Friday, July 31, 2009

Ten Top Tips on avoiding camera scams and getting the best camera deal

Are you planning to make that big step forward and upgrade your camera equipment? Do you need some practical advice in getting the best deals and safely buy online? Its a jungle out there and here is the top ten tips on taming the beasts.

1. Do not buy blindly: There are predators out there who are looking to separate you from your cash. You will see ads in the internet jungle that appear to be legitimate companies offering unbelievable deals and I suggest you don't believe. At the least they are bait and switch operations and can be even more sinister once they have your credit card information. The companies change their names and location often and you will see them in internet ads. Perhaps even on this page.

Top ways to be savvy:
Before you buy Google the name of the company and complaints.

Check the Better Business Bureau.

Take a look at Thoughts by Dave and through all his posts to help identify these predator sites. He is constantly uncovering these sites and it is worthwhile to look through all his posts.

And for your entertainment and education look at Brooklyn Camera/Electronic Dealer Store Fronts. Here you will find a guy who researches camera dealers and bikes to their place of business. He takes pictures of the stores or supposed stores. Be prepared to see the seedy side of these glitzy websites.

Buy from the true and tested companies that specialize in cameras. Adorama, Cameta, BH camera and Amazon are companies that you can trust. Consider buying from these companies through Amazon. Just look at more buying options and you may see better deals through these vendors.

2. Be wary of Grey Market cameras: If you live in the United States cameras made for other country markets and sold by resellers can offer a serious compromise in getting warranty service. For instance Nikon USA will not service grey market cameras or provide firmware updates.

Generally you can identify a Nikon Grey Market camera by the first digit of the serial number.

3 means Nikon USA.

While grey market cameras might be made exactly the same as Nikon USA models, I have heard rumors that the Asian Nikon D300 is not encased in magnesium but polycarbonate.

Serial numbers beginning with:
2 - Japan
3 - USA
4 - Europe (excluding UK)
5 - Canada
6 - Australia / New Zealand(?)
7 - Asia (excluding Japan)
8 - UK

3. Getting the best Deal refurbished:

Buy refurbished: This is one of the best ways to buy a camera, generally you will have to look hard to tell it was refurbished at all.

I buy Nikon and if I buy a refurbished camera I am confident that the camera has been cleaned, re-calibrated and brought up to standards by Nikon.

I personally consider this a better option than buying new. They check these cameras more intensely than the ones coming off the assembly lines.

Cameras that are refurbished come with a 90 day Nikon warranty. Unless you buy through Cameta that offers a full year warranty. I really recommend buying through Cameta I have only had great experiences with them. Cameta has internet store fronts on Amazon and eBay. Check both.

4. Buy Used: Go carefully into this dark night. You can buy used on eBay and on Amazon I would suggest Ebay.

Use due diligence by making sure your product is not grey market by following the previous advice.

Buy through Pay Pal to assure that the product is not misrepresented or a scam.

Look carefully at the pictures and if they are stock photos be more cautious. Look for missing items that you may need to purchase.

Read the item description carefully to identify any hidden surprises. Look for the number of camera actuations that can be discovered by using a program from Opanda.

Check the sellers rating.

Check the other products the seller is selling.

Be wary if the seller like this: "quantity ten used cameras." Or if they offer free shipping on other items which are cheap large and heavy.

I have seen one seller selling ten new cameras and grandfather clocks at a cheap price and free shipping. eBay removed him from their listing because it was an obvious scam.

Ask the seller a question just to make sure how responsive he will be after the sale.

Bid in the last minutes of the auction to avoid driving up the price.

5. Use Bing Shopping: Bing shopping is an innovation by Microsoft Live and can offer you savings on eBay shopping at about 8 percent. These are generally for buy now items, and can give you serious cash back when you buy refurbished from companies like Cameta.

6. Consider buying broken cameras: Now this might seem like strange advice if you are not familiar with camera repair.

Yet, most people will shy away from buying a broken camera and the price can be seriously lower than cameras in mint condition.

Now this can be a crap shoot, but repair companies like Precision Camera do a really good job on camera repairs quickly and bring your camera up to manufacturer specs. I have used Precision Camera and recommend them highly. If for instance, you have a broken Nikon D300 the repair would be about 300 dollars. Another camera repair place is Teleplan. They offer repair prices cheaper than Precision but I have no experience with them.

UPDATE: You should check this before having repairs done by Teleplan.

