noPhoto License Plate Frame Flashes to Foil Traffic Enforcement Cameras

Jonathan Dandrow believes that traffic enforcement cameras are “dangerous, invasive, error-prone, and unconstitutional,” so he decided to find a way to turn camera technology against those cameras. He ended up creating the noPhoto, a high-tech license plate frame that makes it impossible for a red light or speed trap camera to snap a useable photograph of your plate.

The trick is that that the frame is basically a optically-triggered slave-mode flash unit that’s placed right up to the subject (the license place). A sensor at the top of the frame detects when a flash is fired, which in turn instantly triggers two xenon flashes built into the sides. The powerful flash will turn your license plate into a rectangle of blown-out highlights.

A before-and-after comparison showing what the noPhoto does to photos

Dandrow writes,

One of the most difficult parts of the noPhoto’s design was engineering the proprietary flash detection circuitry. Some of you photographers out there may be thinking, “But wait! We’ve had optical slave flash triggers for years!” This is true, but what you also know is that optical flash triggers are useless outdoors beyond several feet due to infrared interference. This is why radio flash triggers are preferred in the photographic industry.

What we’ve managed to do is develop flash detection circuitry that can detect a typical traffic enforcement flash as far away as 150+ feet in direct sunlight. It can even detect less powerful consumer camera flashes up to 60 feet away in direct sunlight. In overcast or nighttime conditions, the range nearly doubles […]

Once we solved the distance problem, another issue cropped up. Our flash detection circuit was so good that it was detecting too many sources of light, causing false triggers. The sun, car headlights, and even a flashlight would set the device off! […] by creating a hardware filtering circuit, we were able to reduce false alerts by over 90%.

Say what? That’s some pretty interesting technology they’ve developed — something photography companies might interested in talking to Dandrow about.

He also notes that his technology could have applications that don’t involve defying law enforcement. It could be deployed as a privacy tool by anyone wishing to prevent photography; celebrities who are constantly hounded by paparazzi, for example. Imagine if there existed a pendant necklace that could ruin flash photos taken of the wearer.

Dandrow is currently attempting to raise $80,000 for his idea through Indiegogo, and is planning to sell the frames for $350 a pop once they’re officially launched.

noPhoto (via Digital Trends)

  • Scyfox

    The thing is that the flash fires sideways, not back or forward, so there’s INHO, no possible issues with ongoing or rear end traffic.


  • novacaine7

    That would be good, but try talking your way out of it to the officer. Not to be a nay-sayer, but laws the way they are written,[at least the California law] does not discriminate of what direction the flash fires, so you could I guess try fighting it in court. Don’t think you’ll win, once you describe the theory of practical use of the device, but maybe worth a shot.

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but in practice it could be

  • Pete B

    A friend of mine had a similar idea for blocking paparazzi photos using IR LED’s, but scrapped the idea after learning that DSLR’s have strong IR filters, unlike the P&S he first noticed the effect on. He has passed now but he’d be excited to learn about this. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Mark

    Technical question: you say you use RF signals as a trigger, but I don’t see why a (speeding) camera would emit these signals. Preflashes, as far as I know, are mere bursts of light to calculate exposure. RF signals are modulated waves, right?

  • rick

    $350? Forget it, that’s more than the dumb ticket, that you may or may not ever get.

  • Michal Czarnecki

    What would be funny is to get pulled over and watch the plate flasher flip out and get all crazy when the cop’s bar lights are flashing. That’ll be awesome to try and talk yourself out of that one when you’re trying to out-crazy the cop lights with your license plate flasher.

  • RIC

    NEWS FLASH for the care bears It is a proven fact that red light cameras INCREASE accidents!! They are a tool to generate revenue PERIOD

  • barb47

    It’s unconstitutional for the government to track you with cameras. If they want to give out tickets have a cop do it. 4th amendment right to privacy

  • Terry Vanderpuke

    another a’wipe trying to get rich off of stupid people

  • bustback

    In the last 10 years I’ve gotten at least 10 tickets that were absolutely invalid. I spent, in time and legal fees no less than a few thousand dollars fighting them. I should’ve have to. To me, it’s a broke system. Considering that there are more studies than not that show traffic cameras do not actually increase safety, what reason do they exist for? So what someone ran a red light? Now we are faulting someone and fining them based on what could have happened when they are already liable when things do happen?

    I want human interaction on the other end if I’m going to be written a ticket for some abstract violation that may, or may not be, actually valid. What compounds this issue is that there is a legal requirement for a human to write a ticket if there is a moving offense in most states, which is counter to what traffic cameras do – issue tickets based on a moving violation. They are already illegal by definition in most places and some cities and courts have ruled them as such. So, as good citizens, it’s our duty to do what we can and this product provides a measure of protection for some. It certainly can be a measure of breaking the law for others but, unless safety is actually impacted it’s irrelevant. And on that note…

    It’s been shown that traffic cameras do not measurably impact safety, which is the premise of their existence to begin with. Other than that, the only reason for them to be is as a revenue generating model

  • bustback

    Actually, it hasn’t been done but I’d love to be proven wrong. Technically, this is novel. As a product designer and optical engineer myself, I knew there was a way of doing what was done here but never took an initiative to do so. I applaud the engineering and follow through on creating this.

  • bustback

    A corner-cube formatted surface with a reflectance threshold (or one that responds to the specific wavelength of the flash) could actually work.

  • bustback

    You guys need some branding and tie-in with a mobile or automotive application model to allow users to understand when and how the device responds! Hit me up if you want to chat :)

  • tangomike

    Wow America is such a nanny country, everyone has to look after you and no using common sense. Go eat a big mac you chubby checkers

  • Carl Mac

    Best way to avoid any ticket is to know where these red light cameras are and drive around them yea it may take a little longer but you win in the end, another accident causing problem I’m seeing is the left turn signals now have a blinking yellow light while all lights are green in both directions causing some drivers to cut across the opposite lanes sometimes at a dangerous moment. like if someone behind the first car waiting for the right time to turn the person behind gets impatient and honks forcing the 1 st car to make a bad decision and having an accident, I think this was dreamed up by insurance companies to make more money.

  • Dr.Who

    most of these cameras have no children crossing these intersections. The cameras do not prevent anything, they make $ for those connected to the installations Period.

  • Eli Bishop

    Wouldn’t it be easier to use a thin reflective film over the plates, a clear coating with some sort of small ‘glitter’ particles, or even to have a reflective frame angled in towards the plate? This seems like way more work for the same result, plus you’d be flashing other drivers if they were looking at your car which is pretty distracting for them. Cool idea, I just think it could be much simpler.

  • James

    by that same logic, the light from the initial flash had to be strong enough to hit the license plate to begin with, and would be far worse for drivers in the other direction.