Photography by Jim Doty

    Home     About     Photos     Learn     Contact


Simple, effective outside portraits can be taken on the spur of the moment by nearly anyone by remembering a few simple suggestions. Keep people's faces in soft light. Use lenses that are a little longer than normal and use wider apertures to blur the background. Get close enough to your subject to fill the frame in a way you find pleasing. If you have someone in the sun, keep the sun behind them and use fill flash for their faces. Try and keep the background as simple and uncluttered as possible. Use a people friendly film. Of course wonderful photos have been taken using different approaches but this is an easy way for many people to get started improving their spontaneous pictures of family and friends.


You are asked to do a quick picture of a friend, outside, and you have a camera and lens but no flash. What do you do?

Remember that faces generally look better in soft light. People looking toward bright sunlight usually have dark shadows on their faces and tend to squint. This is not very flattering.

Nicole was standing just outside of the sunlight in the shade of a building. The most neutral background available was chosen. A zoom lens was used somewhere in the 100mm range. The photo was taken on slide film.

If you have a flash unit with you, you have more options for outside photos. This photo was taken with my nieces, Stacy and Dawn, backlit by the sun. The grass in the background was metered and the camera set for one stop more light than the camera meter indicated.

An on camera flash was used for a very simple portrait set up. No compensation was dialed in for the flash exposure.

The photo was taken with an 80-200mm zoom lens somewhere near the 200mm setting. Even with a medium aperture, the background is fairly blurred.

The film was Kodak Portra 400VC rated at 200. It is one of my favorite "people" films.


Stacy and Dawn

June 26, 2000

[Home] [About] [Photos] [Learn] [Contact]

Copyright © Jim Doty, Jr. All rights reserved.

Shop at Adorama - one of the best, largest, and most reliable camera dealers on the internet.