7. Consider Sam's Club auctions: Sam's Club auctions are completely reliable and offer new products. They may not have the camera you are wanting but chances are you will get a great deal if they do. Products are new in the box. A Sam's membership is required.

8. Think before you buy: Remove the impulse trigger from your finger tip. Do your research and think carefully. Consider all of your options.

9. Look an auction over at least three separate times: Understand the seller is bound by their description. Sometimes descriptions are updated during the auction. So read carefully and look at the pictures intently.

If I am seriously considering buying I may even copy the picture and blow it up to see all the fine details I can detect.

10. Good luck with your purchase: If you do your research well you should end up with a great product perhaps at a considerable saving.

One final hint if you are buying used is to look at the paint wear on the camera buttons. If the wear is noticible consider that this may be a camera on its last legs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ten top tips on exposing your Photographs to the World

Title: God's eye view of Yellowstone


To shoot poignant pictures we only need follow the path of our enthusiasm . I believe that this feeling is the universe's way of telling us that we are doing the right thing. The viewing public will always disagree over the intrinsic merits of a particular photograph, but no one can deny the enthusiasm that originally inspired us to capture and offer that image to others. - Timothy Allen - On choosing subject matter - From an interview in 'Photographer' Magazine (Russian)

Once you have a beautiful photograph and it is a wonder to behold: The art of presentation to the world is often neglected. How you present your photograph to your audience is as important as the photograph itself. Here are some tips I have learned from experience.

1. Titling your photograph: All to often I have seen photographs represented by their file name. The title of the photograph is the bow on the package and the enticement to the gift within. I usually arrive at a title by how the photograph impresses me. Or sometimes by using a few words of the selected caption.

2. Selecting a caption: The few words that you add to your photograph in the caption can catapult your photograph high in the viewers mind.

How you choose a caption should be careful and deliberate. Most of the captions I use are thematic and are generally based on quotations about nature or photography.

A resource I use extensively is PhotoQuotes. Photoquotes is one of the best sites available for finding captions. It is easy to navigate and void of pop ups like many other quotation sites. It has a very well researched data base.

Not only does it provide a wealth of ideas about captions, I use it as a starting point to research other photographers.

3. Deciding on how to expose your photograph: I have really covered this topic in The Ten Top Reasons photographs sell.

I do have one more bit of advice and that is keep exploring opportunities on the Internet. As an example I would like to tell you PhotoQuotes is starting a new project titled: Showcase your photography book / fine art print on
This is an excellent opportunity to increase the exposure of photographs. And, it is not only good for the promotion of your photography: It is a good thing to do.

I highly recommend that you participate and you will see my name as one of the accepted photographers.

4. Think globally and think locally: An example of thinking globally is showcasing your photos on PhotoQuotes.

You should also think locally. I have given advice that you should donate photographs locally.

This is my personal project to give you an example. I am donating a 20x30 framed print to the Blue Ridge Medical Center in Arrington Virginia.

My plan is to do this for every medical center in Virginia that serves the poor. If you would like to help with this project Contact me. Your help would be deeply appreciated.

5. Think multiple sites: People can find my photographs on many sites. Two of the primary sites I use are SmugMug and Flickr. Both those sites have been a boon for photography.

I also use countless other sites such as: Zazzle, RedBubble, and Blurb.

6. Expand your list of social contacts: I use both Twitter and Face Book to expand exposure of users of photographs. I am sure there are many sources useful for your photographic brand to be discovered in other social media outlets.

Yet keeping up with those two are as about daunting as I care to be. Importantly, look for friends in the publishing field.

7. Build relationships with galleries: Galleries are by far much better for your exposure than the Internet. Having exposure where people can see your photographs displayed beats any online gallery. If you have trouble finding galleries that will exhibit your work try upscale consignment shops. I sometimes get better prices with some of those.

8. Be persistant: Sometimes having a lot of logs in the fire can become overwhelming. You have to take the time to re stoke the embers to keep the flame going. This is one of the most difficult tasks for me. But it is a necessary task, and I have to redouble my efforts.

I try to set some time each day to do what is needed at the different sites that represent my work. The old adage if you don't use it you lose it definitely applies. And an aside to you this is my major weakness.

9. Offer people commissions to sell your work: Good agents are hard to come by. But we all know those go getters out there. Do some of your own recruiting. In the present economy you will be surprised how enthusiastic some people can be.

10. Be Johnny on the spot with emails: Try your best to answer every inquiry promptly. Being a photographer you are often in the field. Try to take care of those back logs of emails.