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2 Design Apps Your Church Should Be Using

1. Zoommy

So you need some stock photography, but you don’t have time to go through all those dag-um stock photography websites. It’s even more difficult to find the right photo to match your needs. Maybe you need stock photography for a worship song, or for a website. Maybe you just need it to make some pretty rad announcements, like I did in my blog post here. I have got the app for you, it’s called ZOOMMY. Zoommy allows your to browse 100% CC0, “No Rights Reserved” stock photography. It crawls over 20 sites finding the latest and greatest stock photography for you to use, for free!

zoommy app

Better yet, it even allows you to search based off certain search keywords. For example, let’s say you need an image of the forest. Well, all you have to do is type in the word, “forest” and it will retrieve photos with the proper tag. From there, you can filter by color or even by square, portrait and landscape photos.

Zoommy App forest

Zoommy will set you back $3.99 and it’s available for both Windows and OS X computers.  For more information, check out their link .

2. Canva

You’re not a designer, but you need to create announcements, posters, social media graphics and more for your church. Enter Canva. It’s an extremely easy to create awesome graphics (think no Papyrus) and, best of all, it’s free!

While I agree with their claim that the best way to understand Canva is to try it, I’ll give you a brief overview here to help you grasp the main ideas.

When you log in, you’re sent to the “Your Designs” page. You can choose from a range of handy pre-set design sizes for social media, documents, blogging and ebooks, marketing materials, and email headers. If those options aren’t enough, or if you already know your design size, you can choose “custom dimensions” to begin. 

There are a number of free and paid photos within the website, or you can upload your own. To create this post’s header image, I first grabbed an image from Zoomy. After creating a custom sized design and importing the image, I resized it within Canva.

Canva Screenshot 1

On the design page you have a range of options on the left and your work space on the right. You can choose from text, grids, frames, shapes, lines, illustrations, icons, photos or charts. I went to the text option and added my text.

Canva Screenshot #2

Two get the pop-out type look, I positioned the text how I wanted it and then copied the text box, changed the color, and used the text box options to send it back (it sounds complicated, but it took less than a minute!). If you’re running low on time you can also choose from an assortment of pre-made snazzy text options from the left.

After adding my text, I chose the “search” option from the left and decided to use a design from the “lines” section. I added it below the text and changed the text color.

Canva Screenshot #3

After making a few more sizing and color adjustments,  I chose “download” from the top right, and the image downloaded for me to add to the top of this blog post!

Some other helpful features include what is called Design School to help you master fundamental design ideas and Design Stream which is a Pinterest-like stream of Canva design creations to spur your creativity.

A new part of the website that I’m not currently using is Canva for Work. It’s a paid resource, but has a bunch of extra features like team collaboration, branding guides and templates, and “magic” resizing. 


Have Zoommy or Canva improved your graphics, saved you time, or changed your life forever? Tell us about it in the comments!


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!


Theming Your Worship For The Season

I LOVE this time of year! There’s so much you can do to theme out your environment with decorations, music before/after class and in the songs you sing.

For November, gather up your most thank filled songs and talk to the kids about how our worship is a way we can show our thanks to God for all He’s done. A worship song like 10,000 Reasons is perfect. Take time to really ask the kids what they are thankful for. What is the reason they can sing and give thanks today? Share some scriptures that show and display a heart of thanks and show the parallel of how thanks and worship go hand in hand.

In December, sing Christmas songs! We sing the same songs all year long. For a few weeks we can mix it up with these special songs we won’t sing the other 48 weeks of the year. Even though it may take a little extra planning and rehearsal, take advantage of this opportunity to make your music fresh by doing Christmas songs. It’s great to mix in the fun and the familiar which means you can sing the Christmas songs that don’t talk about Jesus like “Jingle Bells” or Frosty the Snowman. Then, sing songs like Joy to the World and O Come All Ye Faithful because of their message.

Look at the passage in Luke 2:13-20 “Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, ‘May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!’ The angels left and went into heaven. Then the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone. They reported what the angel had said about this child.  All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. The shepherds returned. They gave glory and praise to God.”

I love how it tells us the angels and shepherds praised God! There was a lot of worship happening in the Christmas story. We have been given the greatest gift ever. What a reason we have to sing and worship our Savior who was born. Take this Christmas season to communicate and illustrate worship in a different way then you’ve done this year.

The same passage (v. 19) says: But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over.

  • What are the God moments for you of 2015?
  • How did you experience God’s faithfulness and provision?
  • What were your favorite moments of children’s ministry and leading worship this year?

I encourage you to “keep these things like a secret treasure in your heart”. Think about them, and remember them. As the new year begins don’t forget how God has blessed you and remained faithful to keep His promises! Let your song keep on singing His praises this season and all the year long!


Best Thanksgiving Media of 2015

Are you prepared for your Thanksgiving service? If you’re still looking for ideas to make your service shine, check out some of my 2015 favorites!

Your Thanksgiving service is probably pretty full! Make sure you start the service on time with the Autumn Leaves Countdown.



Theme your service’s worship motion backgrounds and sermon stills around one of these new collections by Playback Media.


Orange Fall Collection Image

Love them both? Feel free to mix and match!

There are plenty of excellent mini movie choices that focus on thanks – here are four of my favorites!

This new mini movie by Centerline New Media focuses on the correlation between prayer and thanks.  On top of the message, I love the colors and font choices.



Thanksgiving by Hyper Pixels Media reminds you to give thanks in all situations. While this video works great before a sermon, I think it also makes an excellent service starter or transition between songs during worship.



