Event Photography – Take great photos at church events!

Event Photography – Take great photos at church events!

Photos have the ability to communicate in a way that words simply can’t. They’re also proven to drive engagement on social media in terms of likes, comments and shares – so much so that entire networks have been built around sharing photos!

We’ve thought about church event photos a few times before on ChurchTrain, including one of my favourite posts about church stock photography.

This guest post brings a special treat, as the brilliant Ben Stoney shares his expertise on taking great  photos at your church events for your publicity and communications. Over to Ben!

I have enjoyed taking photos since I was in my teens but it didn’t become my full time job until I was 24, when I moved to Bournemouth from Caterham in Surrey, looking for a new career. I worked for 5 years with a commercial photographer and learned a great deal in this time: I improved my technique and built up a knowledge of the trade. I started working freelance alongside this and have now been doing so for seven years, covering a wide variety of subjects including wedding photography, portraits, events and commercial photography.

Our church has several skilled photographers – which is great because we can share the load – but it’s important to know who is the designated photographer for each event, otherwise there’s a danger everyone could assume someone else will capture it, and no one does!

Even if there are no professional photographers in your church, anyone can take photos and everyone gets better with practice.

All you’ll need is a camera and to bear in mind my following top tips!

Taking Great Photos at Church Events

Think about your subject

Be sensitive to people who may not want to be photographed, especially when children are involved. It’s always best to have a notice up at the event notifying people of a photographer’s presence, and who to get in touch with should there be any issues.

You need to have an idea of what your photos should capture. It’s usually worth spending time before the event thinking about this to give you clear direction on the day.

A really helpful tip is to think what people who aren’t there would want to see. With that said, people who are attending the event will also use the photos to remember the experience.

You’re never going to be able to capture every single detail, so aim for a set of photos that capture the feel of the event.

Vary your angles

Try to get both wide and close views of the event. This will stop all of your photos looking too similar, but will also allow the viewer to get a better idea of the event as a whole.

 Photos that show more of the room give a sense of the event’s environment and atmosphere, for example, showing how many people were there, or the look of the venue. Close up photos, on the other hand, will focus viewers’ attention on specific aspects of the event, such as who was speaking, handouts or slides. This is where your lens choice is important.

Wide angle congregation church event photo - ChurchTrain

A wide angle lens (less than 50mm on a standard DSLR) will be good for photos of the room as a whole but will not lend itself to detail shots, portraits or close ups of speakers. Very wide lenses can distort things – this is why they’re not the best for portraits. A telephoto zoom lens will make a massive difference for close ups and details, but they’re often not so good in low light, unless you spend big money!

Ideally, you want a range of lenses, or a zoom lens which covers the range. Something like a 24-70mm is usually a good choice for events. Prime lenses usually give you very wide apertures so are great in low light but you will need more than one lens to cover different needs.

Phone Cameras

Mobile phones usually have built in cameras these days; these cameras can be very good but they have their limitations.

They are wide angle which is great for capturing a whole room, but if you want a close up of something or someone, you’re either going to have to get closer (which runs the risk of being disruptive) or you’ll have to zoom in with your device, which will lose a lot of the quality of the image.

It may seem a superficial point, but using a phone for photography looks less professional, so people may not realise you’re taking photos. Sometimes this might not be a bad thing, but in many situations it’s better to be recognised as ‘a photographer’. Having said that, a mobile phone is portable and easy to use so in some cases it can fit the job. It’s 100% better than having no photos at all!

Think about how the photos will be used

Try to take photos that will make sense on social media, the church website or wherever else you’ll need to use them in the future.

Whilst your images may be wonderfully artistic, if there’s no sensitivity towards how they’ll be used, the chances are they’ll end up not being used!

Whilst we’re thinking about making use of the photos you take, it’s important that whoever is responsible for including images in church publicity is able to access them easily. Agree on a cloud storage solution like Amazon Drive, Dropbox or Google Drive, and make sure it’s shared with all those who’ll need it in the future.

This is also a great way of keeping an archive of church photos. Amazon Drive is a great option, as a flat annual price will give you unlimited cloud storage! You can read more about shared resources for church teams here.

People

When photographing people, try to get a combination of posed photos (where subjects are aware that they are having their photo taken) and natural photos (where people have their attention on something other than the camera), perhaps in conversation for example. This way you’ll give a feel of the event by the way people are interacting with each other as well as with you, the photographer.

Look for people’s expressions and try to capture them – this is a great way to bring to life the emotion of the event.

Audience photo at church event - ChurchTrain

Avoid disrupting the event

It’s important that your presence doesn’t distract people from the event, especially if there’s a speaker giving a message. If this is the case, stay at the back or sides of the room and avoid using flash if possible. Instead look for the light that’s available and use that.

When inside with low light, this is where your camera and lens choices are going to make a difference: high end cameras are usually quite good in low light because they’ll allow you to use a higher ISO (the sensitivity to light) but this can result in noisy or grainy images when used in excess.

Additionally, high quality prime lenses allow you to open up your aperture to allow more light in, but this also affects the depth of field (how much of the image is in focus front to back). More on lenses later!

Using a slow shutter speed also allows more light to enter the camera but if your shutter speed is too slow, you’re going to get blurry images. This happens when the camera or the subject is moving during the exposure. One way to limit this is to mount the camera on a tripod, but that will only stop the camera from moving (‘camera shake’) – if the subject is moving, they will still get ‘motion blur’. Blur like this isn’t always a bad thing – a sense of movement can create extra interest in a photo – but you’ll need to make sure there’s enough in focus to convey what’s happening.

Reviewing your Images

It’s important to look through your images and fix any issues. The great thing about digital photography is you can even do this during the event! You can look through the pictures you’ve already taken to see if you’ve covered all you intended to, to check images are in focus and correctly exposed and have another go if not.

Even when the event is over, you can still make adjustments. There are lots of free photo editors available for download for you to edit what you’ve taken. Play around with your images but be mindful there are infinite adjustments you could make so might want to limit the time you spend on them! Aim for consistency.

This is also a good time to make a selection of your favourites. You will most likely have shot more than you’ll need so only choose the ones that best represent the event so you don’t overload people with images – especially when they’re quite similar. It’s better to focus the attention of your viewer onto a few key photos instead of having too many so that they don’t look at them all.


Follow Ben’s tips and let us know how you get on! Don’t forget to check out his check out his website!

1 Response

  1. Fred May

    A very interesting read, so much practical advice given in an easily understood down to earth manner, thanks Ben …… and Joe!

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