What Is Church Photography? And How Your Church Can Use It

Sharing the gospel and showcasing your church’s community can be done in several different ways, and one of the best ways to do both at the same time is through church photography.

Church photography is an umbrella term that includes different styles of photography that a church can use. Though almost any photography style can be used as church photography, four common styles are live, landscape, portrait, and product photography.

Keep reading as I explain why church photography is essential and give some creative ways to implement it at your home church.

Why Is Church Photography Important?

Photography is not only an excellent way to express oneself creatively but also an excellent way to share the gospel. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” sums it up perfectly; photography is a way to story-tell visually by using images representing teachings, values, and metaphors related to the Christian faith.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:19 NLT

Photography is also an excellent opportunity to showcase your church community. This can be achieved by taking photos of services, events, and other gatherings to showcase the opportunities to connect with the community your church offers.

Documenting your church’s history is essential for newcomers to get a sense of your church community and an excellent way for its existing members to track the growth of your church. Parents with kids who grew up at your church will have memories documented over the years; others will see themselves grow and change, drawing your community closer together.

Photography can also be excellent for spending time with and connecting with God. Photographing a church event is an act of service that can help connect you to your church community. Taking landscapes often allows you to go to locations that aren’t busy and to spend time alone with God. Taking portraits of someone will enable you to spend time with them and connect with them; maybe they are having a tough time at work and need prayer; you would never have known had you not taken the time to communicate with them. Finally, product photography can give you access to resources you might not have had access to otherwise, such as books that are being recommended by your church’s leadership team.

Live Performance Photography For Church

Live performance photography in the context of the church could materialize in many ways: pictures of your worship team during practice or service, photos of your Christmas kid’s concert, or any other special productions your church puts on.

The key to live performance photography is light. Often live performances create low-light environments; to counter this, you will need to adjust your ISO your aperture, or you will need to add more light. I did not include your shutter speed because you will likely need a fast shutter speed to freeze movement and avoid blur.

One option to add more light is to use a flash; though, use it sparingly as it distracts during live performances. I recommend getting as many photos as possible during rehearsals to counter this. Check out my article, which gives 19 tips for capturing live performances.

When doing live photography in a church setting, one crucial factor to consider is emotion. Worship services especially can be very emotionally and spiritually charged for the congregation. Look for who is most visibly engaged in worship, which will add much more depth to your photos.

Check out my article, where I give 19 tips for taking impactful pictures at church. Be careful not to disturb anyone or to be disrespectful, as the primary purpose of the service is to draw others to God, not for you to take photos.

Live performance photos can be used in many places, but they are perfect for your church’s website and social media page. Pay attention to optimized dimensions if you plan to publish your images online; getting your export settings right will help your page look more professional.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

1 Peter 4:10 NIV

Taking photos of the worship team can be just as spiritual as playing on the team itself. Consider 1 Peter 4:10, as it’s quoted above. You should not ignore or downplay the gifts that God has given you; use them to serve Him and the people around you.

It’s easy to get caught up in the technical side of live performance photography, as it can be stressful trying not to miss crucial moments. That is why I recommend taking some time during rehearsals to create a shot list that notes the order of the performance. Doing this and taking as many photos as possible during rehearsals will allow you some time to be present and take a break during the actual performance.

Landscape Photography For Church

In the church context, landscape photography is simply photos of God’s creation. These photos can showcase mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, deserts, and so much more. These can be taken solo or possibly with a group from your church. A hiking group is an excellent example of connecting with your church community and taking beautiful landscapes.

The key to taking good landscapes is when you take them. Try taking your photos at “golden hour,” the short time frame just after the sun rises or before the sun sets. This works so well because of the sun’s angle, as taking photos mid-day results in harsh shadows.

The photo above was taken at golden hour; the sky has a nice gradual light roll-off, and the mountains are soft and warm. Though golden hour can work wonders for your images, the weather can cause shooting problems. Check out my article, discussing how to take stunning photos in different weather conditions.

