October 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Virtual Backgrounds Plays a Key
Role at the Texas PPA Fall Seminar

Flea Market Enchanted Photographer
Diane Wilson Gives First Program

Losing Your Shirt on Wedding Candids?
Wedding Profits are Still There

Chris Wunder Coming to Texas
This December - Don't Miss It!

Special Financing Plan - A Big Hit!

Rick Harding Tells His Secrets

Special Announcement
Joseph & Louise Simone
will be Conducting a Seminar at Virtual Backgrounds in March 2008

Two of the world’s greatest photographers and teachers, Joseph and Louise Simone, will conduct a five-day workshop March 3-7, 2008.  Their last two classes at Virtual Backgrounds were filled to capacity and had a waiting list.  Mark these dates on your calendar.  Details will follow.  If you would like to reserve a spot, call your friendly Virtual Backgrounds consultant now. Don’t wait.  This class will fill quickly!

Special Financing Plan
a Big Hit!

Now you can get a complete top-of-the-line Scene Machine system, including 8x8 foot screen for only $99 down plus a $100 document fee, three monthly payments of only $25 followed by 36 regular monthly payments of approximately $350.  Now the best news of all, if you take delivery by December 31, 2007 you can deduct the entire amount from your 2007 gross income.  If you happen to be in the 35% bracket, you’ll enjoy a savings of $3,500 or more.

Virtual Backgrounds has a special financing arrangement with PPA approved Independent Leasing.  For additional information, contact your VB consultant or call Bob Bell at Independent Leasing at 1-800-685-7571.

IRS SECTION 179.  What is it?  How Can It Put Thousands of Dollars In Your Pocket Right Now?

Many photographers don’t know anything about IRS Section 179 which was specifically set up to help small business owners.  Normally when you buy new equipment, you have to depreciate that equipment over a number of years.  You can’t just write it off.  Now with IRS Section 179, photographers can write off the entire amount in the year in which it was purchased as long as they don’t exceed much over $100,000.  There is a huge advantage to this law.  If you purchase let’s say $10,000 in equipment in December, you can write off the full amount for that tax year.  If you are in the 35% tax bracket, your income tax owed will be reduced by $3,500.  Even better, if you finance the new equipment, you may only have paid a few hundred dollars on it and yet, you can still get back the $3,500 which means you can suddenly have $3,500 in cash you would not otherwise have had.  Plus, you can still write off the interest on the financing each year the financing is in place.

Section 179 is a use-it-or-lose-it benefit.  If you don’t use it in a particular tax year, you lose it.  Small business owners are reminded that they need to study their equipment needs before the end of each year.  Talk to your individual accountant for specifics.

Click here to learn more!

The Professional Photographer's Perfect Storm
Worse than Predicted

It’s been eighteen months since Henry Oles published his book, The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm.  The book serves as a “wake up” call for many photographers who are experiencing down trends in their business, but thinks they are the only ones going through this.  Oles wrote the book based on information available at that time.  Since then, the actual evidence coming in strongly supporting the book's major points. Oles says, “I can’t begin to tell you how many photographers I’ve spoken with who have told me that I was absolutely right when I said there was a huge storm for photographers.  I’ve run into photographers whose business is down 20, 30, 40, and even 50%.  I’ve seen bankrupt studios closing.  I’ve seen studios who expected to photograph 100 seniors get essentially none.  I’ve heard from studios whose prom photography dropped more than 50% in just one year."

Oles, however, predicts that the storm will not be bad for all photographers, in that those who offer the public specialized services they cannot do on their own will indeed continue to thrive.  Those who fight the storm, using the correct tools and methods, will continue to be successful. There is hope!

Contact us for your
FREE copy today!

Only One Virtual Backgrounds
Workshop Left in 2007

November 12-14, 2007 is the last Virtual Backgrounds workshops for 2007.  Don’t wait.  Even if you are just thinking about getting into Virtual Backgrounds, attend a workshop now.  Find out for yourself the power of Virtual Backgrounds to enhance your photography and your income.  Get the facts and hands-on experience.  There is only one way to find out just how valuable Virtual Backgrounds can be for your studio.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

2008 Workshop Dates Announced

January 14-16
July 14-16
February 11-13
August 11-13
March 10-12
September 15-17
April 7-9 October 20-22
May 5-7 November 17-19
June 9-11

Click here for more information!

