October 2011 Backgrounder

In this issue:

Show Me the Money

Featured Photographer: Dick Stevens

Make a Profit with Sports Backgrounds


Come to a VB Workshop and Discover What VB Can do for You!

Virtual Backgrounds, even today, is the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned concept in professional photography.  A great many photographers have no appreciation for its value and what it could mean to their future because they have never taken the time to learn about it.   But, there is a simple way to learn and that is to attend a Virtual Backgrounds workshop where one can get three days of intense immersion in the world of Virtual Backgrounds including hands on experience.  After all, seeing is believing!

The workshop is taught almost every month in San Marcos, Texas by Montana based Master Craftsman Photographer, Trevon Baker.  The workshop includes plenty of hands on experience and comes with an absolute guarantee of satisfaction.

The final two workshops for 2011 are October 17 - 19 and November 14 -16. 

The November workshop is paired with the Richard Sturdevant Life Style Art Portrait workshop, November 17-18.  With one trip, attendees can attend the Virtual Backgrounds workshop on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and the Richard Sturdevant workshop Thursday and Friday. 

There is no better way to propel yourself into two highly profitable specialties.



Chris Wunder and
Marathon Press
Lead the Way to New Profits


Chris Wunder, working with Marathon Press is the leading educator in North America teaching independent professional photographers how to get in to and earn substantial profits in school, church, sports and event photography.  Marathon Press provides many of the services the local photographer needs to break into markets that were formerly closed to them such as by providing not only the instruction but also other services that the independent needs to compete.   In church directory work, Marathon prints with their digital printing presses the directory books at prices the local photographer cannot begin to get in their own area.Marathon Press and Chris Wunder will be offering a wide variety of training workshops throughout 2012 including workshops that will be held at the Virtual Backgrounds Learn and Earn facility in San Marcos, Texas.

New VB Website

Work continues on the new Virtual Backgrounds website which should be launched later in October.  The new site will have far more information, more video training, and more profit generating ideas.  The site will be available for viewing not only on ordinary computers but also on portable devices  The site will be frequently changed as new news  comes available.  Watch for it.

Sept. Workshop Group

The Virtual Backgrounds September workshop brought a wide variety of photographers to San Marcos, Texas with special emphasis on hands on experience.  It was the first workshop taught entirely by Master Craftsman Photographer, Trevon Baker, after the retirement of Jim Wilson, Cr. Photog. CPP.


Simone Workshop

Seventeen photographers came to San Marcos to study with Joseph and Louise Simone of Montreal for 5 days.  The Simones are known as two of the best portrait photographers and instructors in the world today. The workshop included a wide variety of experiences including the use of Virtual Backgrounds, traditional backgrounds, and location photography.  A sampling of the images created at the workshop will be featured in a future edition of The Backgrounder.

VB 2012 Exhibit Schedule

Want to see and touch a Virtual Backgrounds system?  You’ll have plenty of opportunities in 2012.  VB will exhibit first at Imaging USA in New Orleans, then at Senior Photographers International (SPI)  and SYNC in Florida, then at PSPA and PMA/CES, followed by WPPI and many other shows including the Professional Photographers of Canada in Halifax Nova Scotia.

“We want photographers everywhere to see our latest products such as the VB Express that can play a very significant role in helping them generate new profits and at the same time have fun being a far more creative photographer.  That’s what VB is all about.


Richard Sturdevant Workshop
November 17-18

Learn How to Create
Lifestyle Art Portraits

Want to learn all about how you can create portrait art composites to grow your business?  Learn from the master himself, Richard Sturdevant.  Richard has quickly become one of the best known photographers and instructors in the industry especially because of his composites..   Richard is both a phenomenal artist and instructor.If you are looking for new techniques that will enable you to produce product that no one else can do, especially not your customers, this workshop IS for you.  But, this is not a workshop for Photoshop beginners.  Experience with CS5 is required.

Enrollment is limited.  Call Virtual Backgrounds today for information and registration.


Let the Government Help
Purchase Your VB System

This is the time of the year when every photographer should think about acquiring new equipment that can be totally written off of your 2011 taxes instead of taking normal depreciation.  This can happen even if you are still paying on the equipment.

For example, if you make a $10,000 purchase and even if you have only paid $2,000 toward the purchase, you still can deduct the entire $10,000 from your calculations for your 2011 taxes.  If you are in the 30% bracket, you can actually get more money back from the government than what you had already paid for the equipment.

