How To Take Photos For Impactful Sermon Slides

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One of the best ways a photographer can serve their church is to take photos for sermon slides. Now, this may seem straightforward, but taking photos for sermon slides requires insight into how to give impactful presentations.

There are three keys to taking photos for impactful sermon slides; composition, shooting technique, and post-processing. Mastering these three keys will ensure your photos will contribute to impactful sermon slides.

Keep reading as I break down each of these three keys as well as give some tips for taking great shots.

Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen is a book written by Garr Reynolds, “an internationally acclaimed communications consultant, [and] teacher“. It details how to create impactful presentation slides by following the Zen arts from Japan.

“the photograph captures a moment in time, allowing the viewer to slow down and think and wonder and reflect”

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations

Reynolds suggests using images as ornamentation, meaning in supplement to the narrative that is being presented. Now, what does this mean for sermon slides? It means your photos do not have to have clear explicit meaning. It is okay for your photos to be backed by narration or text, the viewer does not need to be able to infer the meaning behind it at a glance.

This may seem counterintuitive because in photography, being too abstract can be disengaging to your viewers. When it comes to sermon slides, your images are not the focus, they are meant to supplement your pastor’s sermon and are only a tool for them to convey meaning.


A key to taking images for your church’s slide deck is to pay very close attention to the background of your photos. The aim is to have your background be the least “busy” as possible. This means the least distracting as possible.

There are two ways to do this; first, you can simply have fewer elements in the background. An alternative to this solution is to have as much uniformity in your background as possible. For example, using a brick wall as a background provides texture but is simple and not busy.

The second option is to blur the background of your image. This is done by widening the aperture of your lens. The caveat to this is that it will cause the photo to be very subject-focused, remember the sermon and the words your pastor says are the focus, not the visuals they use. To enhance the bokeh (blurry background) you can also try shooting at longer focal lengths as the lens compression compounds to the effect of the bokeh

Another compositional key for sermon slide images is to utilize negative space. Using negative space effectively will allow room for your pastor to overlay text on their slides. As per Presentation Zen, slides are more engaging and visually appealing when images are large on your slides.

Images can take up the entire slide or even be subjects with their backgrounds removed entirely. Should your pastor choose to have the image cover the entire slide, they’ll want negative space to overlay text on.

One final key to composing images for sermon slides is to leave extra room when composing your actual shot. This will give you the flexibility to crop your photo later. The caveat to this is that your photo needs to be sharp and in focus, the next section covers tips for the process of shooting these images.

Compositional techniques are powerful tools photographers can use easily once they’re fully understood, that is why I wrote an entire article detailing how to improve your church photography with composition.


As stated before, cropping your photos requires them to be sharp and in focus. To do this effectively there are two options; have a fast shutter speed, or use a tripod. Both will ensure sharp photos, but there will be times when one may be more convenient than the other and vice versa.

Having a fast shutter speed will eliminate the issue of motion blur. The issue is you need enough light in order to increase your shutter speed. The less time your shutter is open (faster shutter speed) the less light hits your sensor. To counter this you’ll need to add more light with a flash, softboxes, or using natural light. Note that you can raise your ISO to compensate for this, but it will introduce noise, taking cropping out as an option.

Using a tripod is a great way to negate the issue of shaky hands with a slow shutter speed. Tripods will take away the motion blur that you may cause as the photographer, but they will not help with a moving subject.

Another tip for shooting photos for sermon slides is to take multiple photos of each subject. This means trying out different angles, or compositions for the subject. It’s better to take too many photos than to not take enough.

One final tip is to pay attention to exposure; over or under-exposing your image is not fixable in editing. Keep in mind you may, for creative reasons, want parts of your image over or under-exposed; that’s fine, so long as you are aware of it. Use your histogram to monitor the exposure of your image.

For more tips on shooting, check out my article outlining 16 common church photography mistakes and how to avoid them.


When it comes to editing photos for sermon slides the key is consistency. You want all of the photos in a slide deck to be somewhat consistent. This means one isn’t overly saturated with the other dull and desaturated, they should have a consistent colour palette and white balance.

When it comes to white balance, when shooting you can use a white card to help set it properly. In editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom, there is an eyedropper tool to help you set your white balance.

Maintaining a consistent colour palette is difficult to master, but will take your pastor’s slide deck to the next level. Think of a colour palette like picking a font for your text. You don’t want every slide to be using a different font, consistency helps keep your slides from being distracting. Editing photos with a similar colour palette helps the presentation flow nicely from slide to slide and will reduce distraction from the sermon itself.

As for export settings, Presentation Zen suggests between 72-100ppi (pixels per inch). The exact dimensions you choose will depend on the aspect ratio of the slide deck. Historically, slide decks have been presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3, but it has become increasingly more common to present in 16:9 as digital presentations have become commonplace.

For more information about editing, check out my article covering Adobe Photoshop’s Generative Fill.

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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