16 Common Church Photography Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

As church photographers, we aim to showcase our church community as genuinely as possible, ultimately leading others to Christ. Though this can seem straightforward, some common mistakes that every church photographer should be aware of make achieving this goal harder.

Keep reading as I share common church photography mistakes and explain how to avoid them so you can get beautiful shots for your church.

1. Not Understanding The Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle is, fittingly, made up of three parts; ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Changing one of these elements affects all three.

Raising ISO brightens your image; think of it as adding artificial light, but it adds noise to your image. Lowering (also called widening) your aperture adds more light but creates a shallower depth of field. Finally, reducing your shutter speed adds more light but more motion blur to your image.

Widening your aperture to create a shallower depth of field may mean increasing your shutter speed or decreasing your ISO to compensate for the extra light hitting your camera’s sensor. The same goes when changing the other elements.

For an easy-to-use cheat sheet, check out my article covering what the exposure triangle is and how to use it.

2. Not Paying Attention To Composition

Composition is essentially how you arrange your photos and the elements within them. When first starting, many beginner photographers take pictures because “they look cool”. Though this can get some good results, you’ll be able to spot more shots that “look cool” if you can understand why that is the case.

Four ways you can improve your composition are to utilize the rule of thirds, leading lines, the Fibonacci spiral, and negative space to your advantage. As they are essential for photographers, I wrote an article outlining how to master these four composition techniques to improve your church photography.

3. Not Using Editing Presets Properly

Professional photographers often either sell or give away presets for photo editing software to help others emulate the look of their photos. These presets are an excellent asset, though beginners often throw the preset on their image and export it as a final product. Presets are meant to be a starting point for your image. Should you choose to use presets, be sure to adjust each photo after applying your presets.

For a complete tutorial on how a professional tutorial uses photography presets, check out my article teaching you how to install and use Lightroom presets. Also, check out our Church Photography Lightroom Presets in the Creatives for Christ shop.


Our Church Photography Presets are meticulously crafted to elevate your church photography to new heights. They’re more than just a filter – they’re a gateway to creating impactful images with ease and consistency. Using these presets and their accompanying resources, you are going to develop the creative vision and editing skills of a professional photographer.

  • Church Photography Lightroom Presets
  • Comprehensive Guide To Lightroom Presets eBook
  • Professionally Shot RAW Practice Photo & Editing Tutorial
  • Lightroom Export Presets Pack

4. Not Paying Attention To The Background

It’s easy to get caught up in a great shot when your subject is in the perfect place with the perfect lighting. You want to be sure you capture the moment and get everything in focus. Make sure you aren’t so enveloped in the shot that you don’t miss any crucial details in the background, such as garbage lying around, an unwanted person in the distance, or any other objects you don’t want.

5. Not Taking Too Many Photos

Taking “too many photos” sounds negative, but as a church photographer, it’s something you want. As long as you have enough storage, you want as many photos as possible. This is because you have a better variety to choose from later on. It’s better to have the shot and not need it than to not have the shot and need it.

6. Not Planning Your Shots

The worst feeling as a photographer, especially a church photographer, is getting back from a shoot feeling great, then realizing you missed a crucial shot and have to find a resolution. Any time you have photos you need to have, create a shot list. Compile all needed shots and organize them by groups according to when and where you can take them. All photos that are taken together should be grouped.

For more help planning your shots, I wrote an article outlining how to create a church photography shot list.

7. Always Using Auto White Balance

Using auto white balance can be very handy, but your camera doesn’t always get it right. Now, if you shoot RAW, you can always adjust this when editing. While this is the case, getting your white balance right in the camera is still better. All of your settings should be as close to perfect as possible in-camera.

Get familiar with your camera’s white balance presets, or consider using a white balance card. These cards tell your camera what is “supposed” to be white.

8. Not Using Flash

For beginner and even intermediate photographers, flash can be intimidating, so it is often avoided. Flash can be an excellent tool for low-light and highly bright environments. In low-light locations, a flash can add light to the entire room or just the subject. In bright spots, such as direct sunlight, a flash can remove harsh shadowing or add light when the subject is backlit.

9. Ignoring The Rule of Odds

The rule of odds states that when you have multiple elements in your photo, it should always be in an odd number. For example, a picture of apples should have one, three, five, seven, or nine. This is because odd numbers allow one element to be the subject.

10. Not Using Lens Filters

Lens filters are incredibly useful in all different types of photography. ND filters are essentially sunglasses for your camera, polarizers reduce glare and reflections, and diffusers create an excellent bloom on light sources. Every photographer should have some lens filters in their kit.

11. Not Using Manual Focus

Autofocus is a fantastic asset when your subject or yourself is moving, but relying too heavily on it can mean missing focus on vital shots. If you and your subject are stationary, consider using manual focus to ensure you nail the focus.

12. Not Exposure Bracketing

Sometimes, the gap between shadows and highlights is too wide for even a RAW photo when shooting. Exposure Bracketing is an excellent way around this. You take multiple pictures at different exposures and have software such as Lightroom blend them. This creates an HDR image with way more control than just a RAW photo. Many cameras have a bracketing feature built-in.

13. Not Shooting In Burst Mode

When shooting live events or subjects, it’s not uncommon to miss a shot because someone blinked or moved. Shooting bursts of photos means instead of capturing a single point in time, you capture a small chunk of time and pick your favourite part.

14. Not Using The Histogram

The histogram is an essential tool for creatives but can be intimidating for beginners. It is what’s called a frequency distribution. All this means is that it shows how many pixels there are on your image at each exposure.

The farther right you go on the histogram, the brighter the exposure until you hit pure white at the end, with pure black on the far left. Any pure white or black pixels contain no information, meaning you cannot use editing software to recover the image.

15. Not Correcting For Lens Distortion

To keep it simple, lens distortion is the warping of your image due to the elements of your lens and how they are put together. Though it can get very technical, it is relatively easy to fix. Adobe Lightroom can correct lens distortion by using distortion profiles. You simply select the make and model of your lens, and Lightroom corrects for lens distortion automatically.

16. Not Considering The Final Product

Though shooting as a creative endeavour is great and can be an excellent way to serve your community and God, shooting with the final product in mind will change how you shoot. For example, if you know you are taking photos to be used in a graphic, you may change your composition to include more negative space.

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

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