Archive for June, 2009

How to Avoid Getting Your Photography Gear Stolen

You’ve spent countless hours finding just the right photography equipment. You’ve researched online, you’ve visited your local photo shops and found just the right mix of cameras, lenses, strobes, tripod and all the accessories. Now, you wouldn’t want to see all of that work turn into a payday for your local thief would you?

Here are some tips and ideas that just might pay off in keeping your latest and greatest photo gear purchases under the radar and off the thieves target list.

vanity-license-plateVanity plates, do you REALLY need that? – This is like a big bold invitation to any thief. You might as well leave a note on your car saying, “Here’s your next payday! Rob me!” If the owner of this vehicle winds up the victim of a break-in, I must admit I will have no sympathy for them. They’ve invited it.

UglifiedCameraMake it look worthless – A thief doesn’t want to waste their time on stealing something they cannot turn around and sell for cash. If your equipment appears old or undesirable, it is of little interest to the thief. So how do you go about doing this? Here is an interesting approach someone used to make their digital camera look like an older film camera, he uglified it.

Make it look like something else – Maybe we can take a tip from our military here. When they do not want their airplanes shot out of the sky what do they do? They make them invisible, they make them stealth. You may be able to do the same with your photo equipment. Make it look like it isn’t even there. Instead of carrying your gear in an expensive camera bag, try something else. Consider a students book bag/backpack, a duffle bag or even a diaper bag. What thief would steal a diaper bag?!

Keep it hidden – Generally speaking, it is a good idea to carry as little as possible. The more gear you’re lugging around, the more likely you are to become a target. With so many very capable consumer level digital cameras on the market today, it is a very easy task to find a camera capable of offering great results which is also small enough to slip into a shirt or pants pocket. Check out ScotteVest for some great garments designed to carry all of your portable technology without looking like it!

When it comes down to it, if you just use a little common sense about when, where and how you use your photo gear, you won’t have any trouble keeping it all out of the greedy hands of your local thief. Keep shooting!

Is Your Domain Name About to be Slammed? Be Careful!

It’s late at night, do you know where your domain name is? It might not be where you thought it was. If you are not careful you may wind up as the customer of a company you’ve never heard of before, and they’re ok with that. Read on for five tips to protect yourself from domain name scams.

Domain SlammingSteadmanTech has offered domain name registration services for many years now. Over that time this business has had its changes, opportunities and challenges, but one thing has always remained consistent. There is always someone trying to trick my clients. Most notably, there always seems to be someone taking shots at Domain Slamming my customers.

Domain Slamming is a technique used by less than reputable domain name registrars who wish to trick registrants into switching from their existing service provider. The scam is almost always initiated through the mail and comes to you in the form of an official looking letter. These letters are very carefully crafted to look like an official notification that you are about to lose your online identity. It’s a technique perfected by the Canadian company “Domain Registry of America” who was eventually barred by the Federal Trade Commission from continuing these misleading practices.

Just as bad or maybe even worse than being the victim of Domain Slamming, is another common domain name related scam I would call a “Domain Switching Scam”. Once again you are usually approached through the mail with a very official looking letter warning that you need to protect your online identity. The pitch is that you need to secure your domain name before it expires and is lost for good. The scam here is that the document you’ve received is actually an order form for a completely different domain name. One you never owned to begin with!

Five Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

  1. Know Where Your Domain Name is Registered — Be sure you know who your official domain name registrar is so you know which solicitations are legitimate and which are not.
  2. Check Your Domain Name Registration Details — By running a Whois search on your own domain name you can verify all of the registration details including who the registrar is, who is listed as the domain name registrant (owner), when the domain name is set to expire and more.
  3. Keep Domain Registration Contact Information Current — This is very important to assure that you do not lose control of your domain name. It is especially important to keep your contact email address(es) up to date. These addresses are usually the first line of communication your domain name registrar will use to contact you and are sometimes used to verify your identity as the true domain name registrant.
  4. Never Respond to Solicitations Via US Mail — In every case that I am aware of, current domain name registrars first line of communication is always via email, NOT by US Mail (it used to be different). In at least 90% of all scam solicitations I have ever seen, the communications are sent via US Mail. Some used to come via your fax machine, but that practice has largely faded away.
  5. Renew Your Domain Name Well Before Its Expiration Date — Most domain name related scams are initiated in the last six months of an active domain registration period. Remember that you can renew your domain name registration at any time and you DO NOT LOSE ANY OF THE CURRENT REGISTRATION PERIOD. Anytime you renew a domain name registration, the renewal period is added to the existing registration period, extending the registration from that point forward.

Did You Call Me a Professional Fraud? Cheers!

I’ve been accused in the past by loving family members (who will remain nameless here) of being a “Professional Fraud”. And while there could be some elements of truth in that moniker, I none-the-less actually take this name-calling as a compliment to my imaging skills rather than an accusation of wrongdoing!

This project is a good case in point of exactly how I’ve come to earn the title of Professional Fraud. My approach champagne-glassto digital imaging work has always been based on the goal of fooling the audience. My goal is to create an illusion that is so convincing that the viewer of the image will not be able to tell exactly what I did to the image. I like to say, “My best work is the work that no one ever spots!”

Which brings us to the champagne glass you see here. I’d not be so brass as to suggest that an experienced eye would not be able to see what I’ve done to this image from within Photoshop. But I would venture to bet that the casual viewer would not have a clue as to the true extent of the retouching that has been done.

So…what exactly was done? Let’s see, there are probably some obvious things… I dropped in a gradient background, cleaned up and smoothed out highlights and lighting on the glass and seen through the champagne. Sure those would be obvious. But not exactly right.

Truth be told, this glass of champagne never existed. Every pixel of this image was created from within Photoshop without the benefit of any original photography or other source artwork. I started quite literally from a blank white canvas. From there, step-by-step I created this glass of champagne using a laundry list of tools available in Photoshop.

Why did I do this rather than make an original photo or (perish the thought) just buy a stock photo that can be found online royalty-free and dirt cheap? Let me tackle the stock photo issue first. Why not just buy a stock shot? Well… I am a professional photographer! It would be hard for me to conceive of a good reason I should ever buy stock photography when I could create the image myself.

That of course leads directly to the second question. Why on earth, as a professional photographer, did I not simply capture the image I need rather than build it in Photoshop? Well, I considered this but there were two reasons why I did not create my own original photo.

First, I had a tight deadline (2 or 3 hours), which didn’t allow the time I would have needed to gather all of the elements, set up the shot and shoot it. There just wasn’t time. Second, I really felt that I could produce the image I wanted more quickly by building it from scratch in Photoshop. I felt that the result from Photoshop was going to be superior in the end anyway. I had control over literally every single pixel that made up the image. Every bubble in the champagne could be what and where I wanted. The color of the beverage, the shape of the glass, the visibility of the background… all completely under my control. In the end it seemed the most efficient route with the greatest control.

I think it worked. Call me a Professional Fraud. I’ll take it well. In the end I got the image I needed with minimum fuss or hassle, met my deadline and spent precious little budget to do so.

If you are interested in learning more about how I created this image in Photoshop, leave your comments and express your interest. I may pull together an overview/tutorial on it if there is interest.

Oh, and before you go there. I do know the image is not flawless. There are some elements that should be in the image that I just did not have the time to get to. (Remember the deadline I mentioned above.) I won’t name the flaws here, but if you do I’ll give you kudos for your sharp eye!