Written by: Dana Suggs
This article will be a little different from my typical ones. This particular subject is so near and dear to my heart, and shows a bigger part of who I really am, not the silly girl I put out most of the time. I love to be funny and to make people laugh, but I love this subject so much more.
I am a worship photographer.
No, most people have never heard of this. There are not tutorials on this or really very many people that I have found that do this. When I first started doing this, I couldn’t even find anything on the SUBJECT…no hints, no words of wisdom, and no YouTube tutorials. So, I just had to wing it and jump in on my own.
Why do I do this? I have people ask me all the time, “Why do you take pictures during the service?” Here is the simple answer: I have a very deep faith in Jesus Christ and a close relationship with Him. It was my desire to let people have a little glimpse of what I experience when I worship. And it’s one of our most vulnerable times; I’m showing people in an intimate moment with their Creator.
Now, I’ll be honest here, not everyone agrees with what I do. People just don’t understand why I would take pictures of people during worship. They don’t see the value or the beauty in this. I see it like photographing a birth of a baby. That is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. So, this is why I decided to write this tutorial.
This is something I feel very passionate about. It was something I enjoyed doing, even if no one else understood it or liked it. It brings me joy.
We all have that one thing, that one subject we are passionate about. Something we enjoy doing or shooting more than anything else. I am here to give you permission to do it. I’m encouraging you to step out and get started, even if no one else does it, or understands it, or likes it. And, even if you aren’t ever paid to do it. To date, I have never received money of any kind to do these pictures, and yet, I don’t care. It’s something I love.
Find what you love to do, and do it.
Worship Photography Tips
Here are a few tips that I have learned along the way:
1| Know your camera. Learn everything you can about ISO, white balance, exposure, shutter speed, etc. Most churches I shoot in are indoors with strange lighting. I have to check my white balance each time I come to shoot worship services. I have to know what to set my ISO at in order to get a good, clear, properly exposed photo.
2| Equipment. I started worship photography with a Nikon D80. It isn’t great with high ISO’s. Trust me. The Nikon D90 did better, but what I truly needed was my Nikon D700. Whatever camera you use, investigate and see how it does in high ISO’s. You will need a CRAZY high ISO to shoot in such low light. Which means, you will need a camera that has amazing ISO capabilities. You will also need a very fast lens. I started with my 50mm 1.8 and it did very well. Now I shoot with my 85mm lens and it’s EVEN better! Because most of the venues I shoot in are large church buildings, I am able to stay pretty far back and not interfere with what is going on.
3| Watch your angles. Stay low, and try to stay on the same plane as your subject. But, also, shooting from a balcony down onto your subjects makes for some beautiful photos as well! Just, HOLD ONTO YOUR CAMERA EXTRA TIGHT. I have been hanging from a balcony in some pretty precarious positions. I’m just sayin’.
4| NO FLASHES! This one is a BIG one. You do not want to interrupt the flow of the service, and having a flash go off in your face is the worst thing that could happen. NO FLASH! Bump up the ISO and make sure your shutter speed is LIGHTNING fast! Embrace the noise the high ISO creates, but do not EVER use your flash!
5| Position. Stay BEHIND the action, or discreetly beside if you can do so without interrupting anyone. It’s so important to keep your distance. You don’t want to distract what is going on in the service.
6| Clothing. I know this sounds odd, but it does help stay hidden and discreet. I always try to wear dark clothing. Shoes are also very important. I do a LOT of running around the back of the church from one side to the other, up to the balcony and back down again, so I always try to wear comfortable, quiet shoes. You don’t want to be running up and down the aisles wearing flip flops. UGH! Think of it like shooting a wedding: you want to stay hidden and discreet.
7| Monopod or tripod. These are helpful, especially the monopod. I’ve used a tripod but found it too bulky and hard to move around with, so I probably won’t do that one again. I don’t have a monopod, but I really think it would be helpful. But, in the meantime, I use what is available: a chair, the back of a pew, a column, a wall, or I’ll just brace my arms to help keep the camera as still as possible. The above photo of the lady sitting down was shot with the camera sitting on top of the pew in front of me. I use what is available to me.
I know I probably seem like a total odd-ball, but I have found something I love doing just for the sake of doing it. Not for the money, and definitely not for any fame, I just love shooting worship. So, find what you enjoy shooting just for the sake of shooting it…..and GO FOR IT! Have a good time!
And, as always, be kind to others!
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