The plan is called IRS 179.  Talk to your accountant before it is too late and then invest in your future now before it is too late.  Use it or lose it.


More Dick Stevens Images





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!



Show Me the Money

Where’s the money in photography today?  Is there really any money left or is it all gone?  How can I find where the money is?Many professional photographers are wondering if there is any hope for them and their business.  The fact is, there is still lots of money available for the professional photographer…one just has to know where to look for it and how to get it.

Most typical traditional portrait studios are really hurting financially.  People just don’t come to a portrait studio like they use to.  Once upon a time, a reasonably good photographer could just open the doors to their  in town or uptown studio and people came.  They made a nice income.  Today, almost no one just walks in.  They have to be enticed and it is still difficult.  Many photographers have closed their commercial location studio and retreated into their homes.

So, where is the money today?  The hot specialty areas are school photography, church directory photography and sports photography.  There is still a lot of money to be made in these areas if one goes after it the right way.

School photography continues to do well today.  Some school photographers report some decline but overall, not nearly the decline that is happening in regular studio work.  School photographers have always done well, even in difficult times.  Many independent photographers think that all school photography is only done by large national  companies such as Lifetouch.  The fact is, there are enormous possibilities for the aggressive and innovative local independent photographer.  Innovative local photographers have many advantages over the national companies.

Church directory photography is also thriving.   Until recently, nearly all church directory photography was handled by the large national companies because they had the printing presses to print the directories at a reasonable cost.  Today, digital technology has made it possible for independent photographers to enter this lucrative market and have their directories printed by companies such as Marathon Press.  The large companies no longer have the advantages they once had.  The church directory market brings the photographer family sittings with great potential for significant sales averages.  Plus, there is the opportunity for the photographer to establish a long term relationship with the family which can lead to a wide variety of other profit making opportunities.  The national companies don’t have this opportunity for expanded sales.

Sports photography has always been dominated by the independents.  It can be quite lucrative.  The major problem with sports photography is the number of photographers who are now seeking to get the contracts which means  profit margins are getting squeezed.   Most everyone who bids on sports photography does exactly the same thing and they all argue that they are the best photographer. The answer to securing the contracts is in producing more unique products that others cannot do.  Otherwise, the contract just  goes to the lowest bidder or the “friend of a friend”.  For example, there can be clear advantages to shooting the players indoors without worry of rain, heat, wind, and various distractions.  Shooting inside with appropriate sports backgrounds is a clear difference, even if the photographer only offers it as a no cost extra option.

Event photography is still another area that is thriving today after a decline caused by the economy.   Specialty concepts like fantasy photography continue to be strong but like everything else, they have to be promoted.   A growing number of photographers are using photography as a fund raising event whereby those who are going to benefit from the proceeds help to get the photographer’s schedule full.

The fundamental success factor in each of these specialties is offering unique products that the decision makers cannot get from anyone else.   In order to secure school contracts, pricing is of course important but very often, one does not have to have the cheapest price to secure the contract if the product is clearly special enough.   A key element in making the end product unique is using customized backgrounds that enhance the total overall image.

The good news is the money is out there.  Great money making opportunities are abundant for those who go after them with the best incentives.

Featured Photographer
Dick Stevens

Creativity + VB + Facebook = Success

Dick Stevens doesn’t know much about the Perfect Storm that is devastating so many professional photographers today because he doesn’t need to know.  He basically has all the clients he wants and they keep telling others to go to Dick Stevens Photography because he is really different.

In many ways, Dick represents the new generation of professional photographers.  He was never a full time professional and still isn’t.  He had a career in retail and also as industrial pattern maker.  He started in photography while living in Florida, concentrating on nature and wildlife photography but realized that there are only so many places to go and animals to photograph.  He started shooting portraits 9 years ago and loved doing it but not as a real business but rather as a serious hobby.  He built an addition on to his home for his studio.  Then four years ago Dick moved to South Carolina and decided to get even more serious about his portrait photography.  His new studio is in a separate building behind his residence. He also has plenty of space for sales and production.  Because the studio is part of his residence, he has no outside signage.

Dick’s primary means of marketing his services is through Facebook.  He has about 800 friends, spends a great deal of time on Facebook, and posts new images frequently.    He really doesn’t do any advertising other than Facebook and word of mouth from past customers which is bringing him all the work he wants.   Either he is contacted by friends on Facebook to do their photography or he offers them the opportunity to be photographed by him.  He also does photography for Click Magazine, a free local weekly magazine for the Hispanic community.

