Photography Tips for PPE Portraits

Use a long lens/zoom lens

A zoom lens (long lens) will allow you to put a lot of distance between you and your subject. The safety of the photographer and the subject are of paramount importance. The more you can distance, the better. Try for a 200mm lens, or at a minimum 120mm.

Look for soft outdoor lighting

Find a location outside that is in the shade or shoot on a cloudy day. 

Find a plain background

You don’t want the background competing with the subject. My favorite place to shoot is close to a plain exterior wall of a building. As long as you’re not shooting at high noon, at least one exterior wall of a building will be in the shade.

Have the subject stand at least three feet away from the background

Get some distance between your subject and the background. This will assure that the subject is in focus while the background is pleasantly blurred and out of focus.

Stand at least 8 feet away from the subject – preferably more

The safety of the photographer and the subject are of paramount importance. The more you can distance, the better. Don’t worry if your subject’s face only fills a small portion of the frame. You will have to crop the image no matter what.

Set the focal length between ƒ4 and ƒ6

If your camera allows you to set the ƒ stop, set it between ƒ4 and ƒ6. This will keep all the details of the subject’s face in focus while blurring out the background. 

Have the subject look directly at the lens

When the subject looks directly at the lens, it creates more intimacy. It will make the portrait more engaging.

Ask the subject to “offer the smile you want your patient to see”

This prompt should elicit a warm smile from the subject. If your subject is not a native English speaker, you can try offering the phrase in their native language. For example, if they are a native Spanish speaker, “ofrece la sonrisa que quieres que vea tu paciente”

Take a picture of the subject’s name badge (if they have one)

This will allow you to know the spelling of their name and to tag the photo file with their name.

Sample Photos

Here is an example of a PPE Portrait taken with a 200mm lens at ƒ4.5. I stood 15 feet away from the subject. They were 5 feet away from a light blue colored exterior wall. I cropped the image to just the head for the PPE Portrait Badge. When you crop the image, it’s fine to crop the top of the head, but never crop the chin.


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