What's in this session?

  • The Georgia Institute of Technology study (1:50)
  • Step #1 - Portrait Mode (3:03)
  • Step #2 - Find The Best Light (4:26)
  • Step #3 - Edite Your Photos with a Free App (7:48)

Show notes and resources

Free Bonus: Click here to download The iPhone Church Photography Case Study – learn to shoot stunning photos for your church with only your phone

The Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily. The show where in ten minutes or less you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve see in the last 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills, I’m joined as always by the boss man it’s Brady Sherer, and today we’re talking about how to capture beautiful images for your church, for free.

Brady Sherer: When you think about the kind of content you see on social media the one type of content that dominates social platforms is visual imagery, whether in the medium of photography or videography. And there are numerous studies that back this up. But the bottom line is this, there is a reason the cliche a picture is worth a thousand words exists. And that is that you can communicate through a single image what it would take paragraphs worth of text to do. And that is because the human brain can process images infinitely quicker than it can process the written word. And so when it comes to making good first impressions, when it comes to social, when it comes to almost every communication medium because speed offers so many advantages when comes to communication and attention, especially because our attention spans are so low. Using photo’s is so powerful.

It used to be this was a very expensive or just difficult process that required considerable skill. It wasn’t that long ago where you would need to hire an Alexander Thrills to take your photos because you couldn’t take them yourself. And, what’s been amazing is that over the last couple of years extreme advancement in tech, especially within our mobile devices, as we’ll discuss, has enabled almost anyone to take amazing beautiful photos. Not to say that you’ll be able to take something as close to Alex, but we’re getting closer and closer. The gap, which used to be extreme is getting smaller and smaller and smaller, which is great for churches with small budgets and with lack of skill on staff let’s say.

Here’s a study done by the Georgia Institute of Technology in conjunction with Yahoo Labs. They analyzed more than one million Instagram photos and found that pictures with human faces were 38% more likely to receive likes than pictures with no faces. And 32 more likely to attract comments. So if were to assign a number one position, the number one seed in the bracket of photography the best photo that you can take when it comes to attention, interaction and engagement is a picture of another humans face. And, what’s great about mobile manufacturers and the rise of the selfie is that mobile manufacturers recognize this truth demonstrated through that study. The most powerful photo that you can take is of another human’s face. And phone manufacturer’s have built into their tech the ability to take great photos, especially portrait style photos. And so we’re going to walk through a three step process right now that will allow you to take beautiful photography, beautiful photos of human faces for free with no experience and no camera.

We have a full case study that documents actually us doing this within a church over at the nucleolus blog. blog.nucleolus.church is where you can find that full case study. The first step is to get a phone that has portrait mode capability built within. All this is, is a name for a feature in a phone that essentially allows you to take a still image with a blurred out background. In videography and photography we call this boca, where essentially, let’s say Alex’s face is in focus but the background is blurred out. When you zoom in on mine or Alex’s face while watching Pro Church Daily, you’ll see this, my face is in focus but the brick background behind me is a little bit out of focus. That’s boca, shallow depth of field. Depth of field is the precise term here. And phones now allow you to do this.

For instance, you have the iPhone 10, I have the iPhone 7+. Both of these phones have a feature that Apple developed called Portrait Mode. Where essentially you can open your phone, put it on portrait mode and then take a photo of someone or something where the Canada Dry cup in front of us is in focus but the background is out of focus. And it’s not just Apple phones that can do this, here are a number of phones that can. We already mentioned the iPhone 7+ and iPhone 10, the iPhone 8+ can also do this along with the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Essential Phone, MottoX 4 and more and more phones are coming out with this. Soon it’s going to be standard on every device.

That’s the first step. This is the part where you get to do it for free without a camera. If you don’t have a mobile device that has this feature, get one that does, borrow one from a friend, like I said we’ve got two out of two here that have one, so find from someone and borrow it for the afternoon.

