October 2008 Issue

In this issue:

VB Print Competition - A Competition!
Where Everyone Wins!

IRS Section 179. What is It? How Can It
Put Thousands of Dollars in Your Pocket?

Take a Closer Look - You'll Be Pleasantly

What Photokina Means to You

Featured Photographers:
Brian and Debbie White

"A victory note:  I just used one of Diane Wilson’s backgrounds and the resulting sale was $1400."

Don’t Believe Anything We Say Just Because We Say It

You have heard a great deal about the value of using the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system to enhance creativity and sales.  Many photographers just don’t believe what they hear.  It sounds almost too good to be true.  Is there any truth to the information we present?

Take a few minutes to do an objective analysis.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Seeing is believing.  Every month, we run a Featured Photographer story.  Featured Photographers are selected because of the quality of their work, their uniqueness, and their overall success with Virtual Backgrounds.  Their photographic results and statements about the Virtual Backgrounds process are there, including their name and location.  These are true, real-life stories!

We invite you to come to our facility to try the equipment for yourself, with your own camera if they wish.  Photographers from around the world come to Texas to attend a three-day workshop devoted to the use of Virtual Backgrounds.  We also sponsor and play host to a variety of other workshops conducted by Joseph and Louise Simone, Greg Stangl, Diane Wilson, Rick Avalos, Rick Harding, Trevon Baker and others.  They tell it like it is.  There is nothing to hide or exaggerate. 

It’s perfectly normal to be highly suspicious about anything and everything you read, hear, or see.  However, when possible, your best approach is to objectively research the concept and product.  The evidence on the power of Virtual Backgrounds is clearly there for those who wish to get the actual facts, including test driving the product themselves.  The evidence is there for anyone to see.  Outside of your camera and lights, Virtual Backgrounds is the most powerful tool you can own.  It is your key to fighting the Perfect Storm and growing profits.  It is your key to securing new contracts and new sales.  All you have to do is look at the facts and put Virtual Backgrounds to work for you.

December 22 is the Last
Shipping Day in 2008

If you wish to receive any equipment from Virtual Backgrounds that you can write off on your 2008 taxes to take advantage of the special law that allows full depreciation during this tax year, keep in mind that the final day for shipping this year will be December 22, 2008.  No orders will be shipped between December 23 and January 5.

Rick Harding to Teach Full Day Class on Prom and Event Photography


The Prom King, Rick Harding of San Antonio, Texas, has just been scheduled to teach a full day class on prom and event photography on January 29, 2009, immediately following the January 26 – 28 Virtual Backgrounds workshop. Rick is one of the most successful prom photographers in the country.  The Scene Machine is a key component in his operation.  He owns eight Scene Machines.  Further information on this event will be published in the next edition of The Backgrounder or you can contact your sales consultant at Virtual Backgrounds for immediate information.

New Quickie Portable Case for the Scene Machine

The new quickie case for the Scene Machine makes it simple to store an entire Scene Machine with both the camera and gear head mounted.  There is also space for the power supply and cables.  To set up, the photographer simply flips the lid, lifts the entire Scene Machine assembly, and places it on the camera stand. 

Next the photographer takes out the power supply, connects the cables, and is ready to go.  At the end of the day, the photographer disconnects the cables, places the Scene Machine assembly back into the case, puts the power supply in its pocket in the case, flips the lid shut, and you are on your way!

Complete Scene Machine (with gear head and camera in place) simply has to be placed on the camera stand, connected to its power supply and plugged into the wall socket.  Set up of the entire projector assembly takes only a minute or two.

Enhancements in Our Virtual Backgrounds Educational Programs in 2009

Many enhancements to our educational programs for photographers are about to be announced by Virtual Backgrounds, including changes in the very popular three-day workshops.  In 2009, we are offering even more hands-on training, more one-day special workshops, and several specialty multiday workshops.  Some workshops will be held in various locations throughout the USA. 

We are working on the possibility of doing a nationwide tour with emphasis on how professional photographers can deal with the Perfect Storm.  Stay tuned as more information will be presented in upcoming issues of The Backgrounder.

On Site Installation to be Available in 2009

Photographers who would like to have installation and extensive training on Virtual Backgrounds at their studio site will have that option in 2009.  More information to following in upcoming issues of The Backgrounder!

Clearance Sale on Gently Used Demo and Trade Show Equipment!

We’re cleaning house for the new year.  If you are looking for a great deal on a Virtual Backgrounds system, contact your consultant at VB and see what’s still available.  We clearing out all of our 2008 demonstration and trade show equipment and a few previously owned systems.  Every system will be run through our quality control process to make certain it is completely up to our strict standards.  Our 50 - 50 financing program applies, and you may still be able to write off the purchase on your 2008 taxes! 

