Church photography – somewhere between portraits and photojournalism

guitar pedal boardRecently I was asked to do some photography for my local church who is putting together a new church directory. Church directories are kinda like High School yearbooks, most of the time they are a mix of candid/action shots and then you have pages of the portraits. Being a photojournalist I am much more excited about the candid and fun shots.

I have been spending the past few days capturing shots from the various activities that go on within the church, and I have learned that it has been quite enjoyable yet challenging at the same time. I went in thinking photojournalistically (that’s not a real word I know, but it sure sounds good) and was surprised to find that the people I was photographing, especially the kids, would many times stop everything they were doing just to get their picture taken. Although really fun, this destroys the “story” that you are putting together as a photojournalist.

I don’t have much experience in doing just plain portraits. I look at it and I see the art and the style behind it, but as I was just discussing with a mentor yesterday, it’s a whole different skill set and art than photojournalism. The technique is different, the story is different, the composition is different, so how do I get the photojournalistic shots when everyone wants their picture taken, don’t they know they are ruining my story?

So on the fly I’m having to adjust my story. I’m capturing now a great mix of action shots with some classic still life/portraiture shots. I am really excited for how the shots have come out and I have learned a lot through the process.

Sometimes it’s easy to get focused on the task at hand, or in this case the story we are trying to tell. I remember one time while I was still living in Russia, we were out on a photo shoot in Siberia and the story we thought that we were going to get was simply not coming together. We sat together one night in our hotel room and started to see how we needed to change the story to fit the material that we were getting. That was the case here, and it is the case in so many situations in life. The images we thought we would have just don’t come and we have to adjust on the fly to make it work.

Isn’t that a testament to a good photographer though, being flexible and well rounded so that the project still comes together?

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