It’s funny how much I had to push up my courage to ask these people if I could take their portraits. I go to church with them; we know each other pretty well!

I shoot mostly old buildings and old cars because I like them. I like people, too, but they have feelings about being photographed that my usual subjects don’t. But my fellow congregants sure do enjoy it when I bring them prints of the portraits I make. And when I make their portraits I can speak with them as people far easier than I can otherwise.

So for our recent pitch-in lunch, I mounted a 50/1.4 onto my Pentax ME and loaded a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800. I set the lens to f/2, which I figured would give me the depth of field I wanted, and used the camera like a point-and-shoot.

This is Debra, a woman of few words but of vast faith. When I need prayer, I ask Debra first.


Meet Margaret. This is not my wife Margaret but one of the other two Margarets in our congregation. Our church is a Margaret-rich environment. This Margaret is an elder and has sung in our praise team (and in the choir that preceded it) since 1962.


Here’s Dawn, going to town carving a ham. We all come to church on our best behavior but I bet Dawn is quite ornery outside the church!


We had a guest preacher this Sunday, Nick, pictured here with his daughter whose name I didn’t catch.

Nick and daughter

Dave is a longtime member who at some point moved out to the suburbs. He drives in every Sunday.


Jenny and I had a moment of connection recently when she saw on Facebook that I’d been to the Anthrax concert. She was surprised that I even knew who Anthrax was. I project a pretty buttoned-down image.


We see Amber only sometimes. She’s a young adult making her way. Amber could well be the happiest person I’ve ever met. Every time I see her, anyway, she seems to be on the verge of rapturous joy.


Amber’s mother Rhonda is on the right, with her man Steve. They’re a great couple and seem to be good for each other.

Steve and Rhonda

I think these compositions are all right and I did get the depth of field I was looking for at f/2. I wish the colors were fuller, but I guess this is what you get shooting ISO 800 film. I had the processor make prints of these so I could give them out, and the prints have better color and less grain. It seems paradoxical, really — the lab made the prints from these scans.

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16 responses to “Portraits in a church basement”

  1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Great job Jim and what fun! Some day, I might get the courage to try this.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I wish I’d backed exposure down a half stop on all of these but I’m happy with the compositions.

  2. analogphotobug Avatar

    “I’ll go to church if I can make your portrait”………Great Idea……..

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Lol, whatever it takes to get you in a pew!

  3. Mike Connealy Avatar

    You got some nice informal portraits in that session. It is always a challenge to make such pictures because the slightest change in expression or position can make such a difference in the subject’s appearance. Your success rate under the circumstances was pretty remarkable.
    I would guess that the ratio of people to other subjects for me would be in the neighborhood of 1:1000. Yet, when I look at my Flickr albums, I see that I have more pictures on display in the “People” album than in any other category. So I have to conclude that those pictures of people are more meaningful and satisfying for me. I would guess that most other viewers of the pictures likely have the same response.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      People are interesting in ways that buildings and cars aren’t.

      For this series I just walked up and asked, “Can I make your portrait?” They posed, I snapped the shutter, and then we chatted for a minute. It did help a lot that these are people I’ve known for several years. I can’t imagine asking this of a stranger!

  4. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    Beautiful portraits … and a clever idea ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you!

  5. Heide Avatar

    What lovely portraits these are, Jim — every last one of them. They all seem so genuine; I get a real sense of who these folks are from your images. To me, that’s the essence of good portraiture, and you’ve nailed it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well thanks, H! Almost everbody was happy to have me make their portrait, which helped.

  6. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    You know, Dave is the owner of the number one cigar lounge in the greater Indianapolis area, Smokers Choice , in Brownsburg!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! I wondered if you’d see this and chime in.

  7. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Well it might not be Velvia, but I found nothing wrong with the color. Quite like these!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! A half stop less exposure might have helped but it’s not like there is a real problem here. They turned out all right!

  8. davidvanilla Avatar

    Nicely done, Jim. Some fellowship going on there!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Why thank you!

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