DIY Church Media, Part 3: Casting Calls!

DIY Church Media 3 (1)If you’ve come across this blog series before, then you know that we’re talking all about creating homemade church media! If you can’t find what you’re looking for on Worshiphouse Media  or SermonSpice, it might be time to bust out the ol’ smart phone or DSLR and put your imagination to work! It’s a fun and rewarding process, and all it requires is a computer, a photo shoot with some fellow congregants and a little bit of elbow grease (Editor’s note: elbow grease is not actually required).

In the first post, we explored the power of planning and what makes for a good composition. If you haven’t had a chance, check it out here. In the following post, we discussed practical photography tips that’ll help you snap compelling photos.  This time around, we’ll dive into choosing the right subjects, obtaining model releases, and planning creative ways to use your finished DIY media.

Be a Diligent Casting Director

To cast, or not to cast? That is the question! One of the more interesting aspects to consider when planning and executing your photo shoot is who should be in front of the camera. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to not distract from the theme of the media by including an out-of-place or inappropriate subject. For example, a hot-tempered dad might not be the best subject to cast for the Father’s Day service design. So what makes for a good pick? Here’s my two cents:

     Who to cast

  • Someone that has a strong testimonial about the topic at hand
  • A person who deserves recognition for their work on the subject
  • A church member that’s capable of acting naturally in front of the camera

    Who not to cast

  • A church member that’s embroiled in controversy over the topic at hand
  • A subject that isn’t likely to take the photo shoot and/or your time seriously
  • A congregant that isn’t willing to have their photographs shared

Don’t Forget the Autographs

Obtaining model releases from your subjects is a very important step in your DIY photo shoots. I mean, like, critically important. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your church from any legal issues; so don’t forget to be diligent about it.

And although it’s very important, it’s not very hard.  All you need to do is ask the subjects (or their parents) to sign a permission slip or model release that gives you the right to use the photo or video footage in a variety of print and online purposes.

There are hundreds of model release templates to be found with a simple google search. Identify one that you like, print it out and bring (extra) copies with you to your shoot. It’s important to make this agreement in writing, as a verbal agreement definitely won’t suffice. If you plan to photograph or film a big church event, this step needs to take place for every person that’ll be present. Churches and church events aren’t often considered public spaces, which is the requisite for distributing material without permission. A good way to make this process painless is to get the forms filled out beforehand with any other necessary sign-up steps for the event.

Spread the Good News!

Your homegrown media isn’t just great for use during service. There are a lot of other awesome ways to put your creations to work! Think about putting your design to work on the social media front by posting it to your church’s website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. An email newsletter or announcement is also a great place to promote an upcoming service or a previously recorded sermon. Maybe alter your design to serve as a welcoming image for the vestibule? A simple stroll around your church building is a cool way to brainstorm fun places and ways to promote using your design.

In Review

DIY church media is awesome, but it’s important to make sure you cover your bases when you’re photographing or filming. Find an appropriate subject for your shoot and make sure they’ve signed off on a model release. Brainstorm, in advance, various ways that your design can be used to promote the upcoming service, sermon series or event.

In the next (and last) post of this series, we’ll take a look at how to execute your design and enhance it with text, filters and other goodies. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts about casting, obtaining model releases and brainstorming uses for promotional design in the comments section below. Until next time, God bless!

DIY Church Media Production

DIY Church Media, Part 2

DIY Church Media

If you’d like to add a personal touch to your church media and can’t find what you’re looking for on WorshipHouse Media or SermonSpice, maybe it’s time unleash your inner-photographer and design some promotional material for your church, DIY style.

This series will help guide you through the creative, rewarding process of incorporating church members into your media. It’s a fantastic way to make the Sunday experience resonate with your congregation, and best of all, you don’t need to be a professional (or filthy rich) to get great results.

In our last post, we discussed the importance of telling a story visually and planning your composition long before you shoot it. If you haven’t already, give it a read here! This time, we’ll review some tips on how to compose and shoot photographs like a professional, even if you’re not one. The one disclaimer to keep in mind is that you’ll likely need to be patient with yourself. It may take a few photo shoots before all of these concepts come together, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit a home run on your first at-bat. With that in mind, let’s talk DIY photography!


