Storytelling through photography / by Ben Stapley

The church has the most important message to communicate – that everyone is unfathomably loved by God.  The church needs the best communication tools to convey that message.  Capturing great photos is one way to do that.  Through incredible storytelling photos can pull a viewer in and showcase powerful moments.  Below are some practical steps to help you tell those stories.

  1. Take candid, not posed photos.  Posed photos focus on how the individual looks.  Candid photos focus on what the individual is doing.  This will help prevent the comment section on your social media platforms digress into a back-and-forth of who looks more adorable.
  2. Remember to get establishing and concluding shots.  What did it look like when people showed up?  What did it look like when they left?  These shots will help frame the event within a storyline.  Without these shots it feels like you came to the party late or left early.
  3. The most natural storyline when posting photos to social media or a website is straightforward.  It is beginning, middle and end.  This chronological approach might feel formulaic, but it works.  So if you can find a better structure to the three act story, great.  If not, use it.
  4. Capture a range of compositions – close-up, medium & wide.  And use composition to your advantage.  Take the wide shot when you have a group of deadpan teenagers clustered together on their phones.  Wait for someone in that cluster to look up from their phone and show some emotion before zooming in for the close-up.
  5. Capture a range of people.  Don’t just shoot your friends at the event or the photogenic people.  Try to capture the widest range of those present.  I can often tell who my college photographers have a crush on when I review their photos.  So if you’re gonna use the camera as a flirtation device, try to be subtle.
  6. Capture a range of perspectives - get under, over, behind, beside & close to your subject.  If the subject seems boring from your current perspective then change it to make it more dynamic.
  7. Be observant for key moments that are “loaded” with emotion, meaning, significance, surprise, impact, uniqueness, closure, etc.  Or better yet, anticipate moments that are about to happen so that you can position yourself to capture them.  This anticipation means that you will think through your upcoming shots even as you deal with your current shot – a difficult skill that can take a while to master.
  8. Shoot for emotions.  Most of the photos will be used to demonstrate the life-changing power of Christ.  Try to capture that power.  If you want to capture joy take photos of baptisms.  If you want to capture peace take photos of a candlelight service.  If you want to capture boredom take photos of the annual church meeting.