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Military photog getting ready to deploy to Iraq

Hey guys, I am a Army Reservist getting ready to go to Iraq. I am actually a graphics design guy but since I am a civilian photographer, I will be used as a photog.

I mostly do portrait work, so the PJ stuff is new to me. Any pointers? I am excited but I do not want to shoot the normal point and shoot crap that I see a lot. I want award winning photos. Ok that my be a far stretch, but if yall can give me some pointers that would be great!

Thank you!

by Jason Young at 2010-01-21 23:26:08 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Don’t just document a scene, but look for the moment and get as close as you can to whatever you are shooting. Really work on keeping background out of the composition, like the the standard lightpole out the head, the disinterested onlooker etc… Try to imagine/decide ahead of time the shots you want and get in place so that you are ready as things unfold. Realize that you are not going to get every shot, so be ready for all the shots you can get and stay focused. Take your camera everywhere and keep the settings set so you can just shoot. Finally give yourself the authority to take part in people’s lives, always with the greatest consideration for the subject, take the shot you know you need to take.


by David Bro | 22 Jan 2010 03:01 | Temuco, Chile | | Report spam→
..and throw away the lens cap, they do nothing but create missed shots. David’s advice is solid. Nearly every PAO or Combat Camera person I’ve come across shoot to purely document the event with no creativity in mind. Granted a lot of them weren’t really photogs to begin with but were ‘issued’ a camera. Not really their fault. I think the best piece of advice I can think of is; if this is your first deployment your going to see a lot of things that are completely new to your eye’s. Shoot these things like a Japanese tourist in Times Square. After a while the weird and insane will become a every day thing to you. Dont get ‘accustomed’ to them and remember the people you’ll wind up wanting to show your work to have never been to Iraq. These things will always be eye opening to them. Thanks for your service and take advantage of the access you’ll have. Safe travels..

by Bill Thomas | 22 Jan 2010 07:01 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
Thank you guys, that says a lot right there!

Bill you are right on the money about the com cam guys. Thats not me though, I dont wanna be that guy! Going from portraits to pj is a big jump. Something I am going to have to teach myself!

I think I am also going to have to supply myself. I like shooting RAW, but they do not do that. CF cards are way to small. Looks like I will be making some investments!
What I take from you guys.

Get close
Shoot fast and everything
have camera ready
no lens caps
watch composition (backgroud)
camera everywhere
be prepared to not get every shot and see things I have never seen
be aware of what I am showing others that have never seen

That is awesome! That is a lot to keep in mind. Thank you guys a bunch!

by Jason Young | 22 Jan 2010 12:01 | Atlanta, ga, United States | | Report spam→
Further, I would critique every shot afterwards and if you apply the list you just made, you will see and learn quickly what it is that you have to use and apply on the next shoot. You can join the NPPA, and enter contests which will really help you to improve. The NPPA has a mentoring program that is one on one.

There is something else as well and that is archiving. You can take all your shots and get the ones you need to turn in but then you have the “close but don’t make it” and the balance in raw that you will never use. If you don’t archive well with clear accurate slugs, you will never be able to find your shots. Its advisable to get an exterior hard drive and archive on it so that if you have an accident with the laptop, you don’t loose everything. If you are not diligent in the beginning with clear slugs and archives, after 6 months of not doing it, you realize you have too and its a pain. Even finding shots that you have archived well can be difficult to find. I will now send a copy to a gmail account that is my own “photodesk” and I use it for nothing else. Its also nice as if I get a call from an editor that needs a photo again, I can send it fast, from anywhere or they can go on with a password and get it themselves.


by David Bro | 22 Jan 2010 16:01 | Temuco, Chile | | Report spam→
Bro, I cannot respond to your pm. I can read PM’s but cannot respond for two weeks because I am a newb!


by Jason Young | 22 Jan 2010 23:01 (ed. Jan 23 2010) | Atlanta, ga, United States | | Report spam→
Do you guy suggest shooting in RAW? As Combat Camera, they tell us to shoot jpg and do not touch the photos. I just do not see anything wrong with white balancing, or color corrections, etc. As a matter of fact I think its necessary in most cases.

What do you guys do?

by Jason Young | 23 Jan 2010 12:01 | Atlanta, ga, United States | | Report spam→
Many newpapers have the same view, that you should shoot in jpeg. They believe it simplifies the workflow, and where there is a shortage of photo editors (or public information staff who know anything), that may be true. But remember that you are in a military hierarchy and not taking orders may be problematic.