Landscape photos can be used for your church’s promotional material, such as its website or weekly newsletter. They’re also great for social media as the subject of posts or as backgrounds for graphics. Going out and taking landscapes is a great time to connect with God while you admire His creation; seeing your photos may inspire others to explore nature and connect with God.

One great example of using landscape photography in a meaningful way is for baptisms. Let’s say your church does a baptism at a local lake. Get there early or stay later to take some lovely lake landscapes. Then your church can have them printed and framed as a memorable gift for those baptized. If you want to go an extra step further, write down any bible verses they read off or any verses you know are special to them on the back of the print.

“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

Psalms 104:24 NIV

Taking landscapes is an excellent opportunity to spend time alone with God, as golden hour often occurs early in the morning or late in the evening (depending on the time of year). I recommend taking some time for any devotionals you are doing, for podcasts, or to listen to worship music and sit in His presence.

Portrait Photography For Church

Portrait photos in the context of the church are photos of people, groups, and animals that relate to or can be used by your church. These can be photos from your events showcasing your church’s members or groups or even from daily life. Maybe your pastor uses an analogy of a cat in their sermon and needs a photo, perfect time for a portrait shoot of your cat!

When taking portraits at church, try to take as many candidly as possible. This means refraining from staging shots. The key to taking genuine photos with lots of emotion is to take pictures when real emotion is displayed. At events, look for the person enjoying themself the most; for one-on-one shoots, try and engage in genuine conversations and capture moments in time.

Portrait photos can be used anywhere, but they work well, specifically on social media posts. Portrait photos can personalize your church’s image, whether it’s your church’s Facebook page, Instagram page, or website. Showcasing genuine moments from your church community looks welcoming when looking in from the outside; it also will help your local community connect better with your church community by allowing personal connections to contribute to outreach.

Taking portraits can be a great way to spend time with your church community and connect with them. You get a chance to practice photography and chat with your church family while they get photos of themself or their family that they can use for social media, Christmas cards, and more.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

Although not outright obvious, portrait photography can be a powerful tool as it challenges you to reflect on how you see yourself and others. It also allows you to appreciate how each individual is beautifully and wonderfully made in His image. Every person is unique and valuable in the eyes of God, so try to capture people from different backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life. Remember to use your images to tell a story.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27 NLT

One thing to be wary of when taking and editing portrait photos is perfection. It is easy to fall into the trap of editing every minor detail of a picture, especially with today’s technology. Remember that we are all made in the image of God and that editing can harm your subject.

Don’t edit any features of your subject that they cannot change. If you want to edit pimples or acne off of a person, make sure they are okay with it. Otherwise, it can cause them to be self-conscious.

Check out my article here, where I answer the question: Is It Okay to Photoshop Your Photos?

Product Photography For Church

At face value, product photography and church may seem vastly different and unrelated, but product photography can be a handy tool for various aspects of your church’s function. Typically product photography is used to showcase products with the intent to advertise and sell them. Still, the fundamental idea of showcasing a subject to share it with the world should be very familiar to churches.

Product photography in a church context is interesting because, generally, photography for your church should be candid to be as genuine as possible, but product photography is inherently not candid with product photography; details matter. The tiniest speck of dirt can be distracting, so be sure to pay attention to every small detail of your image. Also, be sure to use light to your advantage. Light can help separate your subject from the background and draw focus toward it. In addition to the other lighting on your subject, one good tip is to backlight it to separate it from the background further.

Product photography has many uses for churches, one of which is to use it to promote church materials. This could be a book your pastor recommends or one that will be the focus of a small group. It could be photos of baked goods for one of your church’s fundraisers. It could also be as simple as photographing something like a pen for the background of a page on your church’s website.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

Colossians 3:23 NLT

One benefit unique to product photography in the church context is that you may get access to resources you otherwise would not have access to. For example, your pastor asks you to take photos of a book used for a new small group. You may be able to borrow that book for a while and then have a chance to read it; as more requests come in, you’ll be exposed to more new resources.

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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