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.

Photography Tips for Churches

Visual storytelling is incredibly important on social media, as people process images 60,000 times faster than words. Therefore it’s crucial that you take the best photos you can and make the most out of what you have.

It can be tricky to take photos in a church when there’s poor lighting but you don’t need a photography degree or a fancy camera to take interesting, good quality photos.

Here are a few things to think about when taking photos:

1) Invest in a Tripod
● To keep photos sharp in lower light, use a tripod to keep the camera steady
● The tripod can also give access to new angles such as over edges and higher up in the air (just set the camera on a timer and lift the tripod up as high as you want. There’s a little bit of trial and error involved but it can create some interesting results)

2) Make the most of external sources of light
● If you’re taking portraits, take them outside where you can take advantage of the natural light
● If the photos have to be taken inside, use the natural light coming in through the windows.
● Make use of extra electric lighting – avoid using the flash inside as much as possible as it can make things look stark with harsh shadows

3) Pick your background Carefully 
● Consider what the background of your photo is, be intentional
● Avoid backdrops which include things like bins, radiators, extinguishers, health and safety signage – anything which looks a little ugly or distracting
● Use what you have – all the great architectural features of your church

4) Don’t be afraid to get in closer
● Taking photos from the back of church is easy and unobtrusive but you’re too far away from what’s happening at the front of church to be intentional or to capture detail. Be part of the action and get in as close as possible.
● If you have a Digital SLR camera, invest in a longer lens which will let you zoom in even closer
● Communicate with your leadership team about what points in the service they’re happy for you to get closer and where is best for you to be without distracting them (this can be an ongoing conversation depending on the type of service, who will be there and the content)

5) Try different angles
● Taking photos straight on is easy and foolproof but can be boring. Be adventurous, try standing on a chair/pew to get a high angle shot looking down or lie down on the floor and shoot upwards
● Shoot through items, use doors and windows as frames, come up with unusual views which catch the viewers eye and makes the photos stand out from the crowd

6) Candid/Posed
● Be ready to take candid photos at events, keep your camera switched on amd finger on the button (some of the best photos can be candids as they look more natural)
● Think about how you are posing people when photographing them, try arranging them in something other than a line or a huddle. For example, have them sit together on some steps or in a group in a few rows of pews.
● Remember, you’re taking the photo so you are in charge. You tell them how you want them to be arranged.

7) Composition/Subject
● Be purposeful in choosing your composition (watch this video which explains the rule of thirds and other photography tips)
● Plan ahead and think about what photos you need to take and what you want you audience to get out them
● Not every event needs to be photographed and posted on social media. For example, photos of people sitting around tables paying attention to something isn’t all that interesting and doesn’t tell the audience much. Instead, choose the moments of action and emotion (the wow moments, the wonder and the fun)

8) Posting to social media
● Choose the best photos, don’t just post them all, edit the collection down by cutting out photos that look similar, are blurry or any that don’t help tell the story.
● Try and give all the photos you post to Facebook a description
● Make the most out of Twitter’s multiple image feature (you can post up to four photos at a time in a tweet)