Posts Tagged ‘technology’

5 easy steps to HDR Photography-Try it free!

Three CHEERS for new technical toys! Here at iCreaTech we’re not just builders of all things IT, designers of web creations, schemers of traffic redirection, were also photographers; which really means we get to play with LOTS of new toys! When shopping toys, like the average “techie”, I am always looking for the latest and greatest find.  It’s always great if it’s also user friendly and most importantly the best regarding bang for my buck. Well, I’ve hit the jackpot with Photomatix Pro. All of this raving about new technical toys is really just an excuse to tell you about my newest photographic love, HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography and how I’m able to make an almost drab photograph into an eye catching creation. Although this isn’t my first try with HDR, I’ve never been able to achieve the amazing results that Photomatrix Pro can deliver. For the optimal HDR experience, a photograph with extreme light levels can really take advantate of Photomatrix Pro’s ability to work it’s magic. Try making your own HDR creation with a quick download of the trial version of Photomatrix Pro for either Windows or Mac. Keep in mind that although you can use HDR pictures with .jpg files, RAW format files can give greater flexibility in processing.

1) Shoot your photos:

When you setup your camera to shoot for HDR,  set your camera in aperture priority mode and use a tripod to avoid any discrepancy in the multiple photos you’ll merge to make your HDR. Although you can use as many or as few photos as you like, I tend to use 3 photos most often. Turn on your Autobracketing. For 3 pics in autobracket, set it up at -2, 0, +2.

2) Import your photos:

Once I’ve taken my photos and I’m ready to bring them into Photomatrix Pro, I import them to my PC with Adobe Lightroom 3. Below you can see then photos of the Alamo that I’ll merge to create my HDR photograph.

3) Make your HDR magic!

Open Photomatrix and prepare to work magic on your photos! Once you’ve opened Photomatrix and clicked the “Generate HDR Image” button, the ‘Selecting Source Images’ box opens. Click “browse” to choose the photos you want to import. You need to import all photos as once. To do this, click one file, hold down your control key on a PC or command key on a mac, and continue by clicking each file you want to be imported. Once all files are selected, click open and Photomatrix will align and merge the files. NOW the MAGIC begins:) Strength – Keep it at 100%. Color Saturation – Remember, HDR is about light, not about over-saturation! Every photo is different.  You don’t want a photo that makes you think you are hallucinating; you just want the color to POP! Luminosity – There will be less contrast in your photo, when you slide to the right. Just use your eye and do what pleases you. Microcontrast – Creates fluctuations in color, on a small scale and also helps with the graininess or noise. Smoothing – This is where the HDR effect is applied. Psychodelic go left, melodic go right. White Point & Black Point – The idea here is to have the right amount of light, if your histogram is to far to the left or right you are loosing or adding too much light. Use this to move your bell curve of the histogram to the center.

4) Process your HDR results:

Once you are done playing with all of the sliders, you can click the “Process” button. Tada done with HDR! You can also make additional changes to photograph in Photoshop or Lightroom if you feel it needs any cleanup. For a Quick and Easy Magic Trick, Photomatrix Pro gets a thumbs up at iCreaTech.

5) Brag it up to your friends!

You know you want to impress people with your new mad HDR skills!  Go for it.  Check out my more dramatic High Dynamic Alamo below! Now go try it for yourself!

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Customer Service or Dis-service

Most companies have very little real differentiation from their competitors.  For many who sell ‘commodity’ products, they can only vary on price and service.  Tony Hseih has helped build Zappos from a startup selling shoes over the internet to a powerhouse!  A few steps on the path, a bigger summary is here :

  • In 1998, Tony invested $500K with Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn to start the company.  They had almost no sales to start!
  • The decision was made early on to focus on service.  In 2004, Zappos moved to Las Vegas to hire more customer service oriented people.  Two examples: Zappos has a 1 YEAR return policy, and pay shipping BOTH ways!  It often ranks in the Fortune 500 Best Companies to Work For list!
  • By 2005 sales had hit $252M a year, and now has crossed the $1B in annual sales mark.
  • In Nov 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for stock that valued the purchase at $1.2 BILLION!