Look Mom - No Software!

Photographers are astonished when they learn that the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system does not require the use of a computer and software.  How could it be they ask?  How can anything of value be created without a computer and software?  The fact is, there are some things that can be done better and easier without a computer.  Virtual Backgrounds is based on optical principles.  It’s simple and it works so well.  Plus, the photographer does not have to spend hours behind the computer pasting in backgrounds.  When the camera is clicked, the background is inserted and it’s done. 

Studio Closings

There  are probably very few professional photographers who have not seen studios in their area closing their doors forever.  Many of these studios are long established operations.  The owners simply gave up.  They were losing too much money and many times were flat broke.

This is reality.  This is the reason Virtual Backgrounds founder and long time industry authority, Henry Oles, wrote The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm.   We have challenges today that we never had before, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. 

When a human dies unexpectedly, it is the job of the forensic physician to find out why it happened with the intention of preventing other deaths.  This is exactly what we have to do as professional photographers.  We have to analyze why studios are closing.  What were they doing wrong?  What could they have done differently?  How can other studios avoid extinction?

The forensic evidence is pretty clear.  These studios for the most part simply were not keeping up with the times.  Their photography really was out of date.  It didn’t “wow” today’s clients, especially the younger generation.  Their business practices were behind the times.  Their advertising/promotion was either non-existent or ineffective. They didn’t invest in new technology other than digital cameras.  

All of this is actually good news for the professional photographer who is still trying to stay in business.  It means that failure is mostly self imposed.  It means that failure does not have to happen.  It means that if professional photographers do the right things, they can succeed, even in the Perfect Storm.  The Storm just makes it more difficult. 

Analyze the studios that have died or are dying, then objectively analyze your operation. Document the plus and minus factors.  Then you can plan a course so your business won’t wind up in the trash pile.  It’s up to you.  The professional photography studio does not have to become extinct.  The success or failure of your business is in your hands.

Image Captured with the
Scene Machine is Part of the
Corel Software Website

This portrait taken by Trevon Baker and Don Blair is part of the Corel Painter X website and was also featured on the front cover of Photoshop User magazine.

I am Not Interested in
the Facts - I Already
Have My Mind Made Up

Is this the way you think about Virtual Backgrounds?  There are photographers out there who hold negative attitudes towards the most powerful product they could acquire for their studio to grow their profits even though they never took a serious look at it, let alone actually tried the technology for themselves. 

This is one reason why we publish The Backgrounder.  Every month we provide 16,000 photographers with factual information including dozens of sample images, testimonials, and special stories on featured photographers from around the world who actively and successfully use Virtual Backgrounds in their operation.

The fact is, Virtual Backgrounds is the most powerful tool photographers can add to their studios.  It enables the professional photographer to be infinitely more creative, not only with background variation but also in their lighting, posing and even expression.  It enables the photographer to make every image different, instead of delivering a set of proofs, all of which look almost alike.  Variety is the key to “wowing” the customer and getting larger sales.

Ask around and you may still hear a know-it-all photographer tell you that Virtual Backgrounds is not a good investment, that there are a lot of problems with it, and that you can’t get really good quality images with it. These people don't do their homework.  We ask these people to look at the images that photographers from around the world are getting.  Talk to other photographers who have been trained and who are producing phenomenal images and enjoying new profits.  Read the book, Background Power!  Come to a Virtual Backgrounds workshop.  Visit with a photographer who is successfully using Virtual Backgrounds.  The facts are perfectly clear.

The opportunity to be more profitable is available for you right now.  It’s up to each individual photographer to take advantage of these opportunities.

Rick Harding Tells His Secrets

If I didn’t have Virtual Backgrounds,
I wouldn’t be in business.

The October guest speaker for the Virtual Backgrounds workshop was San Antonio, Texas photographer, Rick Harding.  Rick presented a lively three hour program in which he ran through how Harding Studio operates, using the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system as a key component. 

Rick’s primary specialties are prom photography and underclass and senior photography.  About 85% of his work is done on location.  He showed how he sets up his Virtual Backgrounds location system in just minutes and then shoots hundreds of subjects a day.

