Church Website Photography
... producing attractive imagery for your site
A good stock of current photographs is a pretty vital 'raw material' for any website project and indeed most church publicity materials. Good photographs will aid good design. These useful guidelines will help you get better results when commissioning photography for your church website.
- Consistency of style - try to use only 1 or 2 photographers so that you have a consistent visual style. Different photographers will produce very varied results when given the same brief. It is better to take a lot of photos at the same time with the same lighting. For example, an evening meeting under artificial lighting will look very different from a morning meeting in daylight.
- Try to capture people in action, relaxed, and relating together, working and doing things. Try to document church life as if you are telling a story. Try to get shots of church life through the week - small groups, youth groups, mums, toddlers etc. Don’t just focus on Sunday and avoid loads of pictures of people in worship.
- Lively group portraits are always useful. Groups of around 4-8 people smiling and looking at the camera look really good as it illustrates friendship groups and people having fun. Unless you have good lighting and an exceptional camera it is hard to take good photos of very large groups.
- Avoid ‘artistic’ cropping and rotating of pictures. Photos with the tops of heads missing and unusual rotated angles are often not helpful. Leave the cropping and orientation choices to the web designer.
- Take 3-4 shots of each subject - the chances are if you are shooting a group, at least one person will have a weird expression. The more shots you take, the better the chance of the perfect shot.
- Happy faces are best. You are trying to project a warm welcoming friendly face; grimaces, frowns and strange expressions will put people off!
- Unless you are an experienced photographer, avoid using flash where possible. Unless used skilfully, flash will often cause red-eye, unnatural skin tones and odd effects. In general you will get better photos where there is natural light rather than under artificial lighting.
- Try to get a broad cross-section of photographs showing the different ages and ethnic identities within your church. Church is for everyone so avoid accidentally focusing on just one group of people.
- Use a good quality camera (or only the very best mobile phone cameras). If possible supply the photos at high-resolution straight off the camera. The designer can down-sample them to a size suitable for use on the web. It is not problem to go down in size but scaling images up will produce messy pixelated results.
- Get permission. Make sure the congregation is aware that a photographer will be present and if someone is unhappy being photographed give them an opportunity to opt-out. Be especially careful when photographing children that you always have parental permission.
- Find a ‘talented amateur’ to be permanent church photographer to keep taking photos regularly. Websites keep people interested and coming back if there is recent material that is frequently updated. Highlighting events that have just happened helps give people a flavour of church life and provide a great historical document of your church growing and developing. These photos will also be useful when you come to prepare publicity materials for the next event. When there is an outstanding testimony, try to get a photo on the website quickly - good news is worth sharing.
- When you take staff/leader portraits try to get consistency. If possible photograph them in the same place and time with the same light. Try to get the subjects to relax, tell jokes and forget they are being photographed. Avoid the ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ expression!
- Do some preliminary sorting of photos yourself - don’t supply thousands of images to the designer. Although it’s good for the designer to have some choice, at least delete shots that are obviously rubbish. You may need to get approval for use for some photos before you give them to the designer.
- Keep the originals. When your images are used on a website they will be resized and optimised. The Church123 system can do this automatically for you. This means they are now suitable for screen use and not suitable for high quality print. As you can’t predict what your future promotional needs will be, keep the original high quality photos in a safe place for future use. Preferably store these images centrally in the church office computers (which are regularly backed up).
- Stock photography should be used for a reason. There are lots of places where either free or very cheaply you can get photos for use in your church website, see our free images information. This can be a great way to get high quality photos. Generally speaking it’s best to have photos of your own people involved in your own activities but if you are struggling to achieve that then stock imagery can be a great way to supplement the graphics on your site.
- Be realistic about your church. If your church consists of a slightly more senior congregation then don’t use photos of lots of skateboarding youth. Your website should reflect who you are, and maybe something of your vision for the future, but people won’t be impressed by a website that misrepresents who you are.
- Follow your child safety policy. Your church should have a policy about how it safeguards children. If it doesn't already include appropriate procedures about best practice for the web then please talk with the church leadership about how you can implement this. For example, it's very very important not to include children's names within your church website (they shouldn't be in the text of the page, in the filename of the image or on the ALT/Title text). Read more about Child Internet Safety.
- Church workers abroad may be in danger! Some churches have people working in very dangerous locations, such as war relief areas and in countries hostile to Christianity. Please do not include their photos without specific permission (for their safety you likely should not mention their names or the countries they are working in).