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iPhone Photography and Videography: 4 Tips on How to do Great Work.

Often with church or ministry documentation, it is expensive, and inconvenient to have a DSLR camera and all the accompanying gear. This gear includes, but is not limited to tripods, microphones, extra lenses, monitors, lights etc. Most churches don’t have the time or man power for that kind of an undertaking for each outreach. When on an outreach or mission trip it can be cumbersome to whip out a bulky DSLR and telephoto lens. I’d like to examine today a much easier and more convenient method for better church media. That being said I am always ready, love and advise shooting with a pro camera for better results, when convenient.
What is a 1080p HD pocket camera that everyone already has? Everyone has an iPhone, right? iPhones are increasingly better and better recording devices. With a little help everyone can do more quality work with their idevice. An idevice is a new term that incorporates the iPhone and iPad. Let’s look at 4 tips to do better photography and videography with your iPhone. 

Tip One: Plan Better


Planning better is the first step to doing any kind of photography. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Take the time to get to know the features on your iPhone camera. Know where the flash is and the HDR option. You can even set a timer. Set the grid on your camera to practice lining up your images. This helps you with the rule of thirds, to assist you in making a more pleasing, ascetic image. Try shooting closer to your subject to get a better picture. Shoot lower or higher for a more unique angle. If you are shooting action or an event, be prepared and set up for the main event. Be aware and attentive to the action happening. Try to anticipate change so you can be ready for that shot.  Move to different sides or positions so get the optimal shot. No machine gun pics. Don’t just wave your phone all over the place and hope something tuns out. Plan the timing and position of your shot. Wait for the camera to auto focus. Don’t be in a rush to click. No picture is any good if it is blurry. On that note if you hold down on the screen with your finger, you can choose where you want the camera to focus at. You can choose a face or whatever the main subject is.

When shooting video, turn the camera to the horizontal view. This is a more natural video composition. When shooting video, be slow and deliberate with your movements. If you rush to much, you’ll lose focus and your video will be fuzzy.

Tip Two: Lens Options

The next step is to upgrade your equipment. Better lenses for your iPhone or iDevice mean that you have more options. More options means, better photos or videos. With a quick internet search you can find the right lens or lens set for you. You can get a extra wide, fish eye lens, macro lens, or even a telephoto lens. This is basically the range of lenses you would buy for a professional set.

  • Fish Eye. The fish eye lens is a ultra wide lens used to fully capture a large amount of space such as a city, stadium, mountain etc. A fish eye used to close can be very distorting.

    Fish eye lens
  • Macro. This is a great lens for capturing the small world of flowers, bugs, little things. It can be a neat way to get some unique pictures.

    Macro lens
  • Telephoto. This is a great lens for a nature walk. If you see a far off bird, animal, or any subject in the distance. This is the lens you need to bring the distant subject close.

    Telephoto lens

Most of these attachable lenses are fairly cheap and easy to operate. In fact, you can get a set of lenses for your iPhone and get them all at once. Before purchasing, make sure that you can use the lens with the type of iPhone or idevice, that you have or that you plan on having. You don’t want to buy this equipment and then turn around two months later and buy a new phone. Make sure your going to have the phone for a while to make the purchases worth it.

Tip Three: Use a Tripod

It can be hard to focus with an iPhone. It does not have any grips, like a DSLR to keep the camera steady. Because of this flaw, you may want to invest in a tripod for your iDevice. Again, with a short search you can find flexible tripods, miniature tripods, and even full height tripods, all for your iPhone. A flexible tripod might be nice because you don’t know what type of position you’ll find yourself in, when out and about shooting. All in all a tripod is always a great choice to steady your images. If you are shooting video then a tripod is even more important. A shaky video is simply un watchable. To get better video for your church I advise you to invest in a tripod.

Tip Four: Do Better Video with a Mic and Light

It is truly amazing what you can get now! Yes you can purchase a clip on light for shooting video. I can’t vouch for how bright the light is or how long it will last. But when the room is dark or you’re about to loose the sun in your interview,  it may be just enough light to finish the job.

You can also get a boom mic and grip for recording more professional audio. If you are doing an interview you can purchase a lavaliere mic that will click right into your headphone jack on your phone. I can’t stress enough the importance of having great audio. You can take the best video your camera can muster but if you have scratchy, fuzzy, bad audio then your final product is still going to be shabby. It’s very important to get a boom mic with grip or a lavaliere mic and tripod.

Honestly you can get all or most of these things for $60 or less. You might be able to buy a package deal for $200 at the most. This is incredibly less expensive than buying all the gear for a DSLR or professional video gig. One of the other great aspects about shooting on you phone or iPad is that you can edit your material right there. There’s no transfer time. Over all, using your device as your primary means of recording church events or missions is very affordable. With the right gear attached you can acquire semi pro quality material.

