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Taking great photos in church

This is a free guide from the United Reformed Church to help you take great photos in church.

Visual storytelling is incredibly important on social media, as people process images 60,000 times faster than words. Therefore it’s crucial that you take the best photos you can and make the most out of what you have.

This guide outlines a few things to think about when taking photos in a church or a building of worship.

Invest in a tripod

  • To keep photos sharp in lower light, use a tripod to keep the camera steady.
  • The tripod can also give access to new angles such as over an edge and up in the air. There’s a little bit of trial and error involved but it can create some interesting results.

Add depth

  • Think carefully about what’s in the foreground and background to add depth and interest to the composition of your photos.
  • Taking photos beside candles, fairy lights, Christmas decorations or the altar can add an extra dimension to your images.
  • You could also use the congregation by photographing people celebrating in the foreground with more people in the back.
  • Make the most of external sources of light.
  • Wherever possible, take photos outside to make the most of the natural light.
  • If the photos must be taken inside, use the natural light coming in through the windows.
  • Make use of well-lit areas inside – avoid using the flash as it can make things look stark with harsh shadows.
  • A close-up photo will always look better than a zoomed-in photo.
Taking great photos in church

Plan your photos

  • It’s important to think about what will look best in the frame to get the best photos possible.
  • You might need to move decorations around for a better backdrop or ask people to stand in a different formation.
  • Pick some good spots in the church before a service starts to take your photos, including one at the front.
  • If you have a lot of people in your church, can you get higher to show how packed your church is?
  • If you have a smaller congregation, encourage them to sit together in the front pews to give the impression of a busy church.

Try different angles

  • Taking photos straight on is easy and fool-proof but try and be adventurous. For example, standing on a chair/pew to get a high angle shot looking down or lie down on the floor and shoot upwards.
  • Shoot through items, use doors and windows as frames, come up with unusual views that catch the viewer’s eye and makes the photos stand out from the crowd.

Share the emotion and bring the wow factor

  • People will connect more deeply with images when there is real emotion in them. Show joyful people celebrating.
  • It’s always amazing to see a church decorated with lights and decorations with people filling the pews. Photos of jam-packed churches and buildings lit up by candlelight will always have an impact. Think about how you can create the wow factor when taking photos.

Pick your background carefully

  • Be intentional about what appears in the background of your photos.
  • Avoid backdrops that look unattractive or distracting (bins, radiators, fire extinguishers, for example).
  • Make the most of the architectural features your church has to offer.
  • Don’t be afraid to get in closer. Taking photos from the back of church is easy and unobtrusive, but you’re too far away from what’s happening at the front of church to capture detail. Be part of the action and get in as close as possible
  • If you have a digital SLR camera, invest in a longer lens that will let you zoom in even closer.
  • Communicate with your minister and leadership team about what points in the service they’re happy for you to get closer and where is best for you to be without distracting them (this can be an ongoing conversation depending on the type of service, who will be there etc).


  • Some of the best photos are candid (i.e. unposed) as they look more natural.
  • Be ready to take candid photos at events. Keep your camera switched on and finger on the button.
  • Think about how you are posing people when photographing them, try arranging them in something other than a line or a huddle. For example, have them sit together on some steps or in a group in a few rows of pews.
  • Remember, you’re taking the photo, so you are in charge. You tell people how you want them to be posed.

Posting to social media

  • Edit the collection of photos down to a small selection of the best before posting on social media. People won’t have the time to look through lots of photos. Cut photos that look similar, are blurry or don’t help tell the story. Photos of people will always be more engaging.
  • Try and give all the photos you post to Facebook a description to help tell the story.
  • Make the most out of Twitter’s multiple image feature – you can post up to four photos at a time in a tweet.
  • Play around with Instagram’s filters, they can make you look like a professional photographer with little effort.


  • It is vital to always check permissions when publishing pictures of children, this may be done through the church or affiliated group or direct with parents.
  • Never publish a picture if there is any doubt about obtaining such permission.

Using other people’s photos

  • If someone has given you photos to use on your website or on social media, check if they would like credit for the photos.
  • Don’t take images from Google as you don’t know where they have come from or what permissions there are on the photo. The person who owns the photo would have the right to sue you if you are using it incorrectly.

Image attributions

There are different types of permissions granted by the owners of photos. Here are some of the permissions you need to look out for when using images that aren’t your own.

Visit www.creativecommons.org to read more.

Attribution (BY)

Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works and remixes based on it only if they give image owner credits.

Non-commercial (NC)

Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works and remixes based on it only for non- commercial purposes.

Public Domain (CC0)

Content that has been placed in the public domain for anyone to use, distribute and edit without any need for credit. Public domain images are really useful because no one needs crediting.

Here is a selection of high-quality public domain images sites you can use:

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