Is Christmas really the “most wonderful time of the year”? Journey Box Media says “no.” Find out why Thanksgiving may truly be the most wonderful time of the year!



“What are you thankful for?” is a common question during the Thanksgiving season. This mini movie reminds your congregation that they have many reasons to give thanks.



What’s your favorite Thanksgiving media for 2015?


5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Mix

ImprovingYourMix-600x225Audio engineers new and old are always looking for ways to improve their mixes.  Sometimes the simplest improvements come from working with other engineers and seeing how someone else approaches the same job.  Here are 5 quick tips that I have found to be useful when mixing bands.

1. Reference the Source

A good friend and touring engineer once commented to me about how surprised he was at how often budding engineers seemed to have a predisposed “sound” in mind for the sources they were mixing and how little some seemed to listen to the sources beforehand. There is a fine balance to be found between coming in with a plan (something I also view as important) and coming into mixing a band with a bunch of mental “presets” in your head of how a kick drum needs to sound. Walking the stage and listening to the sources your going to be working with can really help you dial in a clean mix. This helps avoid trying to force certain sounds that just aren’t there. While we do work at shaping the tone of our sources, trying to force a sound won’t generally work. Better to work with the musicians in getting sounds that you’re looking for straight at the source than trying to artificially create what’s not there.

2. Listen to the Room

I’m sure we are all aware of the impact our surroundings can have on the final sound we get.  Certain spaces are chosen in the recording world based on the acoustics a room offers and the natural sound of the space.  If you’re a touring engineer, I’m sure you’ve battled problematic rooms and sighed a breath of relief in those spaces that have been designed with acoustics in mind, either way, it’s very important to be aware of how the room sounds and the active or “live” frequency bands present.  This can play into the stage layout of your band as well, wanting to maintain distance from reflective surfaces as much as possible. If we find ourselves pulling the same frequency bands out of every source, it’s wise to take a look at our main system EQ to see if we can deal with that frequency band in the entire system, freeing up our channel EQ for fine tuning our source material.

3. Have a Plan

It’s important to enter each mixing session with a plan, a painter would rarely start painting a portrait without an outline (possibly mental only) of the final product. We are artist creating a final product and it’s good to know where we want to end up before we start. This can come down to knowing the material we are mixing, knowing the sounds we will be working with (instrumentation) and also knowing how to effectively use the tools we will have at our disposal. We should have rough ideas of where we want the vocals to sit, how we want the bass guitar and kick drum to interact, how we want the guitars to sit and work together. This will make our soundcheck more effective, if we spend out time getting the kick drum to sound like a cannon, only to leave ourselves no room for the bass guitar, we’ll just end up changing it (hopefully) later when the band plays together.  Now, I know I started this conversation commenting on how we should listen to our sources and not have predisposed ideas of what our sources should sound like, and this is true, what I do encourage and what we are talking about here, is having a rough plan of the total outcome, the tone of drums, guitar amps, etc. can change from space to space based on surroundings, however we’ll still need to make these work in the overall end product. If you’re mixing a recording act, they’re likely looking to sound like the recorded product, so this would be good to be familiar with! If we think of our soundscape in terms of a visual landscape, not everything should or needs to be in the foreground, certain guitar or keyboard parts are ok to be part of the background as it suits the song. It’s in these fine details that our mixes come together and move from okay to organized.

4. Choose the Right Tools

Tools are an important part of every job, and in previous posts I’ve mentioned how the right tools make a job go much smoother. Having said that, I realize that we don’t always have access to any and everything we’d like to use, and while I don’t think that gear makes the gig, I do think that carrying some familiar gear can help us get and maintain sounds we want. The first and most obvious to me would be microphones. These are listed on riders for a reason, they are familiar and an engineer prefers the sound they deliver versus another choice. Often this preference can change based on the style of music as well as application. There are certain kick drum mics I really like to use for IEM (in ear monitors), however wouldn’t be my first choice FOH (front of house) and this is due to the tonal characteristics it carries based on it’s design.  As well, there are certain mics that I would choose over others if I was mixing a folk band versus a rock band. An often overlooked tool is the DI or direct injection box, these are not all created equal, and while you CAN use generic DI boxes, there is certainly an advantage to considering specific application DI’s as they truly do offer better performance in certain applications, specifically dealing with acoustic instruments and piezo type electronics. Along your journey you’ll find gear that suits you and that you may come to prefer. With the large prevalence of digital consoles, not many people are leaning on analog outboard equipment such as compressors and mic preamps etc, as more and more people are leaning on digital plug in packages to maintain their sound. These pieces can be a very large part of a signature sound. Whatever tools you find suit you, at the end of the day they are just aids in the job we have to perform.

5. Simplify

My last tip would be just as important to newer engineers as old road dogs: and that’s to remember simplicity in our approaches. With all that is available to us the temptation to over complicate things in our mixing approach is abundant. In most cases, if we nail the basics (gain structure, eq and mix proportion) this will get us to where we want to be. The addition of dynamics controllers such as compressors and gates, effects such as reverb, delay, chorus will certainly add the polish to our mixes and should be applied once we are confident in the basic sounds we have and happy with the balance we have achieved. Also, we must never forget how interactive the job of the engineer is, levels will always need massaging, raising and lowering, highlighting parts where needed and pulling parts back from the foreground as to not clutter or distract from the key elements such as lead vocals or focal guitar lines and so on.

To wrap up, we should try to build habits of referencing our sources, having a plan in place, paying attention to the sound of our room, using the tools we know and not over complicating our approach. By doing this, we will naturally find our mixes to be much cleaner. Then, as we grow in confidence, we can introduce newer, more complicated, techniques.



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