Amazing what can be done with a better customer service model.  Tony and Zappos focus on the end to end customer experience.  That is what is making Zappos grow, their customer’s loyal and well worth the $1.2B Amazon paid.

Also, Tony is personally very active as the company spokesman.  You can reach him easily by Twitter, his blog and many other means.  At Zappos, there is no place to hide bad customer service because the top person is always available to help.  So, the service just HAS to be great.

Compare that with AT&T:  A customer was sent a cease and desist letter to after emailing suggested improvements TWICE to Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO.  Last we checked, AT&T doesn’t even HAVE a Twitter account.  They don’t want to hear the complaints.  Amazingly when I googled the title of this article, AT&T came up at the top with a PAID ad.  Don’t you love the irony?

I had the good fortune to learn real customer service from a master: Bob Weirauch.  Every single customer was offered Bob’s office and home phone numbers.  You can only imagine the impact that had in many ways, big and small!

Customers love being treated for what they are: The REAL Boss.  Because they pay everyone’s salary, including the owners.  Walking the walk is the hard part.

What do YOU think about that?

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The Oxymoron of Facebook Privacy

Just a month ago, Facebook announced at their F8 conference sweeping changes to Facebook, their new Open Graph interface and a new wave of 75 marketing partnerships including CNN, Yelp, Pandora and iMDB.  Just yesterday, Facebook’s lobbyist was in front of the US Congress backpedaling from the huge wave of privacy concerns sweeping the world. So, what’s the big deal?

Phase one of Facebook’s strategy for world domination: complete. Facebook announced that more than 50,000 websites have integrated Facebook’s new social plugins in just one week. The plugins are a core component of the company’s new Open Graph initiative.

Mashable

Essentially, Facebook opened their database to their partners. When you approve individual Facebook applications it ‘warns’ you their partners will be able to read your list of friends, access you wall, photos and other content. All so you can send a friend an iHeart or see the Photo of the Day. But, how much do we know about the businesses getting that data, and how they are using it besides iHearts?  Based on the number of Facebook applications that are nothing but a virus, Facebook’s quality control and oversight of their partners must be minimal.

None of those issues have stopped the rapid growth of Facebook’s Open Graph, however. Last Wednesday, Facebook launched with 75 partners. Now there are more than 50,000 websites on board — that’s nearly 300 websites adding Facebook social plugins per hour. Clearly Facebook’s 425+ million users have enticed website owners to jump on the Open Graph bandwagon

Mashable

What has truly changed the most:

  • First, Facebook decided to make the default privacy setting for the Open Graph:  Sure, you can have my data!  So, any of those 50,000 web sites that you visit can pull your personal data and store it on their system. Remember sharing your phone number and email with you personal friends on Facebook? Or what you eat, where you work and your travel plans.  Getting clearer?
  • Next, Facebook decided to put in ‘granular’ controls… what’s that?

The New York Times noted that if you want to protect your privacy on the social networking site, you’ll have to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options. Why? Well, Facebook says that it wants to give its users fine-grained control of what they share and what they keep private. That’s admirable, but in the process the company seems to have lost sight of a different imperative: keeping it simple. How many users are going to jump through that many hoops?

~ SEOChat.com

But, the real oxymoron was believing that the data that 425 MILLION users willingly entered into Facebook is actually kept private:

  • It appears that it’s only shared with the friends you approve. Plus the applications run by unknown companies you approve. Plus the 50,000 web sites and growing.
  • A coalition of privacy groups have taken the issue to Congress as they see Facebook’s new approach breaking FTC laws.
  • So, how does Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg feel about your privacy?

Click here to read that article. Facebook is a very cool technology, a great way to stay in touch with your family and friends, and a marketers dream… but, think about what data you ‘share’ with Facebook. And who they are sharing it with as well.

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