Given Photography Part 1

Given Photography Part 1

Giving God My Camera

by Annie Wesche | July 1, 2013

...Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
I Cor. 10:31

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus...
Col. 3:17

that in all things He may have the preeminence.
Col. 1:18


As Creative Director with Set Apart Girl Ministries, I have received many emails from young women wanting to know how I got started in photography and specifically, with orphan advocacy work.  I love sharing my story, because it is filled with accounts of God’s incredible provision when I had absolutely nothing to offer but my willingness and faith.  I set out to see with His eyes through my camera, and the lessons I am still learning humble and amaze me.  In this first part of a three part series, I’ll do my best to answer some of your questions.  While I won’t be diving into the technical side of photography, it is my prayer that you will glean the encouragement to offer up your passion, skill, and equipment for His use, and joyfully enter into the endless possibilities of Christ-driven photography.

First, a Story to Set the Stage

Standing in the open courtyard of the Haitian orphanage, my eyes fell upon a boy who looked to be about eight years old.  He was staring at me from some distance away with a stone face and watching me as I worked with the camera in my hands.  I smiled and waved, but his expression remained unchanged.  Moments later I was in front of him, talking to him, patting his head, and poking his belly, but it was as if the boy was locked up behind a steel wall of pain.  My heart broke and I offered up a prayer, Father, how do I reach his heart?

Immediately the Lord surprised me by replying, Hand him your camera.  I shook my head and responded, I don’t think so, Lord.  What if he drops it?  It’s the first day of my trip and I need this gear to do my job.  But the quiet conviction remained.  Hand him your camera.  After a brief and uncomfortable moment, my resistance yielded to surrender.  I took my camera, set it into the boy’s hands, and saw the first spark of emotion flash in his eyes as they darted up to look back at mine.  I nodded my head, reassuring him that he could hold it, and showed him where to place his hands.  Apprehensively he followed all my instructions and with the first brilliant “click” of the shutter his eyes filled with wonder.  I directed him to look at what he had captured, and after staring for a moment at the image, he looked up at me and revealed a heart-winning smile.

In that small moment, God began something incredibly significant in my heart.  I saw beyond my own goal of capturing powerful photos and it was even beyond the obedience of putting my camera into the hands of a hurting child.  God was presenting before me a life-decision about my photography.  Was I willing to put my passion, my equipment, the direction of my work, and the photos themselves into God’s hands and allow Him to own this area of my life and dictate its path?   That day, on my first purposeful step forward with photography, God had a question for me.  Annie, will you put your camera into My hands?

Q: How Did You Get Started with Photography?

For me, the hobby of photography turned into a passion when I first caught a glimpse of how it could move people.  When Eric and Leslie’s adopted daughter, Harper, came home from Korea, I documented her arrival and her first few days after getting home.  The photos weren’t extraordinary, and in fact, most of them were actually not worth keeping at all.  At the airport, I was holding a camcorder in one hand and my Nikon in the other, and crying so many tears of joy that I could hardly see to operate either of them!  But it was Harper’s adoption story that was so powerful - telling of God’s heart for each orphan, His power to heal, the miracle of adoption, and what happens when two parents obey God and walk forward in faith.  After hearing everyone’s responses when the photos and story were passed around, a desire ignited within me to advocate for vulnerable children and communicate God’s heart for them though photography.  

Have You Gone to School for Photography?

I haven’t.  While I hope to always improve my technical skill, the most vital thing I depend upon is the Spirit of God to instruct me in every photoshoot and opportunity.  I continually pray that He will train my eyes to see what He sees, and put me in the places and moments that need to be captured and shared with others.  And I have seen beautiful things happen in answer to those prayers!  I’ve also learned a great deal by evaluating other’s work - what makes it gripping, moving, or beautiful, and then evaluating my own work and observing other’s responses to it.  Sometimes, what I think is a horrible photo, has actually deeply moved someone, and other times, what I think is a great photo, seems to be of little interest to others. There are a lot of photographers out there.  While I want to shoot with excellence, my goal is not to take the greatest photos, but to tell the greatest story, His story, within those photos.

How Did You Get Started Doing Orphan Photography?

In my relationship with Christ, I’ve asked the Lord to make me fully His, so the Lord reached down and wrote “HIS” upon my passion for photography, just as He had done with my heart, my purity, my time, my future, etc.  And as soon as my heart was awakened to His burden for orphans and vulnerable children, I immediately wanted to use my camera in that direction.  

The first door to open for me came in answer to prayer.  My ministry responsibilities at the time were such that I couldn’t be gone for longer than a week and I had absolutely no money for travel costs, but I yearned to get out and offer up my camera.   After giving the matter to prayer and laying my constraints before the Lord, He answered in a very exciting way.  An adoption agency had seen my photos of the Ludy children and asked if I would come photograph their unmatched, waiting children at an orphanage in Haiti.  The trip would only be a week long and they would gladly pay all my expenses.  I immediately went to the Lord in thanksgiving for showing me His jealous care over this newly consecrated area of my life!

Since then, my approach has always been the same: I ask God to open doors, to provide all that I need to go through them, and to bless the fruit of my hands for His glory.  One of my favorite promises in God’s Word is in I Thess. 5:24 which says, “Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.”  It is God who has given this ability and talent, and He knows just where He wants to spend it.  If you ask, He will lead.

What Equipment Do You Use?

The short answer:  Whatever God has provided!  

I’m sorely lacking technical savvy.  For years I used and loved my Nikon D40, but since its sad departure, I’ve used a couple different cameras that have been given to me.  I’m in the purchasing stage for my next camera, so I’ll have to let you know how that one turns out!  There are so many possibilities with the equipment out there today, and there are also many experts who can help you navigate the decision of what equipment to use.  But from my experience, whether I’ve shot with top of the line equipment or gone out with my humble, slow-shutter camera, it is the enabling grace of God that makes all the difference!

Do You Shoot Most of the Photography in the Magazine?

Other than the orphan photography, I have actually shot very little.   Because of the great amount of design and editorial work that goes into every issue, I have leaned upon others to provide our beautiful photography, and we have been blessed with incredible photographers on our team!  They are young women who have all offered up their love for photography, whether long time photographers or newbies, as an act of worship unto the Lord.   Lauren, Mandy, and Grace are living testimonies of Christ-driven photographers, and I know that it is because of their lives being so consumed with Jesus, that He has blessed the fruit of their hands in this creative skill.

How Can I Move Forward in Developing the Passion and Skill of Photography in My Life?

Start with laying your passion before the Lord as an offering of worship.  Give it up to Him and declare His rulership over your tools, time, and future work.  And then begin praying that He would lead you into the exact training, experience, and ministry opportunities you will need to fulfill His calling in your life.  Pursue training and excellence, but above all keep Christ at the ruling center of your work, and I promise, as you are submitted to Him and seek after  His glory, He will bless your pursuit far beyond what you ever imagined!   Don’t diminish the vital elements of dependency and prayer.  Your life belongs to the King of kings and this area is just as much of interest to Him as any other area, that He may use it to bring His name glory and proclaim His message.   Trust Him to open doors and lead you.  And I promise you, He will! 

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 37:5

I will instruct you and lead you in the way you should go, with my eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8

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