FAQ

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This is part two of an ongoing series. Over the last several months I’ve collected some of the search terms that led people to read my blog. I’m presenting several of them here, along with brief but informative answers. This is part 2 of this series. The next ones in the series include questions on the Canon 7D specifically, and then on lenses. Here was part one.

What is humanitarian photography?
Humanitarian photography can be defined as the photography of international NGOs (non-governmental organizations), humanitarian aid, and non-profit organizations. These include organizations that focus on diverse issues including from health, development, indigenous rights, and children. Photographers make images of these organizations’ work in the field, projects, staff, and clients or the populations that are served. These images can be for documentation, to tell a story, for printed and web use such as marketing, fundraising, reports, or training publications, for presentations, or many other uses.

A humanitarian photographer, however, can also be a photographer who wishes to tell the story of the human condition through their photography, and this does not need to necessarily involve the work of an NGO. They can be a photojournalist, such as Ami Vitale, or a travel, world, and culture photographer who depicts the world through the people who inhabit it.

Humanitarian photographer / photography
That’s me! Welcome to my site. Also be sure to check out Heber Vega’s website where he has the 10Q interview series with a number of humanitarian photographers. And be sure to check out Karl Grobl, who is an inspiration to all of us humanitarian photographers.

How to become a humanitarian photographer / Getting into humanitarian photography
First, work at becoming a skilled photographer. Then begin to learn about humanitarian issues and what humanitarian aid organizations do. I address that in this post:
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2010/01/26/becoming-a-humanitarian-photographer-part-ii/

Then, have a look at these posts:
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2009/12/10/how-to-start-out-as-a-humanitarian-photographer/

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2010/08/16/after-the-self-assignment/

How much do humanitarian photographers make? / Salary for humanitarian photographer / How can I make a lot of money being a humanitarian photographer?
While there are some humanitarian photographers who work on staff with NGOs, these types of jobs are few and far between. So there really is no such thing as a salary for humanitarian photographers. In fact, at this time, there really isn’t a salary for most types of photographer except for the few that still work on staff at newspapers or a few other places, and this number is dwindling every day. For the most part, humanitarian photographers are freelance photographers who must seek out their own assignments. What they earn depends on how hard they work at this. As with any type of vocational photographer, working as a humanitarian photographer involves something like 10% photography and 90% business and seeking out work. Sounds dreadful, right, but just read about any other photographer discussing business and you will see the same thing. How to make a lot of money as any type of photographer? I haven’t figured that one out yet. Maybe work as a dentist by day.

Humanitarian photography career / jobs / opportunities
As I said above, this doesn’t really exist except in the way you create it yourself. Really. It is 100% up to you to make it a reality. There is no one path to follow, no correct course to take (although there are countless incorrect moves one could make). It is all pretty much up to you to determine through the amount of effort and dedication you put into it. One place to start is to read David DuChemin’s Visionmongers. This is one of the few guides out there for becoming a vocational photographer, and luckily for you, he began as a humanitarian photographer himself. However, it is far from containing all the answers. He leaves much unsaid that you have to learn the hard way.

Humanitarian photography ethics / Guidelines for NGO photojournalists
One good place to start is to read the NPPA Code of Ethics. I address that and discuss it a little further in this post:
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2010/01/28/working-as-a-humanitarian-photographer-ethics-and-images/

You can also look at the countless writings about journalism ethics, photojournalism ethics, and media ethics. Much of those subjects will directly apply to humanitarian photography.

How to shoot humanitarian pictures
However you want! Create your own style, tell your own story! However, if you really don’t know where to start, have a look a photojournalism and how to work and shoot as a photojournalist. You can learn this through reading books, and just as importantly through looking at images. A good place to start is The Big Picture at Boston.com:
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/

Also, learn to tell a story through images, whether it is a single image or a photo essay. How you shoot depends on your goals as well. If you are working for an NGO, they may want photos in a certain style or which serve a certain need. If you are shooting a documentary series for yourself, you may choose your subjects, compositions, and style very differently.

David DuChemin on being a humanitarian photographer
I get this search every day! Perhaps he has set up an automatic tracking search to see where he is mentioned each day.