If one mentions the “Perfect Storm” to Rick, his response is, “What storm?”  He sees it affecting many other photographers, but because of his methods, he remains well above it.

Rick will be the feature third day speaker again for the November Virtual Backgrounds workshop, (November 12-14).  We will also be featuring Rick in an upcoming issue of The Backgrounder.  Rick’s website is www.hardingstudio.com.

Read What Photographers are Saying about the New Blackscreen

“The new Blackscreen material is amazing. I did a couple of tests shoots and my backgrounds are more vivid on the new Blackscreen.  I am going to have to eventually have to soon replace the Blackscreen on my bigger screen with the new stuff.  I saw a huge difference just playing with it for a short time.  Thanks so much”

Don Hileman

New Visions Photography
Boardman, Ohio

The new Blackscreen is available to replace the original Blackscreen material we used for years.  The new Blackscreen is more compatible with today’s digital cameras plus it produces a sharper more brilliant background than before.  Talk to your sales consultant for more information.

Larry Peters' Work with
Virtual Backgrounds is
Being Featured on

Check it out!

Annual Print Competition

It's time to start gathering up your best prints to submit for our Annual Print Competition. More details coming soon!

Click here to view last year's winners!

First place portrait by Carrell Grigsby

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!

Virtual Backgrounds Plays a
Key Role at the Texas PPA Fall Seminar

Virtual Backgrounds sponsored four speakers for the Texas PPA Fall Seminar in San Antonio, Texas including VB Founder and President, Dr. Henry Oles, Cindy Cofer from Kentucky, Greg Stangl from Illinois and Winifred Whitfield from Washington.  Over 200 professional photographers attended the fall seminar.

The VB portion of the fall seminar was opened with a short presentation by Dr. Oles covering current developments in the “Perfect Storm” that is affecting just about every professional photographer.  Dr. Oles emphasized the fact that the only way to deal with the storm was to develop new “WOW” techniques in the camera room that would excite today’s client with looks that they cannot do on their own, even with their new digital cameras.  Those photographers who continue to produce mediocre work will have a very difficult time surviving the storm - a storm that is never going to go away because digital cameras and the “do it yourself” mentality will never go away.

The three primary speakers, Greg, Winifred and Cindy, offered distinctively different topics.

Greg Stangl Presented Critical
Business and Marketing Ideas

Greg  Stangl, Master Photographer, Cr. Photog, CPP,  gives presentations to photographers all over the country and beyond on marketing and business management techniques which he uses in his own studio, The Village Photographer.  In January, Greg was a major speaker for the PPA national convention in San Antonio, attracting well over 1000 photographers to his presentation.  He also offers four-day comprehensive classes on marketing and business management.  Greg’s message is very basic and critically important in today’s environment - how to get more clients in the door and how to sell them more once they are there while also having enough time for family and other pursuits. 

Greg is an avid reader on business operation and often sites the results of actual research studies that apply to operating a successful photography business.  “If one wants to be truly successful in a photography business, then one must treat the business as a business.  The foremost emphasis must be on business management and not just on the photography.  One must operate a studio as a business that involves photography, not as a photography operation that happens to be in business.

A key point in Greg’s presentation is that professional photographers should concentrate their efforts on activities that only they can do and not waste their time on doing things they can have others do just as well or better.  As an example, Greg never does his own PhotoShop work.  Instead, he hires local talent to do the work for him at about $10 per hour. He also does not do his own printing.  He lets the pro lab do it for him.  This gives him more time to work in the camera room, more time to build his business, or just have free time for himself and his family.

A Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system is a key component in Greg Stangl’s studio which helps him differentiate his work from the multitude of photographers in his area and enables him to work more rapidly and efficiently.

With professional photographers' new desire for business and marketing information. Greg Stangl will be very active in 2008 giving day long and even week long presentations. Click here to visit Greg's website.

Winifred Whitfield - Focused on
Becoming a True Photographic Artist

Winifred Whitfield has earned two masters degrees at USC and has worked her way up to becoming a Vice President for Standard and Poors on Wall Street before she decided that her real goal in life was to become a true photographic artist.  She dumped her Wall Street position, moved to Washington state, purchased a six acre farm and opened a studio and gallery. 