That said, I cannot tell you the number of times I have been able to resurrect from a bad shot made in RAW a very good pic just because there was the extra information that a RAW file provides. As a designer, presumably you know Photoshop very well and can move through batch processing of RAW files quickly and get the good jpegs you want (and they need).

Finally, consider when on assignment carrying two cameras, one on RAW with a 35mm lens, and the other on jpeg with a 24-70 zoom. Use the former when you see a shot that you want but that you know your PIO won’t be interested in.

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2010 12:01 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Neal, I am going to feel it out first. It doesnt take long to go from raw to jpg. I just cant stand the thought of not having full control over my photos.

by Jason Young | 25 Jan 2010 04:01 | Atlanta, ga, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Jason,

I hope I’m not one of those Combat Camera guys Bill was talking about ……. but I’ve seen a few in my time, so I feel his pain! …… ;)

Anyways, I’ve been shooting for Canadian Forces Combat Camera for a number of years (I’m currently covering Canadian military and RCMP security at the Winter Olympics here in Whistler.) I’ve also been overseas to Afghanistan several times, and photographed numerous deployed operations, including our DART teams involvement in the 2005 South Asia earthquake, so I’ll give you my 2-cents worth ……

My advice as well would be to shoot using a documentary approach. A good source for shooting ideas, etc. is to look at stuff shot by photojournalists who have “been there/done that.” I always have a look at Getty Editorial, Reuters, AP to familiarize myself with a place I’ve never been before, and for inspiration. IMO, it’s important to choose lenses outside the normal field of vision to make your photographs dynamic. i.e wide angles (17-35), and telephoto zooms (80-200.) I don’t even use anything in the 35-70 range. With wide angles, get close to your subjects. Sometimes you have to be very close, so it’s important to have a rapport with your subject if you want to make them comfortable/relaxed. I also use a small Canon point-and-shoot with a flip screen. It’s amazing what kinds of candids you can pull out of these little cameras in many situations, and they are silent and very unobtrusive. Lastly, it’s very important to tell a story with your pictures. I’ve seen a lot of bad imagery shot by some military photogs in Afghanistan, overseas, etc where you wouldn’t even know they were in a foreign country because there is absolutely NO local context to the picture!

Here’s an example of my documentary approach to shooting DART during the 2005 South Asia earthquake:


Enjoy your tour in Iraq and stay safe!

Sgt Frank Hudec
Photographer/Canadian Forces Combat Camera
Whistler, BC

by [former member] | 25 Jan 2010 04:01 | Ottawa, Canada | | Report spam→
7years in the British Army, Iraq, Afghan (twice)… here’s my 2 pence;

Agree with Sgt Hudec; do look at stuff by other photogs to see what they’ve done.

Shooting portraits is very different from reportage; you have to make the most with what available light you have and how the situation unfolds around you. Work on composition. You’ll have to move to get the best angles, as people/ the situation won’t move around you.

Always be ready, and don’t be scared to move to some form of auto setting; better you get the shot and have some of the technical aspects off, rather than trying to get the technical right and miss a shot.

In the British Army, combat camera teams always carried rifles and if need be had to put away the camera. Be prepared to do the same if need be.

Choose your kit carefully; if you’re on foot for any periods of time, you’ll regret any unnecessary extra weight. If you do decide on 1 body, do you really want to carry multiple lenses? Risk of dirt and dust when changing lenses, weight, bulk…. Do you really want to carry 2 bodies with different lenses? Once again, weight, bulk etc etc

Get used to shooting from the hip. People always react in some way when they see a camera bought up to eye level. Shooting from the hip helps as people stay more relaxed. Takes time to get the composition right when you shoot blind like this though.

Some situations may require a compact; don’t be scared to put away the dslr and go with something smaller which is less obtrusive and less noticeable.

Who will own the copyright to your photos? Once again, British Army combat camera teams; photo copyright owned by the British Army. You’re there, on their time, being paid to take photos for them. Whereas a soldier next to the camera team member may take a very similar shot, but as he’s there in a different role, who happens to have a camera and sneak a shot, he’d own his own copyright. Depends on what you want to to afterwards with the shots and if you want to exhibit, sell etc etc

I’d take RAW and hand over photos once adjusted. If someone asks you why you don’t just shoot JPEGS, tell them it’s your work, you’re proud of your work, it’s your name on the shot and you want to make sure it’s of the highest quality. To do so means shooting RAW. Any less is a waste of quality and any old fool with a camera could have taken a JPEG- though be prepared if time may be tight to just hand over what you’ve got. Feel out the situation and see what you can get away with.