Check it out!

The Perfect Storm Gets Worse

In an actual hurricane, there is the storm itself coupled with tornadoes, storm surge, flooding rain, and lighting.  In the photographer’s Perfect Storm, the digital revolution represents the center of the storm. 

There are many other components, all of which are coming together including the do-it-yourself attitude of the consumer, easier to use and cheaper cameras that nearly everyone has, color printers for $40. 

Now, there is a new and powerful component - the economic crisis.  Everyone is afraid of the future and, therefore, zipping up their pockets.  Fortunately, unlike the central storm which is never going to go away, the economic crisis will end, sooner or later. 

The photographer has the choice of hunkering down and waiting it out or developing new ways to entice the public to buy, even in these scary times. 

That is exactly where Virtual Backgrounds comes in.  If you already have a system, work on finding new and enticing ways to use it and promote the results.  If you don’t have one, now is the time to investigate all the benefits it could bring.  Sitting tight and hunkered down isn’t going to help.  It’s critical that photographers work hard to make their products more desirable.

Ferro Workshop at VB Rescheduled for February 2009

The Rick and Deborah Ferro workshop that was canceled because of Hurricane Ike has been rescheduled for early February.  Final details will follow in the next issue of The Backgrounder.

Shoot and Scoot - An Amateur Way to Run a Business

Many professional photographers today are approaching jobs with a shoot and scoot mentality.   Shoot and scoot means get the job, shoot it, get your money and be gone.  That normally means turning the disk over to the client and allowing them to do whatever they want with the images.  It is a very short sighted approach.

The problem with this way of thinking about handling customers is that it lowers the professional to the level of the shutterbug.  That is the way Uncle Joe would operate.  Take a bunch of shots and turn over the disk to the client.

The professional should be far more involved in working with the client from the very beginning and until the total transaction is complete.  When we shoot and scoot we are indeed acting like amateurs and helping to destroy our profession as we have known it.  In short, we need to be professional in every way.

Should I Buy New Tools During a Recession?

When business slows down, most people in business quickly tighten up on spending and choose to wait it out.  It is often a mistake to cut back on marketing and investing in products that will promote sales. 

Virtual Backgrounds is a perfect example.  It enables the photographer to bring in new business even in difficult times.  Virtual Backgrounds is an investment in growth and new profits.  That growth should bring new profits which in turn pay for the system over and over again. 

There is nothing good about a recession, but it is a time for the business person to aggressively reorient the business to deal with the downturn and be ready for the upturn that will be sure to follow.

Snow Fairies Seen in Toronto Canada! Learn How You Can Bring Them to Your Community

Diane Wilson continues to come up with remarkable new ideas for her fantasy photography series.  After conducting her first workshop at Virtual Backgrounds on her unique theme and fantasy photography, we've received many requests for more and longer Diane Wilson workshops. 

As a result we will be scheduling four-day Diane Wilson Theme Photography workshops starting in early 2009. Theme photography is a hot new area that is defying the Perfect Storm. Watch for further information in the November edition of The Backgrounder.

Please, Be Our Guest

You are not just a visitor when you come to Virtual Backgrounds for a demonstration or when you attend a workshop.  You are our guest.  We know that many photographers who come to San Marcos travel a long distance, sometimes from the other side of the world.  We want our guests to feel at home, to have fun, and to go home with a whole new perception of what Virtual Backgrounds can do for them.  And after our guests leave, if they should need help, we are here to assist them.

Virtual Backgrounds is located in San Marcos, Texas, a delightful university town just 30 miles south of Austin and 45 miles north of San Antonio.  We are just ½ mile off Interstate 35.  Most guests fly to Austin but San Antonio is only about 10 minutes further away.  There are many flights to both airports.

Anyone thinking about investing in a Virtual Background System should plan to attend a workshop and get training and the ability to test virtual backgrounds for themselves.  And when possible, they should plan a few days to vacation in the most beautiful part of Texas.  There are an infinite variety of backgrounds to be captured.

We’ll leave the light on for you.

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
A Competition Where Everyone Wins!

2008 Sponsors

Entering typical print competitions is expensive and at best the high scorers only get a merit.  The Virtual Backgrounds Print Competition is different in many ways.
  1. Entrants can submit up to six unmounted 8 x 10 prints per photographer.
  2. All prints must have been created using Virtual Backgrounds.
  3. Every entrant will receive coupons worth hundreds of dollars in free or discounted merchandise.
  4. First, Second and Third Place winners will receive significant prizes from sponsors.
  5. All entrants can opt to receive a free analysis of their entries.
  6. Winning prints will be published in The Backgrounder.
  7. Honorable mention entries will also be made available for viewing by readers of The Backgrounder.
Why do we have this print competition?  We are anxious to encourage all users of Virtual Backgrounds to exercise their creative talents to come up with high quality images that reflect their creative thinking and their skills using their Virtual Backgrounds system.

