Stop asking for photographers at your church events!

Okay, I admit, the title of this blog is slightly misleading… We do think you should arrange for someone with photography skills to come prepared to capture shots at your next church event, but we don’t think they should stop there!

Next time you organise an event for your church, be it a women’s night, men’s breakfast, kids’ club, youth retreat or family camp, find someone who knows their way around a DSLR and ask them to take some footage too. In fact, you should ask them to take mainly footage, with only a handful of photos.

When it comes to capturing footage and stills at a church event, think 70/30.

70% footage, 30% stills. We think it is more valuable for your church to capture more footage and less still images at your events.

Here’s why.

(It’s worth noting that this blog is written with the assumption that the same single person is responsible for collecting both photos and footage. If your church has one person taking photos and another person dedicated to footage, disregard everything and get your volunteers to focus entirely on their area of specialisation!)

Why we think you should take less photos…

  1. A single photo goes a long way. Let’s say you capture an amazing shot; perfect exposure, subjects in focus, luxurious depth of field, genuine, heartwarming emotion, you’ve nailed the rule-of-thirds without needing to crop, it’s a photo that completely encompasses the vision of your event. Yay! We love photos like that. But the thing is, that single photo can be used over and over again. It can be your Facebook cover photo. It can also be your website homepage image. You can use it on a flyer, a slide, and as an email header. One perfect shot can be used over and over again across multiple platforms. You get a lot of promotional mileage from a single awesome shot. So there’s no need to stress about getting hundreds of perfect photos. One pearler will go a long way.
  2. Church event photography can be really hard! Often, church events are dimly lit, and the frequent use of a flash will be distracting. You’ll have speakers who are focused on what they’re saying, not focused on holding still for the camera. You’ll have listeners who look bored, but are actually just concentrating. You’ll have been snapping away while everyone eats supper, only to have hundreds of unflattering photos of people shovelling food into their mouth or covering their faces with a coffee cup. Rather than running and gunning all over the place trying to get shots of the same speaker from 10 different angles, slow down. Find the best vantage point for the subject you want to shoot. Use a tripod, lower your shutter speed, turn off your flash, and focus on nailing your photo. It will take a couple of attempts to get it right, and you’ll have to throw out a bunch of strange facial expressions or half-closed eyes, but be patient and you’ll get there. And once you have the shot, move onto getting footage. If you spend a whole night running around getting event photos, loads of them will be unusable anyway. So slow down, set yourself up properly to get a few photos you really want, then spend your time collecting footage.
  3. Your website/Facebook page/Instagram feed can only hold so many photos. It doesn’t matter if you capture 100 amazing images from your event. No one is going to look through a Facebook photo album that big. Your website will most likely have 4–6 image placeholders at best, and you’ll only be posting your top one or two photos on Instagram anyway. No matter what platform you use to display your event photos, if you have more than 10 or 20 to choose from, you’re going to have to do some serious culling. Those awesome photos you took will probably go unseen, and all that time you spend taking them could have been spent taking footage which can be used well into the future. If you remind yourself beforehand that you only need around 6–10 awesome photos to represent the event (maybe a few more if the event goes for longer than a day…), then you’ll stop pressuring yourself to keep clicking, and focus your attention on getting awesome footage instead.

…and why we think you should take more footage.

  1. People love videos! Video posts average 62% more engagement than photos on Facebook (source). If you want to promote your event in the future, or if you simply want to engage your church’s online community, you will do this more effectively with video than with photos. Videos are so important for church promotion, and that importance is only going to increase. So get in the habit of planning for video. Even if you’re not sure a video will ever get made for this particular event, collect the footage anyway. We encourage all churches to get in the habit of collecting footage, because you never know when you’ll need it as B-roll for a church vision video, welcome video, intro video, ministry update or annual report.
  2. B-roll. If you haven’t yet read our blog on B-roll, take a look here. B-roll turns an underwhelming on-screen monologue into an engaging, vibrant video. So whether you’ll be creating a video about this particular event, or a general video about church-wide ministries, by investing in a videographer now, you will have B-roll for the future.
  3. You need a variety of footage to keep things interesting. Unlike a single photo which can be used multiple times across multiple platforms, a single, 20-second clip from your event isn’t going to stretch far. A single clip, no matter how well it’s shot, can only provide a tiny amount of B-r0ll, and unless it has great quality audio attached, it won’t really serve as a standalone video. So you need to work hard at your events to collect a variety of shots, from multiple angles, wide, close, single subjects, groups, pans, zooms, activity and stillness. Get as much variety as you can. This doesn’t mean you have to use every single clip you shoot, but at least you’ll have some options. I’ve often found myself in the postion where even though I thought I had collected enough footage at an event, I still ran out and ended up reusing clips by cutting different sections from the same piece of footage.

So there are six reasons why we think, at your next church event, you should take less photos and more video. Prep your shooter to spend the majority of their time (around 70%) collecting footage, and spend only around 30% of the time setting up a handful of really nice photos for your website and social media. Your footage is a lot more valuable, so try to get into the habit of making video your priority at events, not photos.

Laura Hurley

Laura's favourite way to spend her time is to hang out with her husband and crazy-cute son Ethan at hipster cafes, but also finds time to work in a communications, design and events role at her local church where her husband is a pastor. She works for Gospel Powered as a Blogger, Equip Writer and Social Media Manager. She also dabbles in photography, baking and binge-watching crime drama TV shows.
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