Special thanks to Robby Doland, Life.Church Photographer, for writing this post.
How do you view photography in your church?
Photos are more than just historical archives. They are powerful tools for inviting and attracting people to your church; a way to show your community what they can experience inside the walls of your church.
Photos shared on your website or social media platforms can help non-attenders shape their view of your church. In just one glance at a photo, they’ll have a positive or negative reaction to the question they’re asking internally: Is this a place where I can belong?
So, if great photos are that important, how do you consistently create them with or without a dedicated church photographer?
6 Small Tweaks for Better Church Photography
1. Avoid staged or posed photos.
The first photo above doesn’t allow the viewer to see himself in the shot. The second image lets the viewer see how they’ll be treated when they walk into our church. Someone is ready to offer a smile and help them into the experience.
Practical tweak: When taking a photo of volunteers, focus on the volunteer in action serving an attender. Keep the attenders in the frame, but focus on the volunteer and their big, warm smile.
2. Keep context and branding in mind.
Both of these shots were taken at a family weekend event, but the first photo doesn’t give context to the location of the event—our church. Simply switching the angle at which the photo was taken brings the viewer more context and branding.
Practical tweak: Branding doesn’t have to always be your church logo—anything that helps the viewer recognize the location can be branding. It could be the architecture of your building, artwork on the wall, color scheme, volunteer t-shirts, or many other things in your church.
3. Focus on emotion.
Baptism and worship are great times to capture emotion in church photography. For emotion to come through, make sure the subject is close to the camera. The further the distance, the less emotion comes across. Wide shots are important, especially when setting the scene, but if you’re going for emotion, a long lens will help you get up close and personal while not interfering with the moment.
Practical tweak: If you can have two photographers at an event like baptism, arm each one with a different lens, especially if you’re working in a tight space. This allows you to capture both a tight and wide shot.
4. Use photos that tell a story.
Before using a photo on your website or on social media, make sure it’s telling the story you want to share. During a rainy weekend, our volunteer photographers took these two photos. In the first photo, there’s no story—all the viewer sees is someone walking in a parking lot in the rain. In the second photo, however, the viewer sees a similar scene, but they also can tell this family is walking into Life.Church. And, even though it’s rainy and gloomy, they’re smiling and someone friendly is helping them stay dry and find their way inside. The story here says, “You’re welcome here, and we’re here to help!” Plus, look at all the branding in this shot! How many items can you find?
Practical tweak: When taking or choosing a photo, ask yourself, “What story does this image tell?”
5. Ask yourself, “How does this photo make me feel?”
Both of the photos above show our volunteer parking team in action; however, the first photo gives the impression that serving is a lonely, isolating experience. When in reality serving is one of the best ways for attenders to develop and deepen relationships in the church. The second picture makes the viewer feel more connected than the first and illustrates the community they’ll find when serving.
Practical tweak: All attenders want to be needed and known. Make sure the images you use depict this. Ministry huddles are a great place to get shots that tell that story.
6. Focus on worship, not singing.
Worship photography can be tricky, but fun. I produced a complete training video about worship photography that you can view free on the Open Network. One of my personal rules in worship photography is taking images that show a worship pastor as more than just a singer. Our worship team has an axiom that says, “We are worshipers leading worshipers.” To illustrate this, I prefer using photos that show our worship pastors in moments of worship from the stage. The first photo is a great shot, but the second shot highlights him as a worshiper first and a singer second.
Practical tweak: When shooting worship shots, be patient and wait for the best shots. Usually, by the second or third song, the band and attenders are in a posture of worship that translates well for photography.
More Photography Tips
Want even more photography tips from Robby? Here are two ways you can keep honing your church photography skills:
- Watch his photography trainings free on the Open Network. In a three-part series, Robby teaches practical ways to take better photos in the lobby, in the auditorium, and during baptism.
- Connect with us on Instagram at @lifechurchopen. Tuesday, September 11, Robby will be taking over our Instagram Stories for the day and answering your church photography questions. He recently traveled to Puerto Rico for a global missions partner visit and will show you some behind-the-scenes of how he approaches missions photography.
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