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What I Learned on My Summer Mission Trip

I am writing from the ancient city of Ostia, Italy. Ironically, this is the very place that sparked the beginning of my love for visual journalism seven years ago. In a place where I didn’t speak their language, I began to learn how to hear with my eyes. Photography became the means by which I penned the stories that I saw.

All that to say, I am back in Ostia and I came with my husband and another couple from New Life Church to encourage our sister church here, play music and help connect the church with an on-campus university ministry.


My ministry role on this trip is by no means “photographer.” I have learned a few things that are helpful to consider as you go as a team member who also happens to be a photographer.

1. You Are “A Short Term Missionary”

Your primary role is to go as a team member who is ready to engage. Whether you are building a cinderblock church, working at an English camp, cleaning up a disaster area or playing music, you are there to love, engage, work, learn, feel, pray, smile, cry, rejoice, sweat and do life with the people around you.

Believe it or not, there are some incredible real-time opportunities and moments that are far more valuable if you are not doubling as a photographer.

2. You Are Not “A Photographer”

As a Christian, your identity ought never be in something that you do. It is amazingly easy to let “Photographer” become our identity rather than our gifting. When was the last time you asked yourself, “who am I?” The way you answer this question reveals a great deal of your heart. How you see yourself reveals your identity.

“What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do.” – Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are?

I would encourage a heart check before you pack your camera for a missions trip. This sounds harsh, but I am serious. Ask the Spirit to convict you if there is any pride or self worth found in “being a photographer.”

“Pride is about me; humility is about Jesus and other people. Pride is about my glory; humility is about God’s glory.” – Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are?

This being said, there are four tips I’d like to share with you on taking pictures on your trip.

1. Content Supersedes Composition. Do the best you can do document beautifully, but remember, content is far more important than clean backgrounds, preferred lighting, etcetera.

For example, if I were commissioned to photograph a group portrait at this church retreat, I would never choose to shoot with the sun at my back and with a background this busy… But you know what? It doesn’t matter! What was important to them was that they were all in the picture and that the mountain peak was in the background. That’s what was most important to them!

IPS - Where photographers come to learn.

Sometimes you will find that your “shooting style” needs to be bagged in order to love and serve someone well! :)

2. A phone camera is less alienating and more appropriate than an SLR camera at times. It is discreet and fits in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to use it!

IPS - Where photographers come to learn.

3. Don’t feel guilty about not documenting every meaningful moment. Experience them. You are a lover of Jesus and a lover of people and this often moves you to leave your camera behind so you can fully engage.

IPS - Where photographers come to learn.

IPS - Where photographers come to learn.

4. All other tips aside, remember, as you prepare for your trip and ask God to humble and help you, that you were created to reflect God’s goodness and glory… So go and love Jesus well, love people well and glorify God well with the skills he has given to you! Grace to you,

Andie Reavely

Portland, Oregon


Check out the other posts in this series:

5 Reasons to Go on a Short Term Missions Trip

A Vision for Missions Photography

5 Lessons on Missions Photography from a Pro

Photography from a Missionary’s Perspective

An IPS Student in Africa

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Feature Friday // Get 20% off 2014 classes

Happy Black Friday!

We have a great deal for YOU! Today November 29th, and tomorrow, November 30th, get 20% off any 2014 class registration! Use coupon code: IPSBlackFriday when you check out. Tell your friends! Our $25 referral program works on this too! So refer your friends, they get a discount and YOU get $25!

Also, get 25% off at the IPS store now through December 12th! Get the photography equipment you’ve wanting for Christmas! Use coupon code: MerryChristmas2013

Merry Christmas!

The IPS Team


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Pictures of the Week | November 13, 2013

And now, for your viewing pleasure, our Pictures of the Week!

I love the way this photo captures the best of the season for those living on a lake. The colors and light are beautiful. The day looks warm and inviting. I wish I lived here!

This photo was submitted for a “framing” assignment and it does a fantastic job. The dark frame accents the warm fall colors so very well. Great job!

This is probably my favorite photo of the week. I love the warm lighting wrapping around the little cowgirl. This image too was turned in as an example of framing, this time using the shadows of the trees to create shape where no physical frame actually exists. This is a super creative way to frame a subject!

This image was submitted to fulfill the assignment of blurred motion. I love the creativity that went into finding a subject that could both be sharp and show motion at the same time. The addition of the boots gives us a wonderful sense of first person experience.


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Pictures of the Week | November 6, 2013

Every Wednesday I post a collection of the best images from our IPS students. This week I had way too many good ones to choose from. Here are my favorites…

This is a really cool shot anyway, but how much more perfect in the fall. I love the attention to detail in arranging the apples, and the perfect overhead angle.

This is a splendid example of great depth, lighting and color all squished into one brilliant image.

I love the relationship between the barn in the foreground and the silo in the background. The tree filling the extra space is just perfect. The texture in the warn wood of the barn is really cool!

This portrait has amazing eyes and wonderful catchlights. I love window light! It’s beautiful and free.

I appreciate how this image takes a normal architectural element and makes it look epic. The stair is cool on its own, but the photographer’s skill elevates it to a whole new level.

I like this image because everything was placed deliberately by the photographer. The white background was made, the crayons found and placed, and the image created. Oh, and it looks cool too!

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Weekly Gallery Images // September 25, 2013

This week’s images are from our Digital Photography 2 class in Manitou Springs, CO last week. During this live workshop, our students have 3 shoots with actual portrait clients. Here are four of my favorites!


Matt – Photographed by Betsy Reich

Kristen – Photographed by Melissa Machado

Seth – Photographed by Stephanie Book

Annaliese – Photographed by Betsy Reich


Leave me a comment to let me know which one is your favorite and why.

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