You don’t need the finest equipment on the market to produce high quality compositions. As long as you keep the following tips in mind, a decent camera phone will do the trick:

Good lighting is critical

The lighting of your photos is probably the most important factor to consider when shooting. Most professional photographers rely on a stable of finely calibrated flashes, light modifiers and artificial lighting. But fear not, fellow amateurs, the Lord’s got us covered. The best type of light was made on the first day of creation and is free to all, so if your composition allows for it, get outside for the shoot.

One thing to keep in mind when photographing outdoors: be conscious of the position of the sun and the shadows that it casts. For example, be mindful to position yourself, if possible, so that the sun is behind you and not your subject (aka frontlighting). Also make sure you’re not getting splatter/hot spots in your photos. If your subject is standing under a tree, for example, the sunlight poking through the leaves will likely cause light spots and shadows… and you don’t want that. During the shoot, your eye won’t notice it much, but when you start downloading the pics, you’ll see it immediately. To combat this lighting issue, have someone hold a large piece of cardboard to block the hotspots, or adjust your subject’s position so that the light and shadows aren’t so prevalent.

If you’re planning a photo session at your church, or anywhere indoors, try taking some pictures near the biggest window you can find. Position your subject so that the window lights them from the side and you’ll likely get a dynamically lit shot.

Composition is key

So, uh, remember when I told you that lighting was the most important factor to your photo shoot? Well, I could be wrong about that, because the composition of your shots is probably just as critical. Hopefully you’ve hashed a lot of this out when planning your overall design, but if not, no worries. Keep these three things in mind and you’ll be good to go:

  1. The Rule of thirds

Learn it… jedi master it… your future self will think highly of you.

  1. Get creative with your angles

During your shoot, get creative and take pictures from different angles for dynamic results. Crouch, lean, or contort your body, just try to think outside the box… or stand on top of it, or have your subject stand on it. Maybe pull a Zacchaeus. The bottom line is, you don’t want to end up with a bunch of shots that look the same, and shooting from interesting angles can make for intriguing results. Use positioning to focus on the theme and help tell a story that will resonate with your audience.

  1. Never forget your Background

What’s going on in the background of your photos is also very important. The Lord made your brain especially talented at focusing on a subject and tuning everything else out, which works great in real time, but in photography it’s much the opposite. Unless for some reason the background helps to tell the story, ensure that it isn’t cluttered- no unintended signs, bystanders, etc. This is easy to fix by moving a bit or adjusting the angle of your shot.


You don’t need to be a professional to create awesome church promotional materials. You don’t even need fancy cameras or equipment. All you need to do is plan your design, be mindful of your lighting and always remember that composition is critical.

In the next post, we’ll look at practical and legal factors in choosing a model for your photo shoot. We’ll also explore simple, effective ways to enhance your homemade church media and different ways to use it.

So did we miss any important photography do’s and don’ts in this post? Let us know your thoughts, questions and DIY photo shoot experiences in the comments section below!



DIY Church Media

When looking to enhance your services with visuals, purchasing media from sites like and is almost always the best and fastest route. Occasionally though, it’s fun and/or necessary to personalize the church experience with your own homemade design.

The next time you’re looking to promote an upcoming event or sermon series and can’t find what you need on WorshipHouse or SermonSpice, don’t rely on stock photography sites! Instead, try incorporating photos of fellow church members into your media. Why is this a fantabulous idea? In large part because recognizable faces can resonate with your congregation, making it more likely that they’ll remember and relate to what they’re viewing.

In this four part series, we’ll discuss some tips and general guidelines to consider when creating your homegrown media. You won’t need a fancy camera, photography classes or any special expertise, just follow along with this series and rev up your imagination. The first step in the process is to plan your composition(s) in preparation for a D.I.Y. photo shoot.