Take the good with the bad; some days you’ll feel you can’t take a bad frame. Other days will feel as if you can’t take a good frame. It happens; just be aware, even your worst frame could be better than a layman’s best frame, so even if you’re not feeling great about shooting that day, stick with it.

You will miss some shots and some action at some time. You will get some technical aspect wrong when there’s no pressure. It happens. Learn from it and make sure next time you’ve done everything you can to make sure that it won’t happen, and even that isn’t a guarantee that you won’t miss things.

Get credit for shots used in any publications.

Good luck. Keep low; move fast!

Yours aye,

Capt (Ret’d)
Royal Artillery

by Andy Barnham | 25 Jan 2010 13:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

and the west gets ready to go to the bad lands again…


by John Robinson | 25 Jan 2010 20:01 | Durban, South Africa | | Report spam→
Yeah, good points as mentioned by the Capt, especially the part about choosing what kit to bring. One other great thing about point-and-shoots is that they are pretty bullet-proof as far as dust is concerned. Re: RAW vs JPEG ….. it depends on how your unit operates and their SOPs. RAW is great for being able to bring an image back from the “dead”, and for other reasons, but you’ll be converting it to a JPEG to transmit using BGAN, unless you like large sat phone bills! ……

A good editing program (I use Photo Mechanic) is worth it’s weight in gold for speed of captioning. Using PM you can create a text file of shorthand along with the complete phrase you want to include in your caption. For example: I use the shorthand “\rcmp\” when I write in my caption, and it comes out as “Royal Canadian Mounted Police-led V2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU)”, which is the terminology they want us to use when referring to this unit. PM is also great for creating shortcuts for the proper military-lingo for weapon systems, equipment, etc. Usually the military names tend to be miles long, alphanumeric, and sometimes rather anal …… ;) Anything to save typing time!

Sgt Frank Hudec
Photographer/Canadian Forces Combat Camera
Whistler, BC

by [former member] | 27 Jan 2010 08:01 | Ottawa, Canada | | Report spam→
Thank you for your service.

by Dan Figueroa | 29 Jan 2010 19:01 | san jose, United States | | Report spam→
I highly suggest you check out others work who have been there to get an idea as far as what has been shot and how it’s been shot. Then go shoot something NEW!! Good luck ad BE SAFE!

by Nick Morris | 31 Jan 2010 07:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
I agree, to shoot wide angle lenses (from 24mm – 35mm)standing close to your subjects. It is my opinion that there needs to be a level of trust between you and your subjects that enables them to be open and not as conscious of the camera, which takes time. There is also something that comes with experience, looking at the frame and the balance of light and shadow, direction of light etc. It is graphic design, you are designing an image. Also, check our the work of the best in the industry for inspiration:

Eros Hoadland: http://www.eroshoagland.com/

Tyler Hicks: http://www.poyi.org/64/NPOY/singles_01.php

James Natchtwey: http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/

Paolo Pellegrin: http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/ambassadors/paolo_pellegrin.do

Antonin Kratochvil: http://www.antoninkratochvil.com/

Ron Haviv: http://www.ronhaviv.com/

Balazs Gardi: http://www.balazsgardi.com/

by Erik Annis | 31 Jan 2010 19:01 | | Report spam→
Jason, I’m not a PJ and I sure as hell dont shoot war, but if you want advice from someone who shoots street here it is: no photo, no matter how good it is, is worth your life. Dont take stupid chances.

by Akaky | 31 Jan 2010 20:01 | New York , United States | | Report spam→

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Jason Young, Soldier Jason Young
Baghdad , Iraq
David Bro, freelance editorial David Bro
freelance editorial
Orange County , United States ( LAX )
Bill Thomas, Photographer-Videographer Bill Thomas
Nyc , United States
Andy Barnham,  Freelance photographer Andy Barnham
Freelance photographer
(carpe D.M.- grab your boots)
London , United Kingdom
John Robinson, Photographer John Robinson
(works with light)
Pigeon Club , South Africa
Dan Figueroa, Photographer Dan Figueroa
Based Out Of Ensenadad , Mexico
Nick Morris, Photojournalist/Photograp Nick Morris
(The Image Group Photography)
San Diego Ca , United States
Erik Annis, Photographer Erik Annis
[undisclosed location].
Akaky, Contemptible lout Akaky
Contemptible lout
New York , United States ( AAA )


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