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How to Shoot in a Dim Light Setting

Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been very busy with other projects. But I’m back now and excited to get going again on this adventure. As always let me know how I can further and better serve you! Now on to the main post.


How to shoot in a dim light setting? Most likely when you’re shooting at your church setting the lights are dim in the auditorium or sanctuary. This obviously is for atmospheric and mood lighting. Usually the only lights on are on the stage. As the photographer in your church how do you accommodate for this hard to shoot in lighting setting? There are a couple of variables that will determine that.

  • Are you shooting for your churches print material such as a magazine or for advertisement cards?
  • Are you shooting for the web advertisement?

If you are shooting for print then it’s necessary to shoot at an ISO under 3200 and preferably at or under 1600. Why is that? The reasoning here is because images that are shot at or above 1600 can be grainy or noisy when printed. What is grain or noise?

Noise acording to Adorama.com:

In digital photographs, “noise” is the commonly-used term to describe visual distortion. It looks similar to grain found in film photographs, but can also look like splotches of discoloration when it’s really bad, and can ruin a photograph. Noise tends get worse when you’re shooting in low light.

From a technical point of view, noise is the visual manifestation of a lower signal-to-noise ratio, which is measured in decibels. While the amount of noise that you may consider acceptable may be different from what the next guy might accept, but most professional photographers want to see photos with at least a 30dB signal-to-noise ratio.

Images look like they are made of grain or sand is the short answer. Everyone has seen it at some point and its a photographers worst nightmare. Once you have grain there is no saving it in post production. Many things can be rescued in post, but grain is not one of them. Now that being said, if the image being printed is going to be super small, like a few inches on a page then you can probably get away with a 1600-3200 ISO setting. For example something smaller than a 4×6 image should be safe. A 2×2 head shot will probably be just fine. Why is this? The pixels are compressed, creating a sharper image.

If you are shooting for a web advertisement then you can most definitely get away with shooting 1600-3200 ISO. Web uses less pixels than print. That’s why it’s safer to shoot 3200 for web. Print materials will use a higher resolution image, whereas a web image is not as high a resolution. The image is already being scaled down and reduced, making it grainier anyways.

Moving onward there are some other rules to consider. The shutter speed is important to consider. The faster the shutter speed the less blurry the image. This is a great rule and knowledge for sports but sports are generally outdoors.  For shooting the band or pastor you won’t need to have too high a shutter speed. Most activity on stage will be minimal. A more aggressive band will have higher speed activity and energy so you may want to consider moving your shutter speed up. But again be careful the higher the shutter speed the darker the image. Not a good thing in a dimly lit setting. A general rule could be this: set your shutter speed at the same ratio as your focal length. For example if your lens is set at 50mm then set your shutter speed at 1/50 a sec. However there are variables to that rule. If you have a lens set at 10mm, I’m sure you won’t want to have a shutter speed at 1/10 a second. That is really slow and your going to get a shaky blurry image since most likely your shooting hand held at church. Also remember that your going to have to shoot your aperture at the lowest setting since it’s dim lighting. For example a setting of f3.5 is much wider and thusly your image is going to be brighter than a setting of f8.0. For shooting in dim light settings you’ll need to set it on the lowest possible setting. If you have a lens that will shoot at f2.8 or lower that will be the best! But remember the lower the aperture setting the shallower the depth of field. Meaning that you may only have two members of the band in focus. The back three members of the band will surly be out of focus. Maybe that’s ok and you can deal with that. I’m just saying that it’s a good possibility.

Photography is give and take: More ISO and the more grain. The more aperture the darker the image or vise versa you’ll have a shallower image with less in focus. You need to decide what’s important and what’s necessary. But my hope is that this article will give you some guidance and thinking points when when shooting in low light settings. Let me know if this is helpful to you. Thanks!



Do Better Photography



I know photography is an important part of your churches advertisement. Anyone with a eye for media can see that a point and shoot camera or a smart phone camera is not getting the job done. What kind of camera do you want to choose? For photography purposes you will want to check on two things really, the amount of control and precision the camera gives and the sensor size. On that note its clear that you will want to buy a DSLR camera. When purchasing a camera what brand do you want to choose, Nikon, Cannon, Sony or some other?

The general rule is that Cannon is better for shooting video because of the higher quality h.264 codec. Most people will tell you that Nikon is the photographers camera. What it really comes down to here is sensor size. For the sake of argument lets just say that the large the sensor the the better the picture. A large sensor will give you a shallower depth of field, greater dynamic range and better low light sensitivity. Lower light sensitivity is what really matters in my opinion. That along with the right settings will allow for your images to not be grainy.

Now if your choosing Cannon I’d go with a 5D or 7D. In laymen terms if the Cannon camera has a “D” in the name your going to get a professional grade camera.  If your going for Nikon then the D3 is ideal. It has a full frame sensor like the 5D. It also has larger pixels for the same size sensor all in all giving it the best low light performance. Ok great you’ve chosen a camera. But wait it doesn’t come with a lens!? Maybe you got a deal and you got a kit lens being a 18mm-55mm. Sorry but the kit lens’s are kits for a reason, their not so swift. Now comes the fun part. What kinda glass do you want to put on your new camera?

For shooting pictures you want to be versatile, so I suggest that you get a lens that can cover everything from the wide shots to the closeup. Find something that has at least 18mm to 200mm or something in between. Now if your going to be shooting landscapes then I suggest something like a 10mm or lower. If you want to shoot sports then your going to need a very long zoom lens with a very low aperture setting. For portraits might I suggest a 5omm. The nifty 50 is a great lens. It is inexpensive and you get a lower range of f-stops. F-stop is what you measure the amount of light coming into the aperture. The aperture is the hole that lets in light. For example f/2 is a very large aperture hole for light to come in. While f/22 is very tiny. If you were shooting narrative films then I would suggest prime lens’s. Prime lens’s have a fixed focal length and don’t zoom in our out. They make you think about the shot you want more. But were shooting photography not narrative films therefore zoom lens’s are going to be your bread and butter. We could go into great details just about lens’s but this is a general article so time to move on.


