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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.

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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.