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Simple photography tips to capture ministry moments

Make your congregation’s memories last a lifetime. At your next outreach event, use these tips from amateur and professional photographers to capture life-changing, memorable moments on film or video.

Form a team. Before the event, invite a few people to be part of your photography team. Having multiple photographers will ensure many photos from varying perspectives. In addition, if your event has several locations, you can assign a photographer to each site for maximum coverage.

Prepare your team. Once you’ve formed your team, have the photographers practice using their cameras. Encourage each person to get to know the camera’s settings and how the flash works by taking sample pictures and applying the pointers described below. Invite the team to share their pictures with one another and offer insights and tips for enhancing and improving skills. When in doubt, remind your team members to keep it simple and use the camera settings and strategies that work best for them.

Plan your shots. Look at your event’s agenda and think about what would make a great photograph. Make a list of “Kodak Moments” or a shot sheet for each photographer. These lists contain descriptions of the specific photographs you would like your photographers to capture. For example, if your church is collecting supplies for a local food pantry, one shot might be “capture someone receiving a donation from a volunteer and putting it into a collection container.” Provide at least 10 ideas on your shot sheets and encourage your photographers to look for great shots, too.

Provide release forms to all photographers. Be sure to have the appropriate permissions and releases on file for posting people’s photos in your various communications. You wouldn’t want to give someone 5 minutes of unwanted fame. In addition, it’s much easier to get signatures on location than it is to hunt people down afterward, especially visitors who may not return. Here is a sample photo release and media release (permission form) for publishing children’s images online and in print materials. Customize the form to reflect the policies of your church.

Tell your story. A picture is worth 1,000 words. It’s true. Use your photographs to tell the story of God at work through your congregation and community. Use these photography tips to bring that story to life.

Tips for great photos

Zoom in or move close. When you see a photo opportunity, move  closer to capture the best shot. Moving  closer highlights the subject matter of your photo and eliminates distracting elements. It also reveals the details of the scene that can be more interesting than a wide-angled overview.

Seek  variety. Professional photographer Rodney Stewart recommends contrasting tight shots of people’s faces with other images that give your audience a feel for the overall size of the event. The contrast of close-ups and wide shots will communicate the tone and emotion of the event, as well as its impact in the community.

Catch people in action. Photographing people at work makes your photographs more interesting and lively. In these action shots, people’s expressions will appear authentic and natural, eliminating the stiff poses and forced smiles often found in posed portraits. To do this, you might have to stand in a less conspicuous place and zoom in.

Keep it simple. Frame your photos using a simple background that helps focus the viewer’s eyes on the subject matter. Use this technique to create a crisper, sharper photo. As you compose your photo, move around your subject to find the simplest background. Take a practice shot if you can, and make adjustments to reduce background chaos. If your camera allows, you can adjust the aperture or f-stops to bring the background into or out of focus. Unless the background is of interest, it may be best to leave it blurred so your subject stands out even more.

Be dynamic.  Make your composition more captivating and attractive to the viewer. Place your subject matter off center, photograph people from above or below, and play with perspective. Be sensitive to personal requests. Some people may appreciate shots taken higher up to avoid seeing their neck, for example.

Try different formats. Photograph the same scene horizontally and vertically. Changing your camera from the horizontal to the vertical position depicts the same scene with a fresh perspective.

Provide clear directions. It’s easier if you use the terms “your right” or “your left.” It may take a minute to get the hang of it, but it will make things easier for everyone. Most people don’t like the photographer to physically move them to their spot, so it’s best to provide clear directions like, “take a half step to your right.”

Have fun. When photographing events, Stewart keeps a smile on his face and engages people in lighthearted conversation. “I try not to be intrusive, but add to the fun and excitement of the day.” Creating a rapport with subjects helps them relax and makes the photos more authentic.

After your event, host a picture party and invite your photographers to share their photos, or have people upload their photos to an online photo-sharing site like Flickr, Photobucket or Facebook. Be sure to work together to choose the photos that capture the heart of your event and tell its story in the most vivid, inspiring way.