Church Photography. It’s a real thing. Since the rise of social media, it was always inevitable. What started with one person taking photos, likely on their phone, has turned into something else entirely. Now there are entire teams of people, large and small, all dedicated to telling the story of their church through this powerful medium.
SEE ALSO: PHOTOGRAPHY: TELLING THE STORY
The reason that photography is so crucial in churches today is not something that I’m an expert on. I would even go so far as to say that I don’t know anything about that at all. There is likely someone out there (a marketing genius, for example) that could list all the reasons that it’s so important. What I do know, is that when people’s passions and interests line up with building into their church, it changes the game.
Recently on the @hillsongphotography Instagram account, we made use of their great new ‘Ask a Question’ tool, which was unbelievably revealing in terms of the type of knowledge people are hungry for. Some questions came up multiple times and deserved fleshed out answers. So right now, I’m going to pick a handful, and unpack them a little. Hopefully it’s helpful to some people out there. If not, well I’m going to have a great time writing it regardless.
How do you manage to get a consistent look across your photos when the team is so large?
The best way that we’ve found to achieve this is by having a sub-team of editors within our photography team. This allows us to focus in on training and developing those people specifically to the editing process. The goal is that no matter who edits, the images have the same look and feel. Our editors understand the bigger picture of what they do, and how the way they edit (and the photos they choose) goes a long way.
What is the best camera to use?
Honestly, as cliché as it sounds, the best camera is the one that you have. Yes, some work better in low light. But if you’re limiting yourself based on the gear you have, you won’t realise how much potential you have. Getting a great camera doesn’t make you a great photographer, much like a great guitar doesn’t make me as good as Nigel Hendroff. Bottom line, don’t get bogged down in what you don’t have. Start with what you do have.
How do you organise the photographers for services and conferences?
I never want to be too specific with where photographers need to be. There is so much value in an individual photographer seeing what they see, not what they’re being told to see. Now, this is definitely slightly different with conferences, simply because of scale. But even then, we’re only placing people in general areas and allowing them freedom within that space.
How do I learn how to use a camera?
This is actually a really valid question. As with any skill, the best way to learn is by doing. If you take photos every day, you’re not going to get worse. If you’re asking the question of how to get better, then you clearly have an interest in it and likely an eye for it. Don’t wait for that perfect ‘Photography Course’ or the perfect camera. Just start taking photos, frequently. If possible, surround yourself with other photographers that are further along in their craft than you. You’ll pick up a lot from other people, and it’s always better to do things together.
What is the ‘Shot List’ when capturing a church service?
This one is close to my heart. Shot lists are a great tool, without a doubt. If you’re a new team member and slightly unsure of what to capture, a list of photos to take will be a massive help. The problems that can arise though are when you never graduate from that mentality. If you enter into a service and think “I just need three shots of the worship leader, one of the band, two of the preacher” and so on, you’ll find yourself getting the same shots, week after week. I would say it’s more about capturing the breadth of the service, and absolutely you need to know what to get, but don’t reduce it down to a number. Stay fresh and always push yourself to try something different.
What is the starting point for keen photographers with little experience?
A good heart is such a perfect starting point. I would take a team of unskilled photographers with great hearts over industry professionals with the wrong heart any day. Skills can be taught, as long as you are patient and happy to just bring people along the journey. Team members aren’t a means to an end, and a healthy team is a thriving team.
What things do you look for in an image when uploading?
Everyone has heard the idea that a good photo “tells a story”. While this is undeniably true, I don’t love that statement in isolation. You can show two people the same image and one will be moved to tears by the story it tells them, and the other will see no story in it at all. A story in an image is highly subjective and different for everyone! It’s helpful instead to look for an image that is compelling. Even if they only thing an image has going for it is that it’s ‘really cool’, that’s generally enough. The other big thing to watch for is good facial expressions. It’s worth waiting for the right moment rather than being content that you have a photo that is ‘good enough’.
What pre-sets do we use?
We have a really (really) basic pre-set that is essentially just slightly higher in contrast and sharpness. So many departments within church have a need for images, so we generally aim to provide something that is as simple and clean as possible. While there are some pre-sets that look amazing, anything that is too heavily modified might not age as well as something that isn’t. If you don’t believe me, scroll down to the very bottom of your own Instagram feed and see for yourself.
Does photography feel like a form of worship?
Yes. A thousand times yes. God has given us eyes to see and a heart to capture it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then every photo we take has the ability to speak thousands of words into the lives of people we will never know. It’s not possible for us to comprehend the reach that that our images have. It’s so easy to get lost in the instant gratification of social media. Cass Langton spoke at Teamnight about “Wasteful Worship” not too long ago, and it’s such a relevant concept to photography teams (and all teams). There are countless photos taken and then deleted. Thousands of photos that are uploaded but not posted to social media. If we get caught up in what gets seen, not only are we missing the point, but we’ll get disheartened and creatively fatigued in no time at all.
So that’s it for now. There were so many great questions, and I hope that these small thoughts are helpful. Also, I’m notoriously bad a segues and closing statements. So, be blessed.
If you have anymore questions, share them in the comments below and we might do a follow up blog.