She has studied under some of the finest photographers, including the Joseph and Louise Simone and has been able to attract a good following even while working out of a very small country town not too far from Seattle.  Winifred charges $700 for a sitting which includes the first 8x10. She guarantees complete satisfaction.  Her specialty is intimate portraits of women.  Winifred discussed how she has totally focused herself on reaching her goals.  Winifred says, “It can’t just be a part-time fleeting endeavor.”   Every aspect of Winifred’s life is focused.  Her showroom is a true gallery.  Being photographed by Winifred is becoming a special event for which her customers are thankful.  One satisfied client tells another and her reputation as being far above the typical professional photographer grows.  Winifred has been using a Scene Machine system to create her backgrounds for about a year.  She has spoken twice for WPPI. Click here to visit Winifred's website

Fomer Soccer Mom, Cindy Cofer,
Operates One Hot Studio in Small Town Kentuckty

Just five years ago, being a professional photographer was only a casual dream.  Today, not only is Cindy Cofer operating a thriving studio in Williamstown, Kentucky, she has also begun a speaking/teaching career as well.  Five minutes into her presentation is all it takes to not only recognize that she is a very talented photographer but also an exceptional teacher who is bubbling over to share with others.  Cindy photographs men, women, children, seniors, families, pets, and weddings.  Her reputation brings her clients from a good distance.

Cindy discovered the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system very early in her career and knew she just had to have one.  Just a few months after getting her system she sent a few samples to VB President Henry Oles for evaluation.  He responded by telling her that the samples were so good that he wanted to make her a Featured Photographer in his book, Background Power!, that was just being written.  Oles wanted to show how it is possible for a new user to do outstanding work with the Scene Machine.

Cindy’s program included 14 fast paced slide shows that she created with ProShow Gold for demonstrations of her techniques.  No doubt about it.  We all will be hearing a lot more about Cindy Cofer. Click here to visit Cindy's website.

Flea Market Enchanted Photographer
Diane Wilson Gives First Program

The February edition of The Backgrounder featured Diane Wilson of Toronto, Canada.  Diane has her entire studio in a 15x18 foot area in northern Toronto’s largest indoor flea market and her specialty is enchanted fairy tale images of children.  She operates only two days a week and is now adding a 2,000 square foot private studio to accommodate growing demands.  She will also keep her flea market studio since it is a fantastic marketing tool.

Diane attended the October Virtual Background workshop as a participant but at the end of the second day, she gave her first program ever - a one hour presentation on her successful unique style of work.  The audience was captivated to say the least.  Diane has indeed found a very successful nitch in the photographic market place.

Because of her unique operation and her very successful use of Virtual Backgrounds as a cornerstone of her operation, we will be doing a number of additional stories on Diane in the months ahead.  In addition, next month we announce the availability of the first collection of the backgrounds she uses.  You will be hearing a lot about Diane Wilson and her enchanted studios.

The October 2007 Workshop Class included three participants from Korea.  Diane Wilson from Toronto not only attended the workshop as a participant but also gave a special presentation on her operation in the flea market. 

Losing Your Shirt in Wedding Candids?
Wedding Profits are Still There

Image by Joseph & Louise Simone

Candid wedding photographers are crying the blues about their candid wedding business.  Wedding candids seem to be going to the amateurs and the pro-ams with their digital cameras.  Many brides now get a photographer to take a thousand or two thousand snapshots and deliver a CD at the end of the wedding charging a ridiculously low price.

Are there options?  Fortunately yes and it’s easy.  Look at what you as the professional photographer can do that these amateur shutterbugs cannot.  These shutterbugs don’t have studios.  They don’t have professional lighting.  They don’t have special equipment like Virtual Backgrounds.  Most importantly, they don’t have much if any training in professional portraiture.  Therefore, they cannot do really professional work so that means they would be completely incapable of doing quality bridal formal portraits.

Image by Marian Oles

Ask yourself, "Why would a young woman not want a really special formal portrait of herself in the most expensive and special dress she may ever wear?"  She may spend weeks looking for the dress.  She may spend a thousand dollars or more on the dress.  Why would she be interested in only having snapshots of herself?

The problem is that photographers have gotten away from promoting bridal formals.  Years ago, nearly every bride had formal bridal photographs created by a professional.  We have let that market disappear, but there is no reason for it. It can be resurrected!  We just have to put a modern touch and a lot of “wow” into our bridal formals.  We have to make them really special.  We have to make them an experience.  We have to make bridal formals a necessity, just like a wedding cake.  It can be done. 

