Photocredits: Keith Gandy

The bible is constantly reminding us of things that we are to quit - quit sinning, quit worrying. And then there are things and deeds that we are to continually practice.  For a missionary there are possibly a number of less than intuitive things that we should continually practice. Over the next few blog posts, I want to expound on a few of my "don't stop" list. Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

The tendency will be to address the matters that are at hand, the pressing or urgent duties. These are the priorities that will not scream for attention and can therefore be ignored or relegated to the later list, never getting the attention that will be required. At the same time, these are items that will make a huge difference in long-term ministry impact. 

1. Photography/video

It was the missionary thirty or forty years ago that was the window to the world via his slide show - it had appeal just because it was novel and unique. Since everyone has 150 tv channels and the internet, plus cheap air travel, poor presentations are no longer acceptable - there is too much competition and common exposure. If a missionary is to stand out in his field as he/she articulates a burden for the adopted culture - images are part of the toolbox. Our generation is nurtured on seeing and feeling 'up close'. A missionary should leverage this cultural trend to help people grasp the need. Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved to compassion - help people see the multitudes. Here are a couple thoughts to move you towards being better.

Get a real (dedicated) camera

In an age of 2mb smart phones with cameras, you might think that is sufficient for your needs, but you definitely need more power and flexibility to produce quality images. Mostly it will mean spending money on 'glass' - lenses will be the main difference, not the camera body - in my opinion. A cheap lens is restricted in sharpness, plus will most likely not have a low 'f-stop' - an aperture that will blur out unwanted background and focus the eye of the viewer on the part of the image you desire to emphasize.

Used equipment that is still in great condition is fine, in my opinion and will save you a ton of dough.

Know in advance, that it does get bulky and since we travel considerably it will demand that you consider suitable and padded transport. I use backpacks designed for heavy wear. My present backpack does weigh in at about 20lbs, depending on the gear for the particular shooting that is scheduled. I hand carry my gear onto the plane as my personal luggage, plus use a rollie suitcase in the overhead bin - rarely do I check a suitcase - that is just my personal travel workflow. (Yes, even when I am gone four-five weeks.)

Shoot a lot of images/footage.

Perfect your skills by making lots of mistakes when it doesn't count. It is a honed skillset to get someone's portrait and make them feel at ease. Shoot street photography and ask people for their portraits or learn to get shots without making people nervous. It will take time and practice to improve both capturing your image, plus using software to enhance the image. Shoot lots of stuff, delete bad content regularly. Just keep shooting and buying new hard drives for storage. They are relatively cheap.

Learn a lot

Learn composition and color design.  Learn lighting in various settings Sunlight, shadow, backlighting, available lighting and reflective lighting. Learn to focus on the eyes of people. (This is where a professional photographer viewing my images gently nudged me to improve - make sure the image is in focus; ultra-sharp focus.)

My main way to shoot photos is with my settings on 'manual'. This allows me to control what I desire to emphasize.

Shoot RAW, if you can

This is a high resolution image that will allow you to manipulate better to get the image you need, plus you will have high resolution for print and/or HD video later. It will require specialized software to produce a jpeg image - but go to the trouble and you can thank me later.  My images are all 21-25mb straight out of the camera, so yes, they require storage.

Sightseeing is good, people are what really matter

  • IMG_6842A couple in a park in Poland
In video, the term is called 'money shot' - the image that generates real interest. Landscape photography is fabulous and inspiring, people are what matter. You can only take one thing with you to heaven - people.

Generally wide angle group shots do not convey drama and memorable images - focus on one person or family and 'tell' their story.

On a side note, this is what will allow you to use the present communication tool of a younger generation: Instagram. Facebook and twitter can receive feeds from Instagram, but without a good image, no memorable impact will be made.

One other option - hire me to follow you around and I'll save you a lot of time and effort - but I don't come cheap anymore.

Coming up on the don't stop list:

  • Booking future presentation dates
  • Learning
  • Making friends with those that don't know Jesus, yet.

Keith Gandy - GermanyKeith Gandy - Germany

Keith, originally from the desert of Phoenix, Arizona, has been planting a church in Aschaffenburg, Germany for over thirty years. Daughter churches have also been started and missionaries have been sent out of the congregation. Annually, he participates in encouraging other European church-planters and frequently travels to visit them in their respective field of service.

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