Know Your Why

Make sure that you’re not using photos of church members just for the sake of doing so. The imagery should always support the theme of the service, sermon or event. The last thing you want to do is distract from the intended message by adding irrelevant or excessive imagery. Staying focused on the theme is critical, and this is where brainstorming and planning make all of the difference.

It’s OK to be Sketchy

Start your design by sketching some concepts, always keeping in mind the question: “What am I trying to communicate with this piece of media?” You don’t have to be Andy Warhol for this step, just try to get some ideas on paper that can help you frame your design. Here are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind:
faith-image (1)If your imagery wasn’t accompanied by text, would it still tell a compelling story about the theme of the service, sermon or event? If not, keep brainstorming!

Bowling-image (1)Your congregation’s first reaction to the design shouldn’t be “Hey! That’s Larry!” Instead, plan the focal point around the part of your design that best represents the theme. The fact that the model is a fellow church member should be a subtle tip of the hat, not the main focus.

reading-image (1)

Your brainstorming sketches should (almost) always provide ample text space. Accounting for where your text will be placed later on will save you headaches in the long run.

What’s Next?

In the second post of this series, we’ll look at tips on how to compose and shoot photographs like a pro, even if you’re not one. We’ll also discuss the importance of selecting the right church members for your designs. So, what are your thoughts on personalizing media for your church? Have we missed an important Do or Don’t so far? Let us know in the comments section below!



In the previous installments of this series, we’ve highlighted two absolutely essential tools for success in video production: PASSION and PATIENCE. So to recap… what’s that? Those are boring topics, you say? Get to the good stuff, you say? Well then, without further ado, let’s discuss the third (and coolest) essential for video production: RESOURCES!

A content creator will almost always perform better with strong resources at their disposal. Instead of getting long-winded about why that’s the case, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites, separated into two categories: Educational and Inspirational. The good news about most of these resources? They’re cheap or free-of-charge! The only cost associated is the investment of your time and focus. Enjoy, and be sure to comment below with any cool resources that I’ve overlooked!


There’s no shortage of free training available on the internet, so if you’re on-board with the first two essentials of video production (passion and patience), this is where you’ll truly excel! Whether you’re learning beginner concepts like masks and keyframing, intermediate concepts like track matting and transfer modes, or expert processes like animated typography, you can find the how-to’s online:

Video Copilot – If yovcp-banneru’re into motion design, videography or special effects, you probably already know about Andrew Kramer and the great tutorials/resources at

cc-bannerCreative Cow – Another mainstay in the motion graphics world, this site is a fantastic source of tutorials, forums, and help from seasoned professionals. – If you have motion graphics question, this community-style website most likely has the answers. There are many a seasoned professional willing to help steer you in the right direction or provide feedback on your work.

aetuts-bannerTuts+, AEtuts – This site is a fantastic resource for 3D or Motion Graphics tutorials. I’ve learned a great deal of tips and tricks here, but keep in mind that the source files for many of the tutorials are only accessible with a premium (paid) account.

ae-scripts-bannerAescripts + AEplugins – If you use After Effects, Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, this website is FANTASTIC! Browse through hundreds of tools and scripts that can be “plugged-in” to your software to improve the efficiency and quality of your work.


If you find yourself in a brainstorming drought or just want to get the creativity flowing, searching the internet for design and videography trends can lead to fresh and exciting ideas. Another great source of inspiration is to find a project or template online that you really like, then “pop the hood” and see how it was built and how it works. Here are some good examples of inspirational resources to get you started:

motionographer-bannerMotionogropher – click the link and be inspired…. No but seriously, click the link.


Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 3.55.51 PMProchurchtools – Brady Shearer has a fantastic website called where he focuses on everything in the world of church media. He offers tips and techniques for video production and presentation, and his podcasts are fantastic.,, – These websites offer templates, project files, stock video/photography and other useful tools for purchase. Download a project file and reverse engineer it to learn how the video production pros manage and execute their vision. Unless you’ve got Scrooge McDuck money, I wouldn’t suggest using these resources in commercial projects… but for personal projects or to learn your craft, they’re cheap and very valuable.

pb-bannerLooking for a free version of the last resource? Check out this post on to find 10 free After Effects templates you can play around with. Again, understanding how a pro has created and managed their project will advance your learning curve by leaps and bounds. There are plenty of places to find these types of royalty free resources, and deconstructing them has taught me some of the most valuable tricks I know about After Effects and other video compositing software.


