Tips from the Pros
Taking Photos for Church Use
- The most important guideline is to follow Church standards when taking photos.
Every photo that comes from Church headquarters, whether taken by official Church photographers or submitted by members, will be viewed as an expression of Church standards. Look at your image from that perspective before you submit any photo to make sure there isn’t anything that does not meet Church standards.
- No one takes perfect photos every time. Be willing to throw away everything but the best.
Because it is easy to keep digital photos, some people never throw them out. To become a better photographer, you need to be able to evaluate whether or not a photo is really good, even if you are emotionally attached to the photo because you worked very hard to take it. If it isn’t a great photo, you need to be willing to recognize that.
Keep the best; discard the rest.
- Take sample photos to see what shot will be best, and then adjust your settings to make the picture better.
Whether you are walking around a site or taking pictures of people, take a couple of sample pictures to check the lighting, background, setting, and groupings of people. Once you’ve taken your sample shots, look over them and make adjustments to strengthen the picture.
- Look for anything distracting, and eliminate it.
If the intended subject of your photo becomes a minor element because of distractions elsewhere in the shot (such as a pole that looks like it is coming out of a person's head ), move, and take the photos from a different angle.
- Watch for problematic backgrounds. Change angles, change the focal length to blur the background, or change something else to solve the problem.
Sometimes what looks like a great photo becomes worthless because something in the background distracts you from the main subject.
- Digitally fixing a photo may be your only option.
Sometimes you might have a great shot that is worthless unless you alter the shot to make the clothing more modest or change or remove some element of the scene.
It is better to fix a problem during the photo shoot, but it may be necessary to correct something you didn’t notice.
You may have to digitally fix certain photos to make them meet Church standards, remove logos or copyrighted elements, or blur distractions.
- Today’s technology is important to capture, but it may also limit the length of time a photo is usable.
Old portable telephones the size of bricks—need we say more?
It is important to remember that while we need shots that include current technology, we also need them updated frequently. Cell phones and other technology go out of date quickly, within six months or so, which means we can use photos that include them only for a limited time. We need a constant stream of photos with up-to-date technology.
- Take photos at dawn and dusk. Do not take photos during noon hours.
The light is best at the beginning and end of the day. It is softer and always yields a better result. Photos taken during the middle of the day have too much contrast and are generally much less interesting. Avoid taking photos from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- If the light isn’t right, keep your camera in the bag.
The secret of a great photograph is great lighting. If the light isn’t there, neither is a great photograph. You can take sample photos to see what you want to shoot on a better day, but don’t bother taking pictures if the lighting is poor. If it is cloudy, you may have decent lighting for taking photos of people, but you will not have the light you need to take pictures of buildings or temples.
- Use a flash only to light up faces that are shadowed when in full sun.
When taking photos in bright light, sometimes the faces are in shadow. One way to help improve photos in those situations is to put your subjects’ back to the sun so that they are backlit, and then use your flash to bring light to their faces. You can also use a white poster board or other white surface to bounce light into faces. Remember to ask your subjects to remove dark glasses they may be wearing.
- Find people who are comfortable in front of the camera.
People who are nervous or clenching their fists because they are uncomfortable will not appear relaxed in a photo. Take a moment to make the models feel comfortable and relaxed before starting to take pictures.
- If taking photos of more than one person, move them very close together, even if it seems too close. Gaps between people make for poor photos.
A comfortable distance apart from others when standing or sitting together in a natural setting is generally too far apart for photos. The gap between each person becomes noticeable when you look at photographs. Move people close together, and take some sample shots to see if the distance between the people seems right.
- Get up close and make your subject the main part of the photo.
In many photos that are submitted, the subject of the photo is too small. To bring interest to the photo, zoom in or move closer to your subject, and make the person the focus of the shot.
- Be aware of what people are wearing. People in your photos should be wearing modest clothing that meets Church standards.
Modesty is important. Photos with women wearing dresses or other clothing items that are too short or cut low are not usable. Sometimes there is nothing you can do other than pin up clothes to make them modest before you start shooting.
Clothing doesn’t need to cover the neck or cover all the way down to the wrists or ankles to be modest, however.
Men need to be clean-shaven, and if men in a photo are in a Church setting, they should have white shirts and ties that are not distracting. Ties should not be loosened or hanging below an open collar.
- If possible, have people bring several changes of clothes. Make sure that the clothes each person is wearing fit with the other elements of the scene. If the clothing on a person is distracting, ask the person to change into something that isn’t. Avoid clothing that is trendy or loud.
Clothes that are very distracting can easily become the subject of the photo and hide what you really want people to notice. Look for clothing items that don’t fit with the rest of the photo—such as a color that clashes or a style that doesn’t work.
Trendy clothing quickly goes out of style and limits the length of time photos are usable. Choose styles that don’t change as much through the years and give photos a longer shelf life. Clothing with big logos that cannot be retouched or edited out should be avoided. Small logos may also be a problem if they are very noticeable.
- Walk around first and try to find the best angle.
Spend time looking from many different angles before you take any photos. Look for the one angle that will make for a great shot.
Always be looking for the one photo of the temple that would be good enough to be given to couples as a memento from the temple where they were married.
- Eliminate vehicles from shots.
Vehicles in the photo can distract the viewers from thinking about the temple.
- If you can’t obtain a good temple shot during the morning or evening because the front of the temple is never in sunlight, wait until dusk. The lights will come on, and the sky will still be light enough to get a good shot.
There are some temples where the sun doesn’t show up on the front of the building regardless of what time of day you shoot. You may need to wait until the moment the lights come on to get the best shot.
When Church photographers shoot temples, they may go back five or six times during the day to check out the lighting and get the best shot. Getting your best temple shot requires some dedication.
- Get up high enough so that the temple—not the trees, bushes, or flowers—is the main focus of the photo.
Many shots of temples are submitted where the bushes and plants are the main feature, rather than serving as an adornment for the building.
Tips from Other Members
If you have a tip that has improved the quality of your photos, we would love to share it! Your tip could help others who are submitting their great photos to the Church.
You can submit a tip for one of the categories listed below, or suggest a new category.