Earlier this year Dick began to take a serious interest in making Virtual Backgrounds a significant part of his operation.  Four months ago he ordered a VB Express projector with an 8 x 8 foot background screen.  He attended the Virtual Backgrounds 3 day training workshop and very shortly afterwards sent Virtual Backgrounds a portrait of one of his clients wearing a bathing suit in a virtual beach scene.  VB personnel were so impressed with the image that they began calling Dick to learn more about how he created the image.  It was only then that VB learned that Dick was making very creative use of his Virtual Backgrounds system and they began encouraging him to submit additional prints for review while watching his progress on Facebook.


Because of the very impressive and different images Dick has placed on his Facebook pages, he has been getting a number of calls from photographers who say that they don’t get results with Virtual Backgrounds as good as his and they want to know his “secret”.    Dick says, “Anyone who buys a Virtual Backgrounds system and thinks it is by itself the answer, they are kidding themselves.   Virtual Backgrounds can only work if you know how to shoot quality images in the first place.  Virtual Backgrounds is a creative tool to help enhance your photography but it still all depends on the photographer.”

Dick did not have to make many changes in his normal way of shooting when he adopted Virtual Backgrounds.  “I use 9 x 36 inch strip soft boxes with grids.  I don’t have any problem keeping excess light off the background.  I didn’t have to change my way of shooting other than I don’t use my big 30 x 60 soft box up over my camera.  I can’t imagine cutting and pasting in backgrounds or using green screen.  It is far too time consuming and the final product would not be as good as what you get with the VB system.  I love to do action photography…like using a fan to blow the hair or having a model shake their head and twist to get the flying hair look.  Customers love it.  They don’t get it anywhere else.”


Dick is more than willing to work with other photographers.  “I’ll help anyone - I don’t mind helping people - they aren’t going to take any business away form me.  I can teach them everything I do and they can go back and apply it to their own work in their own way.  Sharing information is important.  I love being more creative with my VB Express system.  I keep discovering new ways to use it.    But photographers who look at my work  must realize that my end product is not just printed raw.  I enhance it to make it even better.  Isn’t that what we professionals are suppose to do?”

When asked where he gets his ideas, Dick states, “I am always looking at pictures - pictures in magazines, on television, anywhere.  I look at the total image, where the light is coming from, the pose, the background, and how it all goes together.  I cut out images I like and keep them in a special “idea” file.”






We expect to see a lot more exciting and different work coming from Dick Stevens and we will be anxious to share it with readers of The Backgrounder and on our web site.  Virtual Backgrounds has grown so much over the years not just because of improvements in the equipment but especially because of the work of photographers like Dick Stevens and so many others that we have featured in The Backgrounder.  They keep showing us new ways to use our product to attract clients, increase sales, and have fun.

Click here to visit Dick Stevens’ Facebook Page

Make a Profit with
Sports Backgrounds

This is the season.  School is back in session.  Football season has started. The excitement is there and so are the profit making opportunities for professional photographers who provide unique products that people cannot create on their own, no matter what fancy digital camera they may own.Anyone, including mom and little brother can take snapshots on and around the football field.  Only the professional photographer equipped with Virtual Backgrounds can photograph the football players, cheerleaders, band members, drill team members and even the coaches.Even if you are just thinking about exploring new opportunities for profit making, even if you do not  yet have a Virtual Backgrounds system, this is the time to capture the football backgrounds so you can start to create samples for next season.

Simply take your digital camera and cover the stadium.   Imagine if you had infinite control, where would you place your subjects to get the most complementary and meaningful backgrounds and as you find each location, capture it.  Capture the playing field with not just the football team on it but also the band, the drill team.  Capture the field with and without people on it, in the daytime and under the lights.  Capture the lights by themselves.  Capture the press box and the scoreboard.  It costs you nothing to shoot it all…anything that your creative mind can possibly imagine being useful.  Then as the year progresses, move on to the basketball court, volleyball, swimming pool, tennis, baseball.

People will still buy photography IF you produce photography that is enticing as well as photographs that they cannot produce on their own.  That is the key!  Photographer are starting to realize that the snapshot craze…so called photojournalism, puts them in direct competition with every amateur.  It doesn’t work very well, but there are solutions.




Images by Dick Stevens

 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.

2 Responses to October 2011 Backgrounder

  • James Buccelli

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I’m actually committing Sin #2 ‘Waiting too long to comment’! However, I felt compelled to express appreciation, since I think many of these you enumerate are unconscious mistakes that can easily be rectified.

  • mario mejia


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