Once you have your camera and choice of lens its time to get started taking better pictures for your church and ministry. Quick side note, you will also need to buy a 16 or 32GB SD card to record to. You may also want to buy an extra battery and a bag to store everything in. Now onto photography. Start by turning the dial on the top right hand side to M for manual. The number in the upper right hand corner of your LCD screen is the ISO. ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. ISO is going to let in the bulk of your light. The major changes occur here. But beware that the higher the ISO the grainier the images are going to be. Its usually a safe rule that anything shot over 1600 and certainly 3200 is going to be grainy in the dark areas. Look at a picture taken in poor light and you will see what amounts to “sand” all over your image especially in the dark areas where the light is the poorest.

The next column over is our f-stop. This is going to fine-tune your light. Remember the f-stop measures the amount of light coming in the aperture or the opening at the rear of the lens. Remember from the previous paragraph that the more light you want to come in the lower the f-stop. Your f-stop size is also going to determine your focal length. For simplicity sakes focal length is the amount of area that is going to be able to be in sharp focus. Longer focal lengths have a narrow angle of view such as 200mm. Whereas shorter focal lengths have a broader angle of view, such as 10mm.

Next the numbers in the far left corner indicate the shutter speed or the length of time at which an image is exposed. The lower the number the lower the shutter speed and the more light will get in. The higher the number the faster the shutter will click. Usually you want to keep the shutter speed around 100-125 for average exposure. If you are shooting sports or fast moving water or cars then you want to have a high shutter speed such as 1/400-1/1000. This will stop that moving object right in its tracks! Ultimately all three need to be averaged and work together to get a perfectly exposed image. The grid on your screen that runs from -3 to 3 tells you if your image is under exposed, properly exposed at 0 or over exposed and by how much.

Finally (For this article anyway) you need to properly set the white balance. The white balance tells you what in the frame is true white and adjust the other colors accordingly. Some cameras will have set options for you. These options include daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten light, white light, and flash. Set the white balance depending on what kind of light setting your in.

There is a lot more to say about photography. More to discuss abut the camera, flash photography, an then to photography with set up lights. There will be more articles on this subject so keep coming back to find out more.

lens 2

This is a great video, enjoy!

Youth Ministry Media


You have the privilege of being the youth pastor of your churches youth group. Any ministry is a privilege, an opportunity, a call to reach people for Jesus and to train them in the Word of God. Youth ministry however can be intimidating. Why intimidating? Youth is a big transition stage from child to mature adult. On top of that you have to walk the tight rope of being a friend as well as a mentor. You’ll have to deal with the topics of peer pressure,drugs, sex and many more topics that are tough to talk about. In this day in age the topics are getting tougher and hairier. It’s your responsibility to teach them the Word of God on all matters. You must also do so on a level that is mature and yet simple. Your lesson plans must be easy to understand and to the point but your expected to have some depth so it’s not to childish. At the same time the presentation has to compete with the glitz and lens flare of the world. The true message of Jesus doesn’t need any help being a better message but the package might need updated from time to time to fit the trend of the current generation. That’s where this article will hopefully come into play. I’m going to be offering reviews for some great sites to get good teaching material and youth ministry resources.

Being in charge of the youth ministry I would check out: http://www.simplyyouthministry.com/. There are some good materials available for curriculum here. They have great youth ministry curriculum for all ages and on all categories for very reasonable prices. They also have a good collection of modern looking books on relevant topics for today.

Be sure to also check out http://www.youthministrymedia.ca/. There is great content on here with some freebie material. Free is always good! They have youth ministry games for you to use. A lot of their material is printer ready for you to use it medianly. Amongst their modern book selection for youth come some very handy book reviews to help you decide what books are best for you or for your youth group to cover.

Pick up some awesome videos and cool looking modern graphics for youth ministry at: http://www.videosforyouth.com/. You can get from there, mini movies, motion backgrounds, stills, countdowns and more. You can download some great softwares for your youth group or church from this site, such as MediaShout, Propresenter, Easy Worship and more. This is an all inclusive website with some wonderful options and buys. Of coarse Worship House Media is one of the best choices for all things media for your youth group. Worship House has everything from stills, to countdowns, to motion backgrounds, and softwares. They have a great selection of sale material. They also have a nice selection of free downloads for your use! Free youth media is always a good thing.

Another media option for youth ministry is to let your youth do their own media. More and more media is being taught in school these days, such as film, photography, graphic design and web design. If you have some youth who are interested in such things let them push their skills by designing some cool art, logos, or printed material for the youth group. Most kids love being in pictures and being a part of productions. Let anyone who is interested in photography capture moments in the youth group and be the documentarian. The pictures then can be used for promotion of the youth group or just for laughs. Let your youth produce their own video announcements, promo videos, fun videos and others. These all give your youth something else to look forward to, something that highlights their talents, gets them involved and makes them feel special. This is a great way to get quiet or uninvolved students involved in service.

Youth Screen Shot

Finally if you are in the Orlando area look me up! I would be happy to do your graphic design or sermon illustrations. Check out my prices and portfolio at: http://seanphotodesign.com/graphic-design. Prices go as follows, a logo is $300, business card, poster or  brochure is $100, sermon Illustration slide is $50 depending on what all it entails. Prices can vary. I also do freelance photography and videographer. Thank you for reading and hopefully this will give you some good ideas for how to spice up your youth ministry.