For about the last 6 – 8 months we’ve been starting to build a Photography team at our church. So far, we haven’t done all that much with it, but the possibilities of it are huge. I thought I’d share with you what we have already done, and what we’re planning on doing.

When we first started, I simply publicized the possibility to our congregation and we had three or four photographers express interest.

That’s one of the big benefits of this team, there are already people in all of our churches that have an interest in photography. Of course there will be varying skill levels, but there are photographers in all of our churches. Parents who love taking good pictures of their kids, teens who are taking photography classes in high school, art majors in college even professionals who have a lot to offer.

So, why a photography team? Don’t we have enough to manage in other areas of the Worship Ministry?

  • Event Photography. One of the easiest and most obvious ways to put a photography team to use is to offer their skills to yours an other ministries in the church to photograph events around the church. It gets your ministry great exposure and it documents the event for the other ministry. We have a form that people can fill out on our website, asking for a photographer for the event and then we schedule the photographer.
  • Photograph worship backgrounds. This is one of the great aspects of this team, creative and specialized backgrounds for worship songs. Of course a lot of churches are using video backgrounds, but with most presentation software, we are now able to use different backgrounds for different parts of the songs that keep the background from feeling static. One of the things I have done is assign a worship song to a photographer and ask them to take pictures for different key words of phrases throughout the song. When people see images on the screen that they might recognize as local, it gives a certain sense of ownership to the worship song and worship service. Suddenly people go from looking at a generic, stock image or photograph to looking at something they recognize and their mind connects the thing they know in the image with the words or song that they’re singing. Then when they see that image, either in a photograph or in real life they have a chance of remembering that connection which helps take worship out of our weekend service and into the week.
  • Photograph pictures for sermon series
  • Build a community of artists. Give people a place to connect with people who think similar to them.
  • Seasonal and thematic photographic artwork for decorations around the church
  • Increase the skill levels of the photographers and get a win – win. They win because they increase their skill level, you win because you get better pictures. (Set up a flickr group, this will give you one place with which you can collect all the pictures – instead of getting a bunch of different discs – and you can give constructive criticism and encouragement.

At my last church we had started to build a photography team, it was headed up by a professional photographer. He was always taking pictures around the church of various events. However, there were many events that he couldn’t attend because of his schedule, so we started talking about building a team of photographers who would be availble to take pictures of events around the church.

So, here are some things that you’ll want to do.

  1. Find your subject. Start with the people you know who take pictures. You’ve seen them around with their cameras, taking pictures every chance they can get. They always have new pictures to show you. They have new profile pictures on their facebook accounts. Compile a list and contact information. Start to Eavesdrop on conversations in the foyer of your church. Listen for people talking about pictures, about getting pictures taken and any other photographic oriented discussion going on.
  2. Compose the image. Once you do that, you’ll want to make an email list (if you use Planning Center online, then you should use that) and start to contact people, get some buzz going about your group. Let the buzz grow for a while before you schedule your first meeting.
  3. Build the frame. You’ll want to have the framework of the team set up before you have your first meeting. What do you want the group to accomplish? Do you want to simply have photographers who can take pictures of events, or do you want to build artistic community among the group? How will you accept request for photographers from other ministries in the church? How are you going to build community? For our events, we have a form on our web site that ministry leaders can go and fill out, which sends me and email, then I use Planning Center to schedule a photographer.
  4. Crop the image. Now that you’ve the basic framework in place, you’re ready to get the group together. There will be a natural cropping (thinning) process that will happen as people figure out that they aren’t as serious as they thought they were, so you can expect your group to shrink a little bit. However, you’ll be left with the best and most committed photographers which will be a good thing.
  5. Send the pictures for processing. We use a flickr group as the hub for photographers to use to upload pictures to and to give feedback to other photographers and support one another. This is also a good way to build community & it’s free. It’s also cool to be able to use this for assignments. You’ll want to email the assignment out so everyone gets it right away, but then you can create a thread in your flickr group for people to use to upload their pictures to and keep them organized. You could also set up a blog, and give log in information to the members of the group so they could log in and upload their images.
  6. Display the image. Now that you’ve gotten the group together, and it’s functioning, you’ll want to make sure to display the images in some form or fashion. This of course will be determined by what the purpose of your particular group is, but here are some examples: Hang large prints in your foyer and throughout the building as decor, use the images as background images for a song, (more than just one please) create a photo directory for your church or for a specific ministry, etc.

That’s what I know, but these few things will help you get on your way to starting a fairly well functioning photography team. For the rest of the stuff that’s not in here, be creative!