Aside from passion and patience, the most essential tool to a video producer is access to resources. That doesn’t necessarily mean that buying shiny hardware or expensive software will make you successful. Instead, invest your time and energy in educational and inspirational resources that are readily available on the internet. If you know what to look for and look hard enough, these resources are inexpensive and will lead to exponential growth.

Good luck in your journey as a content creator and always feel free to reach out if you have questions about the tools and resources on this list. Also feel free to comment below with any resources I’ve missed. I’ll be praying for your video production success!


The Second Essential Tool for Video Production

In the last post, we discussed how important it is to take a passionate approach to your church media work. Without passion, you’re role as a media producer stands less chance of success than a snowman in the Summer. But passion alone will not an effective producer make. The next key ingredient in the formula for success?… PATIENCE!


As boring as it may sound, this Essential is the one that will save you the most stress and improve your skills in the long term. Much like painting or shooting hoops, becoming an experienced video producer is unlikely to happen overnight. Polishing your skills and mastering your craft requires a lot of practice, and a lot of practice requires a lot of patience.

So, off the top of your head, who’s the most patient person you can think of? Mr. Miyagi? Master Splinter? This dude? All very patient indeed, but the type of patience I’m thinking of is best personified by a person in the Bible by the name of Job. If you’re not familiar, he has a whole section of the Good Book dedicated to his story – check it out!

Job patiently endured through some of the hardest challenges imaginable. When EVERYTHING in his life seemed to be falling apart- his family, his health, his fortune… Job persisted. While none of us will ever experience the type of frustration in our production work that Job fought through in his life, it’s important to acknowledge that we will MOST CERTAINLY come across issues in our media production. To be successful we must endure through those challenges. Even if you have many years under your belt as a video producer, it’s a healthy practice to remind yourself to be patient and persistent; that God works through us on His own schedule.

If you’re new to media production, I can assure you that there will certainly be mistakes along the way. There’ll be crashed computers and lost files. There’ll be rendering problems and challenging team members and all types of unforeseen stresses. A big part of our jobs as content creators is to learn from those situations, let the non-constructive aspects roll off our backs, and move forward with our development. When we approach our work knowing that challenges will arise, we’re allowing ourselves the patience necessary to overcome those obstacles and refine ourselves as instruments for The Lord.


Many times in my experience, I’ve realized that I was only able to conquer a problem or avoid a huge blunder because I’d previously gone through an experience that taught me how to better handle the situation. Trial and error, learning from mistakes, and always trying to move forward are CRITICAL to becoming a polished video producer, so don’t feel bad for yourself or beat yourself up over the challenges. Be like Job and endure; your reward will be exponentially more fulfilling.


Looking for some tips and resources to help save you from frustration later on? Here are a few that helped me:

  • offers a rundown of 12 common mistakes that motion designers make and how to avoid them. It’s a long read, but definitely worth your time if you’re newer to the field. Shoot, even if you’re a veteran producer, click the link anyway and refresh yourself on these potential pitfalls.
  • For videographers, browse through this checklist and other techniques on Committing these tips about live action recording to memory before you head to your shoot will save you many-a-headache. It’s much easier to do the work while shooting than in post-production, so get it right the first time and you’ll probably thank yourself later.
  • Check out, it’s like an insurance policy for your project files and video assets. Their service will automatically back up a copy of all the files you tell it to and can restore the data if your computer ever dies on you. I’ve never had to restore my computer (AMEN!), but if and when I do, I’ll be thankful to have backed my work up on Crashplan.


It’s a fact: challenges and mistakes are going to happen. To be successful in video production, or anything else for that matter, you cannot let those difficulties defeat you! Endure through the tough times, like Job did, and you’ll be a stronger instrument for God.