Picking the right Pictures

A picture says a thousand words, and when you only have 140 characters to use, a picture is incredibly useful in saying things words just can’t. Not only do pictures increase engagement across social media, but they also help tell a story on your website. Therefore it’s important to think about images in your digital media strategy, but it’s not as simple downloading a suitable picture from a Google image search and uploading it on your website.

The problem with this is that people own the images in those search results, and unless you have permission to use them, the person who does own them can sue. You need to assume all those images are copyright protected or risk getting into copyright trouble.

So where can you get suitable photos from?

First of all, you need to understand creative commons licenses. People can place different licenses over the images they own, which lets people know if they can be used for commercial purposes, be edited before being used or whether credit is needed. Information about the different licenses can be found here: www.creativecommons.org/licenses. (even if there’s no license listed, it doesn’t mean the image is available to use)

This means that you can use photos from sites like Flickr if you abide by the license applied to the photo by the photographer.

Alternatively, you can look for public domain images (Creative Commons license CC0). The owners of these images have completed waived their rights to them, meaning they have been shared for people to use with no credit needed and no restrictions on the image.

Below are a selection of sites offering free high quality public domain images:

(Many of these sites ask for a small donation in return for the photos but it’s not compulsory)

Collect your own image bank
The more photos you can use from your own collection the better, as they will be unique to your church. Here are some ideas to help build up your bank of photos:

  • Encourage your own church to send you any photos they take at church or church events. If you have the money, invest in a good church camera which any member of staff can pick up and use (Read my post on effective photography for churches here)
  • See if there are any amateur (or professional!) photographers in your church (or another nearby church) who can take high quality photos for free
  • If there are no photographers in the church, contact a local university offering a photography course. You may be able to find a student willing to take some photos for you for a smaller fee in return for some photos for their portfolio
  • Hold a church photography competition. You can hold an exhibition at the end. Make sure to include in the rules that you are allowed to use any of the photos submitted after the competition ends.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t use clip-art! There are many problems with clip art, but the main reason to avoid it is that it looks unprofessional. Because of this, it will hinder rather than help get your message across. Instead, use photographs using my tips above or if possible, have some custom-made graphics created.

Got any more good tips for collecting good images? Share them in the comments below.


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