Ever look at a church website or promotion and think the photos don’t quite look “real” to you?
It could be because the church opted to use stock images that have nothing to do with The United Methodist Church.
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In this age of digital photography, you don’t need to own a $1,000+ camera to make your images on your church website and in your communications more engaging and personal.
Whether you shoot with a camera or your smartphone, here are some helpful tips:
Study the light: Before
Study the light
People, buildings and just about everything else look best in early morning or late afternoon light. If those times don’t work for a needed portrait session, look for open shade or even diffused light from a window. Be sure that the subject doesn’t have the light coming from behind them into the camera, which gives a silhouette effect. A church exterior photographed during dusk with the interior lights on can be interesting. Experiment.
Make sure that your elbows are braced against your chest. Taking photos with your arms extended tends to invite camera shake. If your camera allows you to change settings, experiment with the ISO option. Short for International Standards Organization, it refers to how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light and ultimately controls the brightness of your photographs. The higher numbers are for indoor low light, and the lower numbers work better on bright, sunny days.
Study the light: After
Composition and clutter
Take a moment to compose your photo. This means being aware of what visual elements or subjects are in the frame. For instance, if a pole is in the background of your current angle/shot and it appears as if it’s coming out of someone’s head, taking a couple of steps to the side can solve the problem and recompose the photograph. Composition allows you to intentionally guide the audience's eye toward what you want them to focus on in the image without having to fight for their attention due to unnecessary visual distractions.
A sea of faces: Before
Candids versus posed
Have you ever viewed websites where there are multiple group photos featuring large numbers of people? This may interest the folks in the photo, but it’s unlikely to invite further browsing by others. Show the spirit of your church through the lives of its members. Take candid photos of church members in action doing things like singing, volunteering, praying or while in community over a meal. Capturing action shots can encourage people to see your church as being real, open, fun and engaging. Whenever possible, avoid sharing posed shots as they can come across as being fake and/or stogy instead of conveying the actual spontaneity and personality of your faith community.
Try different camera angles
Changing your point of view behind the camera can add interest to your photographs. Take a worship photo from the balcony (if your church has one) or from the top of a ladder. Mix up the scenes, such as a church picnic, with close-ups of faces, food, etc. If you don’t have a telephoto lens, which offers a longer focal length that gives distant objects a magnified appearance, don't despair. Just move your feet and get closer.
When a chose-up is more powerful: After
If you’re relaxed and having fun documenting the life of your church, chances are that the folks you are photographing will feel comfortable and at ease with the camera being around them. This typically lends to them acting more natural in their environment which produces better, more authentic photos. Remember, the cost of digital photography is affordable. If you don’t like your shot, just take another.
Happy photo shooting!
Want to dig deeper to ensure that you're communicating well visually? Enroll today for United Methodist Communications' free online training course Sharing Your Church Through Pictures to ensure that your photos are attention-grabbing and are making positive impressions.
— Kathleen "Kats" Barry works for United Methodist News in Nashville and is usually found behind a camera or book, in front of a computer or in a garden. She is a "southern Yankee" who is a mother to a rescue dog named Josi and a son named Joseph. Kats has been married for 32 years to a man who claims to be 85% Irish. She has worked in some form of photography or visual arts since having the good fortune to be hired as a newspaper photo intern in 1978. She considers meeting new people and hearing their stories as the best part of her job.
Storytelling through photography is a ministry. United Methodist Communications uses photos and photography instruction to inform, encourage, motivate, inspire and engage followers of Christ--and we are resourcing churches to do the same. These efforts require financial support. If you believe in our mission, consider a tax-deductible donation to the work of United Methodist Communications through its Foundation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.