There are bright sunny days ahead for those willing to make the effort to effectively move forward. 

It’s time to reinvent yourself!  Start by taking a close look at Virtual Backgrounds!


It's that Time Again!



Jim Richard of Richard Portrait Artist (Dickinson, Texas) and Santa Claus are all set for the Christmas Portrait With Santa Claus event.  Jim is a long time user of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.


Simones Will Present a Major Program at Imaging USA in January 2010



World renowned portrait artists and teachers, Joseph and Louise Simone will present a featured program at Imaging USA in Nashville, Tennessee.  The title of the program will be Can We Really Call Ourselves Professional?

The program will focus on how so many professional photographers have moved into creating snapshots rather than using their talents and tools to create truly professional portraits.

We will have more about the Simone Imaging USA program in the December 2009 issue of The Backgrounder.





Get Money Back When You Purchase a VB System by December 31st

Time is running out on taking advantage of IRS rule 179 which allows a business to totally deduct equipment purchased before December 31, 2009.  This means you can deduct the full amount of the purchase price even if only a fraction of the cost has been paid. 

For example, if a business purchases an $8,000 Virtual Backgrounds system with a lease payment plan, and they have only paid out let’s say $600 by December 31, they can still deduct $8,000 from their 2009 taxable income which means a major savings that comes back as a tax refund.  If you are in the 35% bracket, you would be getting back $2,590.  Rule 179 was especially designed for small business.  It is one of those tax benefits that you either use or lose.  If you are thinking about buying any new equipment for your business in the near future, it could be very wise to do it before December 31.  See your accountant or contact us for more information.

Click here for more details!


Get a Virtual Backgrounds System for Only a Few Hundred Dollars Down

A common reason for not buying the equipment a studio needs to grow, such as a Virtual Backgrounds system, is that the photographer can’t afford it.  However, what if the new equipment could help them make much more than they spend?  Perhaps they haven’t heard of equipment leasing where the down payment can be very minimal.  There are also leasing plans that don’t require any payments for the first several months the equipment is put into use to enable it to start generating new profits.  The only hesitation with leasing is being able to qualify for a lease with today’s tight money.  With Virtual Backgrounds equipment, we offer our 50/50 plan in which every qualified professional photographer is approved for a 50% lease with 12 months of payments with no interest!


Diane Wilson Scheduled Fantasy Workshop



Canadian photographer, Diane Wilson, known widely for her fantasy photography and for operating in an indoor flea market just north of Toronto, has scheduled her next fantasy/theme photography workshop for March 1 – 5, 2010.  It will be held at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn Center in San Marcos, Texas.  We’ll have more information in the December 2009 issue of The Backgrounder.




Sneak a peek into Diane Wilson's
world of fantasy photography.


Bucking the Trend toward Simplistic Photography

Keeping photography simple seems to be the trend today in professional photography.  Just go out and shoot and shoot - be a shutterbug.  Go photojournalistic.  For high school seniors, just take them out to the park or to a local mall or into an alley way and shoot.   Take 500 shots if you need to.  You don’t need a studio anymore, and you don’t need all that silly equipment.  If necessary, just sell them the CD.  That’s what kids want today anyway.  Some photographers call it shoot and scoot.  

Sadly, many photographers are finding that this is a one way ticket to self destruction.   Shooting like an amateur is not the answer.  It puts you in the same league as the amateurs so why should they pay you to do what they can easily do on their own.  The only answer is to offer a product that is as different and enticing as possible while using a professional studio setting.  Amateurs do not have studios.  Amateurs do not have professional lighting.   You as the professional have to promote a product that the amateurs cannot do on their own.  This precisely means not doing simple photography that can now be done by amateurs or just any professional.  It means coming up with new and better ideas that require your equipment and your talent.  VB is one of the most important tools you can use because amateurs don’t have it.  It is still magic and mysterious to them.


The Magnolia Pancake Haus



Every day on the most powerful AM talk/sports radio station in San Antonio, Texas we hear a catchy ad for the Magnolia Pancake Haus.  We know from the ad that they have fabulous pancakes, French toast, omelets, and the best coffee in Texas.  We also know that they just moved but their new location is just across the street from their old location.  Even though San Antonio is 60 miles away from San Marcos, we just might go to the Magnolia Pancake Haus for their fabulous breakfast food.  Their ad is working.  When was the last time any of us heard a radio ad for a photography studio?  And since we are visual, did you ever see a TV spot for a studio?  Probably never!  Photographers basically don’t advertise, at least not effectively, even though we offer products that should be in demand.  Why should the Magnolia Pancake Haus advertise so effectively while professional photographers do nothing?

It’s almost Thanksgiving.  It’s a perfect time to think about family portraits?  Christmas is coming soon.  It’s time to advertise the most personal gift of all - professional portraits that make you and your family look your best.  It’s the gift that lasts and lasts. 

If we advertise at all, we do it in the yellow pages that no one looks at any more.  We spend thousands of dollars to send out mailers that bring maybe ½ of 1% response or less.  We spend money on the Internet but then don’t tell people we are there.  Does this make sense?

If you don’t promote, nothing happens.  Would there be a chance in the world that we would frequent the Magnolia Pancake Haus if we had not heard a well placed radio ad?  Absolutely not.  We must advertise to get our names out there!


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!


Richard Sturdevant
Scores Big!