Over the last several months I’ve collected some of the search terms that led people to read my blog (it is easy with WordPress to check your daily/ weekly/ monthly stats such as this). I’m presenting several of them here, along with brief but informative answers. Whenever I say Canon xxD, please substitute 5D, 7D, 50D, 60D, 550D, etc. as you see fit. They are in no particular order except for the first one, which is the most common search. This is part 1 of 4 of this series. The next ones in the series include questions on humanitarian photography, the Canon 7D specifically, and finally lenses.

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Compare Canon 5D vs 7D vs 60D vs 50D vs 550D – (or any variation there-of: 60D vs 50D, 7D vs 60D, 60D vs 550D, etc.)
I’ve discussed these various comparisons in depth in several previous posts. Please check out these posts:
Post 1
Post 2
Post 3

Should I wait for Canon xxD or buy Canon xxD?
If a new camera has been announced and will be coming out soon, or a current camera is reaching the end of its typical life cycle, I would wait for the new camera. (You can see if a camera is reaching the end of its typical life by looking at the Canon EOS Digital SLR Timeline at the bottom of this Wikipedia page.) Otherwise you are buying a model that is possibly 12-24 months old already and has been improved upon by the newer models. And then you will be using it for another 2, 3, or more years. This is particularly applicable since the new 63 zone metering system is now being used in the latest Canon cameras instead of the older 35 zone system, plus some other nice features. From experience, I can tell you the new metering system makes a difference. That being said, there will always be improvements in the newest models, so it is a never ending process. Also, unfortunately, you should wait several months after a new Canon camera or lens is released because they have a solid history of real problems and quality control issues on early models.

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How much better is a Canon 7D than a 550D?
A Canon 7D costs $1534
A Canon 550d / T2i costs $799
The difference of the two cameras:
1534 – 799 = 735
735 = m% x 799
m = 735/799
m = .92
Move the decimal point over 2 places
The 7D is 92% better than the 550D.
Or perhaps the 550D is 92% as capable as the 7D? This is actually much closer to the truth, at least when it comes to features like image quality. I guess it’s all in how you do the math.

Canon 5D Mk2 vs. 550D / Why Canon 5D instead of 550D?
As I have said many times before, these two cameras are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It is a strange comparison between a full frame professional dSLR and an entry level dSLR that, quite frankly, confuses me. If the 5D fits your expanding needs as a photographer, you would already pretty much know that you needed a 5D after your extensive time using a Rebel or a 20D, 40D, etc. Otherwise, getting a 5D means most likely you’d be investing in far more camera than you will actually need or use. Please note, there is no such thing as a Mark II camera. “Mark II” means it is the second version of a particular camera or lens. There is a 1D Mark II, a 5D Mark II, a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mark II, etc.

Canon 50D vs. 7D for football stadium picture
It would depend on what teams are playing, what color jerseys they are wearing, which quarter it is and/ or the score, and the light temperature of the stadium lights mixed with the natural ambient light. The (very) slightly lower dynamic range of the 50D along with its tendency to overexpose by 1/3 a stop in evaluative metering mode would indicate that you would only want to use a 50D in the later quarters, when the ambient light is decreasing and the score is probably higher. Also, the digital sensors of both the 50D and the 7D have the tendency to overexpose and lose detail in areas of the color red. So if, say, Alabama was playing at home, you would want to consider using a film camera. The final consideration would be that the 7D has a built in level that can be used in Live View. If you wish to keep the playing field level, you might want to utilize this option. However, it will be hard to follow the action and keep your eye on the level at the same time. If you shoot in a more dynamic photo-journalistic style that includes tilted frames and dynamic perspectives, either camera will do.

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Canon 7D vs 5D autofocus speed
They are both more than fast enough for your needs. I promise.

How to set deep depth of field
Depth of field is determined by the aperture you select (plus, your focal length and distance-to-subject play a role too). First, put your camera in Av mode. Then turn the main dial (the one up top near the shutter button) counter-clockwise until you have the widest aperture your lens allows, possibly 2.8, 3.5, or 4.0. Then read this post:
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2010/02/01/depth-of-field-simplified/