Virtual Backgrounds was founded in the 80s as EPS Photographic by Henry and Marian Oles, both holders of the PPA degree, Photographic Craftsman. The Oles’ had been professional photographers in Ohio, photographing over 1,000 weddings, before moving to Texas where they opened Cameo Studios and Cameo Photo Center. It was at Cameo Studios where the Oles’ first began to experiment with front projected backgrounds, now commonly known as virtual backgrounds, using the process to “jump start” their new studio. It made them different and special and they quickly became the #1 studio in town.
Before becoming involved in professional photography and virtual backgrounds, Marian worked as a surgical nurse with an RN degree. Henry holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Henry taught psychology for 20 years at two different universities. This part of his life caused him to place extraordinary emphasis on customer education and on the principles of marketing. Hence the long standing tradition of three day workshops hosted at Virtual Backgrounds held almost every month.
Because the Oles found the virtual background process to be so valuable, they decided to share their knowledge of the process with other photographers through writing articles for leading photographic magazines and through presenting seminars and workshops. Eventually they designed and manufactured an advanced virtual background system and began selling systems throughout the world. They continually researched the virtual backgrounds concept and have developed a number of important innovations in both the background projector and the projection screen. Henry holds several patents on processes they developed. Initially, most professional photographers did not appreciate the power of the background and even today, many photographers still do not understand how background variety can excite the public and generate sales. This is more important today than ever before as professional photographers find it necessary to develop products and procedures that the public cannot do on their own with their new digital cameras.
Several years ago, Henry wrote and published, Background Power, the first and only book on how to create and use backgrounds to enhance sales. He also wrote The Professional Photographer’s Perfect Storm which not only predicted the storm that is affecting professional photographers today but also presented many ways photographers could fight the storm. The storm is the result of the digital revolution which has made it possible for the public to create and even print their own high quality photographs including enlargements. Henry often states, “Professional photographers must develop “new magic” if they intend to succeed in today’s new world.
Fundamental to everything the Oles’ do at Virtual Backgrounds is the compulsion to be different. As an example, the Oles’ have a unique feature at their complex, a group of historic railroad cars. Luncheons and dinners for workshop participants are held on the company dining car, just a few feet away from very busy Union Pacific tracks. Eating on the railroad dining car is a unique experience. The workshops draw participants from every part of the world.
The virtual backgrounds process has proven to be the most powerful tool a studio can incorporate to build sales and profits.