Step two is to find the best light. When it comes to the overall image that you’re capturing the most influential feature is the lighting that you’re working with. And I’m going to let Alex speak to this in just a bit, but there are some great lighting scenario’s that you can find within your own Church, a creative stage light or auditorium lighting, natural light from larger windows. We’re filming and recording Pro Church Daily in the board room where one entire wall is all windows. And we record in here because the natural light is great, large windows. You can also record outdoors during golden hour, also known as magic hour, which is when the sun is rising and setting, sun is low to the horizon and that means that the light is very soft and golden and makes everyone look a little bit prettier. You can use an app called rizon, spelled R-I-Z-O-N, to find the precise time for golden hour in the morning and evening in your location.

Alex Mills: I was actually standing in this room last week and I think my wife had called me on FaceTime. So I was talking to her on FaceTime and I was standing right by those windows over there, and I was standing facing the window, and I was thinking, “Man this light looks really good.” And then I turned around 180 degrees so I’m facing this wall, and I’m like, “Man this light is really terrible.” And this is of course, common to me, but I just thought, even just with this, I don’t remember how many megapixels this camera has on the front of the phone, but like I was just realizing with this on FaceTime, spotty connection, poor camera, just the variance of light makes such a drastic difference.

I kind of had some ideas of how to showcase that on my own personal Instagram and maybe we can do a deeper dive into lighting for some content further down the road. Lighting is just, it’s everything, you know, you can have all the gear you want, even sometimes in the office when we shoot thumbnails or we’re shooting content for other things, I’ve got a really great camera, but if we’ve waited too long in the day and the sun has set past a certain point …

Brady Sherer: 4:00 p.m. in Canada.

Alex Mills: Yeah. And the light’s garbage and I can’t do much with it. I don’t like introducing artificial light, I will sometimes. You can get very creative with artificial light, but for, especially for portraits, I really love, and so important for the skin tones, for the color itself, to use natural lighting, and so at church in my own context we don’t have a whole lot of natural light. I’ve been to churches where there’s just these great big windows similar to ours, and you can shoot inside, and it will look great. But at our church, we don’t really have a whole lot of natural light so if I’m shooting portraits of somebody, if I’m doing a headshot for a testimony on Facebook or whatever, I’ll take them outside, and I won’t shoot inside the building, I’ll shoot on the property, but we’ll step outside, so I can take advantage of that free light, that natural light.

I’ll put them usually under a tree and get them in the shade and get some natural diffusion from the leaves. But, I’m always on the hunt for flattering light because it really can make the biggest difference. Especially with portrait mode, something that portrait mode really needs is a lot of light. If you’re trying to shoot on your iPhone in portrait mode in low light, you’re not going to get great results. So there’s great natural light just about anywhere, you can get creative, maybe you have to step outside, that’s okay, but if you’re shooting during the day between magic hours or even taking advantage of either of those magic hours in the morning, or the evening you can get free light on cloudy day, on a sunny day, it’s there. You just have to go after it.

Brady Sherer: So step one, the free element, using portrait mode on a mobile device. Step two use free light. God’s better at lighting than Alex, I or you. Use the free light that God gives. And, step number three use a free app like VSCO, V-S-C-O is how it’s spelled a nice filter to your image. Again we have a full case study. We went into a church on a weekend, on a Sunday, I had never been there. We used only the iPhone 7+ that I’m holding in my hand right now, and natural light available to us, along with the VSCO app for some additional coloring after the fact all free.

We shot a bunch of photos for this church and created a full demo website for them to show how amazingly far the tech within our mobile devices has come. Where someone like me, who’s not a photographer, I know a lot about video, but not photography, can create a full website, take a huge number of photos that can be used for any number of context, social, the website, print, whatever you want and it was all done for free without any experience or camera, this is now possible. And, it’s amazing because when we consider the impact and the influence of photography and visuals, and this is so much better than using stock or using clip art. Because it’s personal to you and your church. It can be done for free. It can be done easily, put this into practice and you can see amazing results.

Alex Mills: I remember when I was a kid my brother bought his first digital camera and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Cannon PowerShot and it was 3.4 megapixels and was like, as far as like a consumer level that was like as high as you could get. It’s was otherworldly, at 3.4 megapixels, look at the definition in these photos. And now, most of us have 12 megapixel cameras in our pocket all the time. And so this is more accessible to anyone now more than it ever has been and to get great photos of real people for church, like you said, for your website, for social, you can reuse these photos all over the place. You don’t have to reach any further than your pocket anymore and that’s a really incredible thing.

Brady Sherer: That will do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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