Once upon a time, the internet used to be a very black-and-white place. Text was king. Over time, colors, patterns, graphics, photos, videos, animations, and more emerged and began competing for dominance.
If you examine some of your favorite, aesthetically-pleasing websites, they likely share a common feature: stunning, high-quality photos.
For churches, non-profit organizations, and other ministry-based entities, photos are crucial to quickly conveying who you are and what you do. A single image can convey so much!
But how can one come by such elusive photos? What does “high-quality” mean? Once a source or sources are found, what do you do with the photos? Where do you store them? How do you organize them? And once you have them, how do you best share them with your audience?
We’ll be answering many of these questions and more in a blog series called “All About Photos.” In Part 1, we’ll delve into the initial steps of sourcing and obtaining photos. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to submit a support ticket or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We live in an age when it is SO EASY to get high-quality photos from a small gadget that fits in our pocket. An easy first step to getting photos is taking them yourself! Read through some of these excellent tips.
If you see something interesting or unique, ask permission from any people that can be identified in the photo (let them know the photo might be shared publicly), then take out your phone and snap a shot (you probably do this already!). Review it quickly and if it’s satisfactory, email it to yourself or to someone on staff. Even if it’s not immediately used, having a small collection of photos to choose from when you need them is an invaluable resource.
Encourage others to share their photos with you as well. If you see someone taking a photo, ask them right there and then if they’d be willing to share it. A quick email is a great way to send one or two excellent images to staff who can put them to use in social media, on your website, in newsletters, etc. Most people will be thrilled that you’ve asked!
Hire a Photographer
But suppose your current photo collection doesn’t meet your needs. Or perhaps you have a specific need or a need for a large number of photos. It is well worth the money to hire a photographer for one Sunday or for a major event!
Provide the photographer with a list of specific shots you need. For a church, such a list might include:
- Interior and exterior shots of the building
- Grounds, gardens, labyrinths, cemeteries, trees, plants, flowers
- Items like Bibles, hymnals, pews, candles, stained glass windows, and crosses
- Attendees in worship or praying
- Musicians, preachers, children, and youth
If a photographer is there for any reason at all, have them take a variety of photos of lots of different things – even the most generic of photos can be used in all sorts of ways!
While stock photos certainly can serve a purpose in the communication of your ministry, discerning viewers can often recognize them instantly. Use them sparingly so that you don’t turn away potential visitors. Several websites offer free stock photos, such as Pixabay, Canva (which is also an excellent online graphic creator/editor), Unsplash, or Openverse, but if you plan on paying for stock photos, consider using that money to pay for a photographer instead – your money will go a lot further as you start to build a relationship with online visitors.
One great use of stock photos is for promoting events on your website. Thanksgiving meal? Use a photo of a turkey. Quilting group meeting soon? Use a close-up of a quilt. These are easily recognizable and quickly acquirable images for which someone can determine at-a-glance the context of nearby content. Plus, there’s no human element (the part that can get tricky when people see stock photos).
When you do want to depict people, use authentic photos from your ministry of people participating. And if the people are identifiable, it’s not a bad idea to get a thumbs-up from those whose pictures you’re going to use publicly, particularly children – this can be done with a photo permission form, or you can just ask. But if permission is hard to come by, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the photo – you can always pull the photo down if asked.
Exercise caution when sourcing photos online. Searching on Google does not give you a list of free-to-use images. Even if some “free” ones come up, there may be unknown and unseen usage requirements, so make sure that you know what you’re using and what permissions have been expressly granted. Find out who the owner of the image is and get permission. Unauthorized use of someone else’s photos is not only disrespectful but also illegal, and you could face penalties, including fees. (And yes, this does happen!)
Other possible sources of photos are websites and social media of related organizations. Check out the organizations you follow and see if they have images that might be useful to you. If you find suitable images, always ask for permission before using them.
Enjoy the process!
Sourcing images for your digital communication might seem daunting, but it’s also an opportunity to be creative. Take a moment, dedicate some time to thinking about it, devise a strategy, diversify your sources, and pay someone if you need to. Then enjoy seeing all of the amazing photos and sharing them with others! If you have fun, your joy will resonate.