General Conference 2019, taking place in a large dome and former football stadium, can make for some interesting photography challenges. United Methodist News Service’s Kathleen Barry offers us some tips to get good photos.


When you don’t know the lighting, your access, etc., how can you prepare?

Take a deep breath and remember the following:

1. As a storyteller, what will tell the story in visuals for your readership?

  • Think of shooting overalls, mid-range and close-up photos.
  • The Dome at America’s Center, site of General Conference 2019, is a huge space. An overall of the stadium floor and side seats will convey the immense scale. You are there and can see it’s a huge space, but your readers might want to see this as well.
  • Consider mid-range photos, such as a shot that includes a group of three to five people engaged in prayer or conversation.
  • Include close-ups, too—perhaps a shot of hands in prayer, a face showing emotion, or even a name badge.
  • If you are shooting as a news photographer for your conference, be sure to look for different points of view, not only of the different plans being presented but also physical points of view. Shoot something from the top of the bleachers and then from down low looking up (or wherever you are allowed to shoot).

2. What is the light going to be like?

We can’t know until we’re there, but there are things you can do.

  • The ISO setting may become your best friend. Experiment by shooting with a higher ISO than you would use outside. All digital cameras have an ISO setting. If you recall shooting with film cameras in the “olden days,” you remember that film had ASA settings like 100, 400, 1,600, etc., and you selected the higher number film for the worst lighting conditions. Today, digital cameras have ISO settings that are similar in results. Choose a higher ISO number in poor, low-light conditions.
  • If the stage has a bright spotlight, you’ll want to make sure that the speaker isn’t overexposed (washed out) in comparison to the rest of the shot. Experiment with manual settings when needed. If a speaker is in a spotlight and the background is dark, a camera set on automatic might not look like what you are after. Don’t be afraid to try some manual exposure settings until you see the exposure you like.
  • You will know the folks from your conference and can personalize your coverage to reflect people from your region. Be sure to include caption information to explain what is happening in the photo.

3. What to bring outside the camera bag

  • This may be a time to pack a bit more than “camera lite” by bringing a monopod or tripod and a telephoto lens since the area is so big. However, that said, the best camera is the one you use, so use what you are comfortable shooting with.
  • Power bars if allowed to keep your energy levels.

4. Remember the two Ps: Professional and polite

There will be staff assigned to be gatekeepers to different areas. You might not have the access to roam wherever you desire. You have a job to take photos, but you also need to be polite and professional. Do the best with your limited access.5.

5. Take advantage of UMNS Flickr albums

You are invited to view the coverage by the United Methodist News Service photo team on our Flickr sets at Albums will be added during the 2019 special General Conference. Photos are free for editorial use with captions and credit.

6. Register for the United Methodist Media Library

You are also invited to register for a free account for the United Methodist Media Library, an archive of thousands of United Methodist photos, logos and headshots. Register at

Good luck!