The deadline for submission of prints has been extended from December 15 to January 15, to give you a chance to get through your busy Christmas season.

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

Image by Terri Quance

Click here for a PDF download of the entire prize list!

IRS Section 179.  What is it?  How Can It Put Thousands of Dollars in Your Pocket in January?

IRS Section 179 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.  However, with IRS Section 179, a photographer can write off the entire amount in the year in which the equipment was purchased.  There is a huge advantage to this law.  If you purchase let’s say $10,000 in equipment even as late as December, you can immediately write off the full amount. If you are in the 35% tax bracket, your income tax 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. This means you can suddenly have about $3000 in cash that you would not otherwise have had.  Plus, you can still write off the interest each year on the financing cost.

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.  There is no better time to invest in new equipment than right now.

Take a Closer Look!  You’ll be Pleasantly Surprised!

Are you looking for a powerful way to enhance your studio customer base and sales averages?I s this the way you think about Virtual Backgrounds for your studio?  Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the facts.  They are readily available.  It’s easy to check things out for yourself. 

Every month The Backgrounder provides over 20,000 photographers with factual information including numerous sample images, testimonials, and special stories on featured photographers from around the world who actively use Virtual Backgrounds in their operation.

The fact is Virtual Backgrounds is the most powerful tool a photographer can add to their studio, after, of course, their camera and lights.  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.  Since it does not use computers or software, there is no extra work on the part of the photographer.  Variety is the key to WOWing the customer and getting larger sales.

You owe it to yourself to fully investigate this phenomenal process that keeps getting better as photographers from around the world find new and profitable applications.  Excellent work is being done by such photographers as Diane Wilson from Toronto, Cindy Cofer from Kentucky, and Trevon Baker from Montana.  It is exactly the tool professional photographers need to fight the Perfect Storm caused by the digital revolution, and go forward to bring in new profits. 

What Photokina Means to You

Photokina is beyond huge.  It’s magnanimous.  Every photographer should attend at least once.  It draws over 160,000 photographers, professional and amateur, from a great many different countries.  It occurs only once every two years.  It serves as an excellent platform from which to view the past and peep into the future of the industry.  It was our experiences at Photokina that helped us recognize that the Perfect Storm was brewing and it is from Photokina 2008 that we get a clearer perspective on what the storm is going to do next, and what professional photographers should do next.

There are many things happening which show that the Storm is not going to go away, ever.  Digital cameras continue to get smarter, more automatic, and even lower in price.  So the public will always have cameras that capture quality images, often even in spite of the user.  The do-it-yourself amateurs and low level professionals are marching forward, trampling many traditional professional photographers.  A wedding photographer at Photokina complained that photographers in his area will do a wedding for 100 Euro (about $150 USD) and give the bride the disk.  Some of them do a pretty good job too!

The secret to surviving and earning a profit is to do everything possible to deliver a highly desirable end-product that the amateurs cannot create on their own.  This is certainly where the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system can help.  The secret to success is also in marketing and promotion. 

Our exhibit booth at Photokina clearly demonstrated several important items.  First, we were deluged with photographers, as many as 60 to 70 at one time in the booth, pushing and straining to see what Virtual Backgrounds is all about.  In talking with our visitors it was clear that they were all experiencing the Perfect Storm, and therefore, they were all looking for solutions. They were enthusiastic about how Virtual Backgrounds could provide them with new magic the amateurs do not have.  They are all striving to be different - to be able to set themselves apart.   

Second, and this was amazing, we were the only exhibit in our entire exhibit hall that displayed numerous portraits that photographers could actually sell and make profits.  Overall, it was unbelievable how many exhibits did not show salable portraits.  Instead, if they showed pictures at all, they showed artsy and candid images that the photographer takes for fun but not for profit.  Their only financial reward is the satisfaction they get from looking at their images, perhaps hoping that someday someone will buy one.  At the moment, the professional photography professions, and many photography manufacturers, are not pushing the very core of what we sell, portrait pictures our customers will buy for good money.  We are pushing snapshots which we call photo journalism, and then we wonder why the public isn’t buying portraits any more.

