5 Things to Remember when Taking an Outdoor Portrait (Guest Post)

5 Things to Remember when Taking an Outdoor Portrait

You only need to remember five key things when taking an outdoor portrait. (If you’re using a phone or point-and-shoot camera, you’ll do the first four.)

Clean Background

Pick a relatively clean background without distractions. Vegetation, solid walls, and water often make good backgrounds.

Distance from Background

Make sure your subject is at least 10 to 15 feet away from the background. This will also help give a clean background.

The Eyes Have It

Make sure you focus on the subject’s eyes and that there is light in the subject’s eyes.


Avoid the phrase, “1, 2, 3 smile.” Just talk to your subject in a natural way and tell them they look great or “that looks perfect” as you instruct him or her on how to pose. If you want your subject’s attention just say, “Look over here at me. Tilt your chin up just a bit. You look great!” Snap away. Most people will smile naturally. If they don’t smile, say things like: “Give me a bigger smile” or “You have a nice smile.” If they’re still not smiling just say, “Give me a smile.”

Never count and then ask for a smile.

The Lens

Choose a medium length telephoto lens such as a 100 mm lens or zoom lens with the focal length set between 100 and 200 mm. Set the f-stop to 4.0 if the lens allows you to do that. The combination of a medium telephoto lens and a 4.0 f-stop will limit the depth of field (the range of focus in the photo) and will help minimize the background, but it’s also good to have a non-distracting background to begin with (point 1). This type of lens also minimizes distortion.

Communicating with Your Partners

During my years as a photographer with Worldwide Challenge I always included photos in my prayer letters. It was important then, but it’s even more so now. Images are everywhere, so they need to be in your communications with your supporters. That’s true whether you’re sending a prayer letter or just making updates on Facebook. Better photos stand out and grab your partners’ attention, making your ministry more visible to them.

Guest Post by Pat Mingarelli

Pat Mingarelli spent 12 years on the photo staff of Worldwide Challenge. He now resides in Bellevue, Nebraska. He is a freelance photographer/writer, a community college photography instructor, and also has a creation ministry.

His Facebook page is The Visual Bible Verse of the Day: Creation Speaks of God’s Art. Find him on Pinterest at The Creation Speaks.


  • I found an old favorite photo of me with our daughter, Jenn, at Cocoa Beach. We still love each other that much. © Mike and Sus Schmitt
  • Family photo by Pat Mingarelli.

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These 5 easy tips will make your portraits look more professional

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