Church Calls for Members to Create and Share Media

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer

  • 18 August 2015

Many of the projects the Church works on every day require the use of photos, video, music, and other forms of media. Learn how you can help. A family in Natal, Brazil, illustrates a mother and father praying with their children.  Photo by Cleber Teixeira, Natal, Brazil.

Article Highlights

  • Many of the projects the Church works on every day require the use of photos, video, music, and other forms of media.
  • There is a need for more members in the U.S. and countries around the world to take photos in their own areas.
  • Those not able to serve as a missionary can still submit their high-quality photos at any time for Church use.

“I love serving my mission as a photographer for the Church. It is awesome to see how my images are used to share the gospel that I love and do it in a way that my words can’t.” —Elder Collin Harward, a Church-service missionary photographer from Sunset, Utah

Many of the projects the Church works on every day require the use of photos, video, music, and other forms of media. The need is constant. Media professionals, highly skilled amateurs, and missionaries from around the world help the Church create uplifting content.

At the Church’s website create.lds.org it reads, “If you have ever had a desire to help build the Lord’s kingdom using your talents, this site will help you learn how.” Instructions on the site show how to share photos, music, and videos with the Church.

Some important aspects to the creative media efforts within the Church are Church-service missionaries who provide a substantial amount of content and service to the process.

“We now have 100 Church-service missionary photographers who take on assignments from various departments to fill needs beyond what the Church photographers do,” said Scott Olson, product manager for the site. “We have another 50 Church-service missionary photo ‘taggers’ who help make the submitted photos findable by adding key words to each photo.”

“I love serving my mission as a photographer for the Church,“ said Elder Collin Harward, a Church-service missionary photographer from Sunset, Utah. “It is awesome to see how my images are used to share the gospel that I love and do it in a way that my words can’t.”

A photo illustrates the widow’s mites. Photo by Laci Gibbs, Provo, Utah

The Church has service missionary photographers in the United States, India, Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Uganda. There is a need for more in the U.S. and countries around the world to take photos in their own areas. Missionaries serve from home, use their own equipment, and no travel is required. However, if service missionaries go on trips, they are encouraged to take photos and submit them.

“Being a Church-service missionary as a photographer is a dream come true for me as I thought I lived too far away from Salt Lake City to contribute,” said Sister Susan Brown, a Church-service missionary from Running Springs, California, in the San Bernardino California Stake. “The support and friendship of the Church staff and the other photographers is wonderful. It is a blessing for me to serve and contribute photos to programs that reach people all over the world.”

A pair of missionaries walking down a street. Photo by Tiffany Myloan Tong, Freemont, California.

The Church’s website indicates that the shared media may be used for Church products or also appear on LDS.org in the LDS Media Library to download and be used for lessons, family home evenings, blogs, and other noncommercial, gospel-sharing efforts. Brother Olson said, “Member and Church-service missionary photographers’ photos appear daily in Church social media posts, throughout LDS.org, in videos, printed materials, training programs, internal presentations, and everything else the Church does.”

For example, a member-submitted photo was used on the cover of the December 2012 Ensign. The March 2013 cover of the Ensign and Liahona was also a member-submitted photo. “Every month, there are anywhere from four to ten member-submitted photos in the Ensign,” said Brother Olson. “We also took 16 Church-service missionary photographers to the Meet the Mormons VIP movie premier and took over 9,000 photos at the event.”

A child’s prayer. Photo by Shauna Ballou, Oakley, Utah.

Elder Jeremy Hall, a Church-service missionary photographer from Pleasant Grove, Utah, said, “The opportunity to share your talents in a way that benefits the Church and members worldwide is amazing. Not only do we help save money that can then be used for other purposes, but we also have useful purposes for getting out to create photos.”

Another practical example of how Church-service missionaries have helped use their artistic talents was at the recent dedication of a bishops’ storehouse in Kansas City, Missouri. The Church had a need for a specific photo, and a Church-service missionary photographer stepped in and took photos. “They used one of her photos on the cover of the dedication program,” said Brother Olson.

The Hague Netherlands Temple. Photo by Carla Johnson, Unterbrunn, Germany.

Shauna Ballou, a Church-service missionary photographer from Oakley, Utah, said, “One of my photos was recently used on the Church Facebook page with a quote by President Thomas S. Monson. It was a picture of a single mom comforting her young son. When the mom saw her picture on Facebook she contacted me, told me how much it meant to her, and that she would always treasure the picture. She told me that she had been in a dark place lately and that seeing the picture of her son and the words of President Monson had moved her back into the light.”

Many member-submitted photos also appeared in the “I Pray When” campaign from the Mormon Channel, which Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced last year in a devotional given at BYU Education Week. Brother Olson said, “Some of our missionaries are working to capture photos of people with interesting stories who are featured on the Church’s Instagram account. Two missionary-submitted photos have been featured on the LDS Church Instagram account. We have a constant stream of Church departments coming to request photos from our missionary photographers.

Kirtland Temple. Photo by D. Brent Walton, Palmyra, New York.

“We are trying to build a database of photos so that whatever Church designers and employees need in the way of images they will be able to find them and not have to buy them from stock photo houses.” Last year alone there were over 19,000 missionary and member-submitted photos downloaded by Church employees for Church projects. “Church employees have already exceeded that number this year,” said Brother Olson.

Sister Eugenia Rey, a Church-service photographer from Payson, Utah, said, “In some calls we are the Lord’s hands; on this call we are the Lord’s eyes.”

A father and son spend time together. Photo by Wendy Gibbs Keeler, Mumbai, India.

“We have one missionary who worked with Church history on three Church history websites, and they used over 75 of his photos on the sites,” said Brother Olson.

“Best calling ever!” said Sister Linda Lee, a Church-service missionary photographer from Iowa City, Iowa.

“Another photographer had a great-great-uncle who took photos of Church history sites in the early 1900s,” said Brother Olson. “She did a ‘mini mission’ and tried to re-create every one of his photos, showing how each site looks today from as close to the same camera position as she could get.”

“This truly is the Lord’s work. It’s amazing the doors that He opens when you commit to serve,” said Sister Janna Cannon from Lindsay, Texas.

A woman carries her scriptures. Photo by Jennifer Lee Pohl, Weisner, Idaho.

“We need more Church-service missionary photographers,” said Brother Olson. “One person from a couple can serve, a couple can serve together, or mothers with children can serve. We even have working professional photographers serving as missionaries. Anyone 18 and older can serve. Members can choose to serve 6, 12, 18, or 24 months.” Those interested in being a Church-service missionary photographer can find out more information at https://www.lds.org/topics/service/create. Those not able to serve as a missionary can still submit their high-quality photos at any time for Church use.

Sister Michelle Fitzwater, a Church-service missionary photographer from Payson, Utah, said, “This is such a fun mission. I never want to stop! I love how creative I can be and how I can still be a mom and wife and still serve. There is something so special about having that name tag close to my heart.”

A woman in traditional costume. Photo by Daniel Sanchez Labajo, Jr., Las Piñas City, Philippines.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty. … The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come” (“Happiness, Your Heritage,” October 2008 general conference).

A young woman smiles as she stands in a field of grain with a blue sky overhead. Photo by Janae Bingham, Bluffdale, Utah.