Technically speaking, there were not a lot of major advancements for the professional portrait or commercial photographer.  There are the usual new cameras with a few more features and also the development of LED based lighting.  There were lots of new little gadgets, especially those coming from China manufacturers.  China has certainly moved into lighting, canvas and muslin backgrounds, and a wide array of photo products.  Made in China is everywhere.

Only one company showed green screen.  They demonstrated a way to put convention visitors on a surf board with the end result looking like they were surfing the big waves.  They did not demonstrate making portraits with it.  Chromakey (green screen) works best for this type of fun photography.  It does not work well for portrait photography.

Virtual Backgrounds had a fully functioning portrait studio manned by Greg Stangl, Cindy Cofer, Rainy Chastine, and Marian Oles.  VB was the only company with a working studio.  With all of our sample photographs, and the mystical magic of the process, our booth probably had more visitors per square foot than most any other booth in Hall #6, the professional hall.

We also met photographers at Photokina who are weathering the Storm very well and even growing.  They are the ones who are utilizing the latest technology and advanced marketing and running with it.   To be successful today, you have to be decidedly different.  The status quo doesn’t work very well any more.

Featured Photographers
Brian and Debbie White

Canadian School Photographers are Loving the Profits Generated from their Scene Machines!

“Many school photographers refuse to consider the many benefits of using the Scene Machine to enhance their business.  The Scene Machine immediately became part of our tool box that sets us apart from our competition.  We use the Scene Machine for 100% of our school work and our business has doubled!”-Brian White

Two Scene Machine systems are among the most important tools Brian and Debbie White of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada use to acquire school contracts and increase sales.   Brian and Debbie are no newcomers to the school picture business. They started their Pro Photographics operation 10 years ago covering schools in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Montreal.   Brian was a leader in moving to digital but realized that going digital was not enough.  He felt a strong need to clearly distinguish his offering from competitors who were catching up to him.  Brian says, “I felt that every photographer in my area was doing the same old thing that had been out there forever, and I needed to find a way to be truly different.”

Brian and Debbie can set up the entire system and take it down in a school environment in about 10 minutes.  Using Virtual Backgrounds doesn’t slow them down at all.

Brian first heard about the Scene Machine Virtual Backgrounds system several years before he actually placed his order for two systems.  After seeing a Virtual Backgrounds exhibit at the Professional Photographers of Canada trade show in Halifax, Brian was hooked!  Brian states, “Once I made the decision to go with the Scene Machine, I couldn’t wait for the equipment to arrive.  I got the equipment just before school started.  We got our systems running almost immediately and put them to the test by photographing 2,000 kids in Montreal in 2 ½ days.  There wasn’t a hitch - everything was perfect.  There was no looking back.”

Brian packs the Scene Machine and our Nikon 1DX camera in a carrying case.  They keep the camera mounted to the system so we can set it up in no time.

Brian White’s competition did not sit still for very long.  Several of them have tried to compete by offering background choice through the use of the green screen process.  “The results are not the same as with using the optical VB system.  We get the total image at the moment of capture and not after post processing.  We see it live in the camera.  It saves time.  We can control the focus and the size of the background.  Green screen is not as clean especially around the hair.  It just made sense to go with the Scene Machine.  When we leave a school, we’re finished.  We don’t have to mess with trying to plug backgrounds in and trying to make them look real,” says Brian.

A simple color post card, sent out days before the scheduled shoot, enables the parents to pick the background they wish and then can select the proper clothing.

“Using the Scene Machine has helped us secure contracts that otherwise would have gone to one of the national companies.  Administrators get it.  Parents love it.  The kids love it.  We give the kids a choice of six backgrounds.  They choose the background they want from a color photo card.  We use the six shooter carousel to quickly select the background for each child.  We take two shots and select the best expression to print the package.  We are really getting as many school contracts as we want.”

Brian finds that many photographers resist using the Scene Machine system.  They find it difficult to understand and are afraid of the process.  Brian states, “You hear negative comments about it.  It’s all foolishness, really.  Photographers just have to do it and they will find out how easy it works.  I love what we are getting from it.  And, I appreciate the great service we get from your company.  VB is very dedicated to being helpful to customers.”

Looking down the road, Brian dreams of the day when he can open a high end portrait studio along with his school work:  “I see endless possibilities.  Many portrait studios just don’t have a lot of creativity to offer.  The Scene Machine will definitely be the key part of my studio.”

Brian states, “Many school photographers refuse to consider the many benefits of using the Scene Machine to enhance their business.  The Scene Machine immediately became part of our tool box that sets us apart from our competition.  We use the Scene Machine for 100% of our school work and our business has doubled!”

Want to see Virtual Backgrounds in action?

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

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Virtual Backgrounds Training Workshops.

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