A Guide to Staging the Shots You’re Looking For

Kelly Belousov

March 10, 2020

Do you want to know our secret to capturing beautiful, natural looking photos of people connecting and interacting during our church’s weekend services? Most of the time we STAGE the shots! Yes, you read that right. We learned through a lot of trial and error when it comes to capturing compelling images of church services. One of the biggest things that we learned is that sometimes you just have to create “on purpose” exactly what you’re looking for.

At this moment you may be thinking, hold up, isn’t staging shoots a recipe for photos that feel disingenuous? Our experience has been that it’s actually the opposite! We’ve found that if people who weren’t planning on being photographed notice you taking photos of them, they often tense up or get awkward. It can also be very time consuming to wait around hoping that people will laugh or smile as they’re talking to one another. We’re always looking for photos of people that represent life, joy, and connection with God and others.

You may have a vision for capturing great images of people connecting in your lobby or some dynamic, fun photos of the kid’s ministry, but it can feel intimidating or even awkward to try to grab the shots you’re looking for during a regular weekend service. We’ve found that planning photo shoots and staging the photos ourselves with willing participants is the easiest and fastest way to get the photos that we’re looking for. This is helpful especially when it comes to updating photos on the church website or looking for specific photos to share on social media of people connecting for small groups, kids’ ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, etc.


Planning a photo shoot for your kids ministry is an especially great idea if you’re wanting to highlight your church’s precious kiddos on your social media pages or your website, but you’re not sure about taking photos of a minor. We’ve already planned a photo shoot on a Saturday morning and contacted parents a few weeks prior about what they can expect, how long the shoot will take, and what their kiddos should wear. We had toys, activities, books, games, and lessons—everything that we’d normally see on a weekend service. From there, it was smooth sailing, and we got tons of great shots with parents who were 100% aware that we’d be using the photos online and who had signed photo release forms.


Small groups are the heart of every church. They’re what make a community happen at a deeper level, and one of the best ways to make a big church feel like a small church. We’ve already asked a small group if we could attend their group and have 10-15 minutes to direct some shots and provide actions that the group can do together like read their Bibles, pray, drink some coffee, or laugh and connect together. We’ve also brought a small group of people to the church lobby sofas before or after a service. Either way works, and either way you’ll get some great results!


Ask a group of people to be involved as subjects in your photo shoot, cast the vision for the photos to them, and create a shot list and mood board of what you’re looking to capture. We typically run these photo shoots in the church lobby, cafe, and a few outdoor photos in front of the building as well. Think about the following things when asking people to be in the photos:

  • Mix gender, ethnicities, and different ages.
  • Ask them what to wear. We recommend casual, solid neutrals.
  • Tell them the time and place you’ll be meeting them.
  • Tell them how long the photo shoot will take.
  • Brainstorm any props you may need (coffee, Bibles, pastries, flowers, etc.)

As you’re taking photos of them, encourage your group and let them know how great they look! Celebrate them, speak kind words, and help them to feel loved, comfortable, and at ease. Your tone will set the mood for the whole shoot. Give them actions to do and keep them moving. Even crack jokes behind the camera, and you’re sure to get those genuine smiles you were looking for in the first place!

And guess what?! To help you get started we’ve included a FREE photography team shot list downloadable PDF that you can use as inspiration for the images that you want to capture of your church in our Church Media Toolkit, access it below. In our next article in our photography series, we’re going to teach you how you can make your own shot lists and mood boards!

Looking for more photography resources? Visit our photography resource page for a complete list of all of the gear and software we use for shooting and editing. Happy picture taking! 📷

P.S. We’ll let you in on a little secret! We’re in the process of developing a COMPLETE PHOTOGRAPHY online course that will include everything you’d ever want to know about shooting, editing, posing, and so much more! Sign up to be notified when it releases!

(links will be updated when released)
A Beginners Guide to Church Photography
A Guide to Staging the Shots You’re Looking
Preparing for a Weekend Service Photoshoot
Capturing Candid Moments
Overview of Photography Basics in Manual Mode
A Guide to Editing Compelling Images

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