Watch this video for even further education in this matter.

5 Keys to Shooting a Great Church Outreach

cameraMany churches do outreach events, as they should. Outreaches are the life blood of the church. Often times, as the church photographer you are asked to shoot church outreach events. I hope, that in this blog, I can outline some keys to shooting a great outreach.

Key 1
: Know the Event. As the photographer you need to know if the event is outside or inside. If it is inside then more than likely you’ll want to bring a flash since you’ll want to get well lit pictures. If you want the raw look then leave the flash at home. This also helps garuntee that your ISO won’t be to high and thusly giving you grainy pictures.

flashKey 2: Use a Flash. Most inside venues are really too dark, in my opinion, and I have been saved on more than one occasion by bringing my flash. On that note, I always bring a few extra batteries with me, just in case my flash decides to die. I have a Speedlight 430 EX 2 and it works really well for me. Remember to shoot with the flash semi to fly pointed at the ceiling. Why?  This allows for the light to bounce and fill the room exposing more of the room. If you point the flash right at the subject the subject will be over exposed. I can set the flash on manual mode to truly hone in on the artistic, exact shot you desire. But for quick shooting, I find that the TTL mode works best. TTL stands for Through The Lens mode.

TTL flash metering measures the burst of flash output light reflecting back from the subject and takes its reading through the lens. It will take this reading from the section in your view where the active focusing point is set. TTL manipulates the flash exposure with a dedicated sensor that measures the flash output reflected from the surface of the image sensor during active exposure.-http://www.exposureguide.com/ttl-flash-metering.htm

photo-431119_1920I find that this works for me when shooting a event.  I don’t always have time to stop and make adjustments to the lens settings and the manual flash mode. When shooting a church outreach event on location you have to be fast and get those moments while they’re happening. They won’t happen again and you can’t fake natural emotion, in that you can’t ask someone to react again. Be prepared, have the flash ready and shoot!

Key 3: Shooting With and Against the Sun. If the event is happening outside, you most likely won’t need the flash. You can rely on the brightness of the sun to be your light. With the right settings even a cloudy day can be bright enough to shoot in.

Always be aware of the position of the sun. Is it behind you, in front of you or beside you?

If the sun in in front of you, your subject is going to be in shadow and the background is going to be lit up. All you’ll see clearly in your picture is the background. To fix this, you can bump up your ISO or the speed of your lens can be lower. But this will blow out the background. In order to shoot the subject and the background and to have both be lit up and properly exposed, you will need the flash. Set your settings so that the background is perfectly exposed or maybe even a little underexposed and then bring out the flash. Now you’ve compensated for the shadows. Set the flash to TTL, point the flash at the subject and snap the pic. You may need to tweak it a bit to get the right setting but for the most part you should have a great picture now. In some instances the sun can cast long shadows and it might be nice to have your flash in this instance too. More than likely though it will be better to just move your target audience so that the sun is not in their face or casting those pesky shadows.

5011052457_cc2aec27f5_oKey 4: Bring the Right Lenses. I would suggest that you bring a fast wide angle and a fast zoom lens. This is not the time to be playing with your prime lenses. You’ll need like 10 lenses so no, don’t do that! Bring a fast wide angle like a10- 24 mm. Make sure it can shoot at an f-stop of f/2.5 or lower. This helps guarantee a clear and well exposed picture. Wide angle lenses for a church outreach shoot are perfect because you can capture the entire event in a few well placed key shots. It can be great to find a high point and look down on the event as much as possible in order to shoot the entire crowd and all the activity. This is a good lens for capturing a team picture as well. You don’t want to always just be getting big crowd shots. It’s also important to capture personal portrait pictures too. Bring with you a fast zoom lens. I would suggest a lens that can zoom 75- 200 mm and shoots with an f-stop of f/2.5 or less. If your going for artistic then this is the time to capture that. Set that f-stop to as low as it can go and shoot away. This is a great way to pan the crowd and find that right shot. You can find that smiling face, that kid having fun, that volunteer giving out something free, someone praying for another, etc. This is a lens for capturing a personal story. Faces reveal emotion and if your outreach is being a blessing to someone, then their face is going to show it. This is the lens you need to capture that emotion.

photographer-16022_1920Key 5:  Be Fearless. Get in there and shoot. People don’t want to see backs of heads. People want to see faces. If something is happening, then get close to the subject. Be a part of, but away from the action. What does the shot look like close? What does it look like wide? What if you lowered the camera? What if you raised it? Just because your documenting an event does not mean the shots have to be boring.  You’re the photographer, how can you make this story more interesting? You can have all the pixels, high definition, and add in all the K’s you want to the resolution, but if your picture sucks what good does it do you?

I sincerely hope these five keys will benefit you when you go out to shoot the next church outreach. I hope this video will help explain some of what I’ve taught in the post above about using the flash outdoors.