I polled over thirty growing multisite churches to see how they allocate their service time. On average, they dedicate a third to worship. If a large portion of the service is dedicated to worship, we should learn how to capture worship well through photography.
Below are 15 ways to improve your worship photography. Also, if you need someone to help coach your photo team, let me know. I would love to see them succeed.
1 Form Your Team – A team of good volunteer photographers is better than a great individual staff photographer. A team prevents one photographer from getting burned out and allows individuals to use their gifts. A team also allows you to capture multiple events at the same time or multiple angles of the same event. If you’re a gifted photographer, then feel free to shoot alongside your team but don’t feel compelled to. Your leadership of the team is more important than your participation with the team. Both are ideal, but if you have to pick one, pick leadership.
2 Understand Your Team – I divide photographers into two broad categories – ones that take pictures of people, and ones that takes pictures of things. If you need architectural photos of your building then line up a “things” photographer. If you need to capture guests at an event, then get your “people” photographer. Since the majority of worship photography involves people, you know which type of photographer to line up. Check out the Instagram feed of your team to know which category they belong to.
3 Prepare Your Team – Once you’ve formed your team, make sure they understand their gear and your expectations. Create a document that includes a basic job description, best practices and camera settings. And provide them with a basic shot list for events like a worship service.
4 Get a Fast Lens – Since your house lights are most likely going to be low or even off during your service, you need a fast lens to capture decent photos. I recommend using a prime lens with an f-stop below two. This will minimize the amount of noise on your photos.
5 Wear Black – Wearing black allows photographers to blend into the background so they don’t become a distraction. But make sure to map out the auditorium and flow of traffic with your photographer the first time they are shooting. I once had a new photographer that blended into the background so well that the worship team ran into them as they exited the stage.
6 Be Observant – Watch for key moments that are filled with emotion, meaning, significance, surprise, impact and uniqueness. Or better yet, anticipate moments that are about to happen so that you can position yourself to capture them. This anticipation means that you will think through your upcoming shots even as you deal with your current shot.
7 Shoot Folks You Don’t Know From The Back – You don’t want to put a first time guest on your social feed Sunday afternoon. Worship is a very intimate experience. Highlighting someone during their first visit may make them feel weird.
8 Shoot Folks You Know From The Profile – If you know someone, they’ll probably be cool with you posting them worshiping on the gram or website. If you are new to the church, or the church is large and it’s hard to know everybody, then shoot folks both ways and allow someone else more seasoned to select which photos to publicly share.
9 Don’t Shoot Folks From The Front – If you are shooting people this way, you are standing at the front of your auditorium directly in the sightlines of folks. At this point you are the focus of attention instead of worship. Not good. A potential time to bend this rule would be if you can capture people from the wings of your stage.
10 Capture a Range Of Worshiping Styles – If you search for “worship photo” you will see the same image again and again. A room full of silhouetted people raising their hands with a colorful stage in the background. Believe it or not, this isn’t the only form of worship. Make sure to capture other forms.
11 Capture a Range Of People – Capturing a range of people helps you avoid shooting just the photogenic people. In turn, it helps you showcase that your church is for everybody – not just the young, hip and beautiful. Capture couples, singles, younger dudes, older ladies. Capture everyone. If your photographer doesn’t capture a range of people, you can quickly tell who their friends are, or even worse, who their secret crush is. So if you’re gonna use the camera as a flirtation device, try to be subtle.
12 Capture a Range Of Compositions – I was stoked when a National Geographic photographer joined my team, but quickly realized he struggled getting a range of compositions. All of his professional work was landscapes. All of his photos were wide shots. After a little coaching he started capturing medium and close as well. Coach your photographer to capture a range of compositions during worship. And if the photo seems boring just throw a Dutch angle on it 🙂.
13 Capture a Range Of Perspectives – When you see an intimate moment, move closer to capture that intimacy. Moving closer highlights the subject matter of your photo and eliminates distracting background elements. Get above, behind and beside your subject. If the subject seems boring from your current perspective then change it to make it more dynamic. Our eyes are drawn to images we don’t normally see. Capture a range of unique perspectives to pull your audience in.
14 Horizontal & Vertical – Most photographers shoot more horizontal photos because that’s how the camera naturally fits in our hands. Shooting vertically is especially vital for social media. Changing your camera from a horizontal to vertical position depicts the same scene with a fresh perspective. Remember to flip that camera around.
15 Don’t Aggressively Photograph Minorities – I worked at a church with a 80/10/10 ratio of Caucasian/Asian/African American guests. I asked a new member how our church could best serve him. He said, “don’t take photos of me for promotional purposes.” He wasn’t ultra sensitive to privacy issues. But he was sensitive to being used to falsely showcase a greater degree of diversity than our church actually represented. I use this story to highlight how racial minorities in your context may be understandably sensitive to becoming a poster child for inclusiveness. Use wisdom and discernment here.
Those are my 15 ways to capture great worship photos. Hopefully these steps will help you showcase what God is doing in and through you. Reach out if you need coaching to help build your photo team or improve their abilities. I would love to help you and your church succeed.
Finally, if you’re looking for a tool to make worship more seamless and efficient, Tithe.ly Worship helps your team to quickly and easily coordinate worship sets for weekend services, worship nights, and more. To learn more, click here.