Image by Don Blair

If the professional photographer can generate significant profit on the bridal formals without leaving the studio, there is no need to care about the candids.  If professionals are going to try to develop a business for formal wedding portraits, then it is going to be critically important that they produce a really special unique product that is decidedly above anything that can be done as a candid or a snapshot by family and friends.  Here again is where Virtual Backgrounds is such an important tool enabling the photographer to create a really unique and varied series of images.  The professional must make the bridal sitting a really special event perhaps taking an hour or two, perhaps coupled with a cosmetic make over and a glass of wine.  At first you’ll have to push the idea, but after a while, you can expect brides to be calling you about your new service.

Chris Wunder Coming to
Texas this December!

Don't Miss Out on This Great Opportunity!

Have you seen your photography income drying up as the “Perfect Storm” moves in?  You don’t have to be blown away.  There are a number of ways you can make more money in professional photography.  You just have to know the tricks.  That is what Chris Wunder’s workshop on December 10th and 11th is all about.  Chris will show you how to get into and be successful in church, family, and event photography.

Come to San Marcos, Texas to learn how to make a lot of money with your portraits.  This workshop is co-sponsored by Virtual Backgrounds and Marathon Press. 

Photographers – Are You Making As Much Money As You Want? Want a More Prosperous 2008?
Don’t Miss These Seminars!

Photography of Sports, Events and Directories can be your “ticket” to revitalizing your sales and profits. Attending NOW allows you to plan for a successful 2008. These highly informative workshops will get you energized and ready to take on the competition! 

Family Portraits + Church Directories =
a $100,000 More in 2008 Sales

Monday, December 10, 2007
8:30am – 6:00pm

Are you losing family portrait business to out-of-town competition? Don’t let it happen! Family portraiture through church directory programs represents your #1 opportunity to reach this lucrative market year round.  Digital photography and specialized software has made it easier than ever, and most of the work is done on weekday evenings, not weekends, so there’s little conflict with other appointments and events. In this fast-paced informative workshop, you’ll find out how to beat the “national” competition and get churches to book with you. Learn how to conduct a highly profitable promotion, sell the portraits and publish the directories. Learn the “secrets” of portraiture mass marketing and building your business. This is one workshop you don’t want to miss.

Event Photography Business Essentials

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
8:30am – 6:00pm

Learn how to start and build a successful event photography business- full or part time or to supplement your studio business. Discover 12 different event photo opportunities you can use year-round to keep the cash register ringing! Learn where the business is, how to get it and sell your products. Tips on making proposals and presentations will be covered as well as strategies for handling league/sponsor commissions and rebates and booking incentives. Gain your own competitive edge. Photo Sales: PrePay vs Proof vs Direct Mail vs E-Commerce: which works best and when? Customer order fulfillment: On-Site vs In-House vs Outsource Lab: which is right for you? All this plus much more to help you build your event photography business and get 2008 started off right!

Speaker: Chris Wunder, Cr. Photog. is a 30 plus year veteran of the photography business. He’s a recognized industry expert in the sales and marketing of photography for events, sports, studios, schools and directory programs.  He’s a popular platform speaker and a consultant to photography businesses - both small and large - all across America. Chris can definitely help you build your business!

Hotel Recommendation:
Comfort Inn
1611 IH 35 (Exit #206 Off I-35)
San Marcos, Texas 78666
Special rate: $45

Free Hot Breakfast

Seminar Fee:  $69 per person for each seminar (lunch provided)
Special Combo Rate – Attend both days for only $129

To register, Contact Marathon Press Customer Service at 1-800-228-0629.

Limited seating. Sessions may sell-out early. Call now to reserve your space. Sorry, no registrations at the door.

We accept MasterCard and Visa.

In the event of insufficient pre-registration, we reserve the right to cancel or reschedule this Workshop.

Platinum Sponsors: Marathon Press and Virtual Backgrounds
Gold Sponsor: Pounds Photographic Labs.

You do not have to be a Virtual Backgrounds user to attend and benefit from these workshops. 

Click here to download complete brochure (PDF)

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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