You've just been enlisted to photograph a church service for the staff to include on their website, in their magazine, in their directory, or even for social media! You're super excited to be of service but you have a few concerns about being the shadowy figure with a camera at church. Here are a few tips on how to be both efficient and respectful during the service!
Make a list beforehand of shots you need. It's possible that the person who asked you to take photos also gave you a small list of images they were wanting. They may have said, "Some of pastor speaking, the band playing, a wide shot of the congregation from the back and front, ect." Make note of those shots and focus primarily on getting them. A worship service can be a tricky field to navigate, so the more diligent, the better.
Try to avoid flash at all costs. Yo, what could be worse than having an intimate moment with the Lord during the refrain of "O, How He Loves" and feeling a flash go off in your face?! Anyone's main concern is being respectful during the service and not hindering God's ministry in the moment. Many people feel uncomfortable being photographed in their most vulnerable moments, when they know it could possibly be displayed to the masses.
Focus more on the ministry of the place instead of individual people. Again, your first instinct might be to take pictures of who else....God's people! But there is a respectful and honoring way to do it. Take photos of the pastor preaching, musicians leading, close-ups of hands raised in worship, groups of people gathered together in prayer, a row of people bowing at the altar (no booties, though! Heads and hands only!), ect. If it is an inclusive service with different forms of worship available such as painting, dancing, streamers/flags, or bible reading, get close ups of those things without encroaching on the person's face. Examples are an open bible, paintbrush on a canvas, hands clasped in prayer or on someone, bent knees, and a group of streamers in the air at the same time. The possibilities are endless!
The main thing I urge you to avoid is the emotional, moving shot of someone with tears streaming down their face and the ugly-cry face.......just........no. That's between them and the Lord. Our purpose is to capture what God is doing, not preventing it.
Good luck and have a great time photographing that event!