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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.

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.



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!