It’s almost unheard of to score a 100 on a print in competition.  Richard Sturdevant, September's VB Featured Photographer, just did it again at the Southwestern Professional Photographers convention.  It was his fifth score of 100, four of which he obtained just in the last few months.  It is highly unlikely that this has ever been achieved by any other photographer ever.  Most importantly, these are high scoring prints that will sell for really good prices. 




Richard is an ardent user of the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Although Richard uses the Virtual Backgrounds system for 95% of his studio work, his latest 100 did not involve Virtual Backgrounds although he did use it in some of his other 100 scoring prints. 

Richard was recently a speaker at the Oklahoma state convention. While Richard was walking outside the convention center the day before his program, he spotted the perfect subject, a real Oklahoma cowboy.  Richard could hardly believe what he was seeing.  He hurriedly asked the startled cowboy if he would pose for a few pictures and then ran to get his camera.  He had no other equipment.  No reflectors.  No flash.  Nothing.  He made do with what he had available.  This is how he got the main image in the composite.  He actually then used the image to teach the Oklahoma attendees how to do a composite. 

Richard later decided he needed more images so he called the cowboy and asked if he could photograph him again at his place.  He then put it all together and the rest is history.  Richard’s composites are a super powerful way to create a product that will sell for a really good price and one that amateurs and low level professionals cannot possibly imagine how to do it!





News Flash: Sturdevant Workshop Scheduled



Richard Sturdevant will teach a two-day workshop at Virtual Backgrounds March 18 - 19, 2010. The class will concentrate on how to do composite images for competition but also, how to do composites for bringing big profits in every day photography.  Class size will be limited.  Reserve your seat now. 

We at VB feel that Richard’s composite work can open the door for professional photographers to a new venture that will have a high public demand but one that the public cannot possibly even begin to do on their own.  Richard is developing an extensive array of tools to enable professional photographers to create composites more easily.

Watch for more information in the December 2009 issue of The Backgrounder.



November VB Workshop Maxed Out

More Workshops to Follow in 2010



The recent November workshop was full!  Twenty-eight photographers from as far as Hawaii and New Zealand participated in the workshop.  Many were system owners while others came to learn what Virtual Backgrounds is all about.

Reservations are now being taken for the next workshop which is scheduled for January 25 - 27, 2010 Next year’s VB workshops will continue to be taught by Jim Wilson, Cr.Photog and Montana photographer, Trevon Baker, Cr.Photog, M.Photographer.  Click here for more workshop details.

Thousands of photographers from around the world have attended the Virtual Backgrounds workshop to learn how to use this often called magic process to significantly boost their business.  The formula is simple.  More backgrounds = more variety = more excitement = more profit.  It’s a formula that works!  Come to a workshop to find out.


VB Classroom Gets New Upgrade



The Virtual Backgrounds education center 1,500 square foot classroom just got upgraded with 6 flat screen monitors installed along the walls for easy viewing by workshop participants at their individual tables. With the new live video cameras such as the Nikon D700 and others, participants can watch live as each photograph is composed and then view the resulting image.

The VB classroom can accommodate approximately 40 participants sitting at tables or as many as 80 for shorter presentations without tables.  It can also easily accommodate two demonstration studio areas.





What We Learned from a
Local High School Group



The San Marcos Academy photography class, made up of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders asked to have a tour of the Virtual Backgrounds facility and learn about what we do.  We think we learned about as much from them as they did from us.  Here are just a few of the thoughts they confirmed.
  • Only one student had ever used a film camera.
  • All of them had digital cameras.
  • Most of them never print images from their digital camera.
  • All of them had experience with Photoshop.
  • Most of them, other than the graduating seniors, never go to a professional photographer.
  • The seniors who were photographed were not that excited about their traditional graduation pictures.
  • They displayed a great deal of interest in the images they saw with Virtual Backgrounds.
  • They are a dynamic group that knows what they want.
  • None were thinking about a career in photography, but they were all highly enthusiastic about doing photography.




There is a lot to be learned by communicating with the people you service.  Ask them to share with you their perception of the world and the kind of photography they would like to have of themselves.  Too often, many of us just charge ahead thinking we know what our customers want.  Just ask and they will share with you and appreciate being asked.


Surprise Visit with UK Photographer
Stanley Burgin



While traveling in England this summer, Henry and Marian Oles and granddaughter Madison, met up with Peter Stanhope, the former UK distributor for Virtual Backgrounds.  Together we paid a surprise visit to Stanley Burgin.  Stanley is now 80 years old and semi-retired.  To this day, he is still an avid devotee to his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.   We found his studio totally set up and ready to go, so we asked Stanley to do a portrait of our granddaughter which he kindly did.  A copy of the resulting print is shown below along with a photograph of Stanley (above) that was taken earlier with the Scene Machine.




Stanley was one of our very first international customers.  He immediately fell in love with his Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system.  Almost immediately it became the centerpiece of his studio.  He won many awards with his photographs created with the Scene Machine.  The judges never knew that all of the photographs that he submitted for competition were created using Virtual Backgrounds.  Stanley reported that he gets just as much pleasure out of using his Scene Machine today as ever before.  Stanley said, “Sometimes I like to just put different slides in the machine and look at them through the beamsplitter and come up with new ideas on how I can use them with customers using various props.”  Stanley uses many backgrounds from the VB stock selection as well as images that he captured on his own.




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.