Stock photography can be incredibly useful for any church or ministry.  Obviously, you want to use actual images from your ministry as often as you can, but how do you know when it’s okay to use stock images and when you shouldn’t?  Here are some things to ask yourself:

1. Could this be illustrated with one of our own images?

If you have the time and ability to create the image you’re looking for with relative ease, then why buy it? But if your photography skills are limited to your iPhone or point and shoot, you might be better off using a stock photo.  Just keep in mind, there are times that a stock photo absolutely won’t do, be prepared to either hire a photographer or do it yourself!

2. Does the photo I’m using relate well to my content?

Use photos to illustrate or reinforce your message, not just to decorate the page.  The photos you use should provide a strong visual connection to the experience you’re trying to describe.  For instance, if you’re trying to describe a friendly welcoming face, a stock photo may work.  But if you’re trying to describe your welcome center, you should probably give them a specific visual to look for.

3. Is the image I’m using out-dated?

This would apply to both a stock image and an image you’ve shot on your own, but the issue is more likely to arise from a stock photo.  Stock photographers often set out to take pictures that look current and relevant.  Because of that, they’ll often include imagery that can start to feel dated much sooner than a three year old picture of your building.  I wish I had an exact time frame I could put on this, but it’s different from one picture to the next.

4. Is the image I’m using the correct resolution?

This issue will be much more prevalent on printed media and large screens.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen someone swipe an image from a quick google search that has to be stretched to fit the application.  This is usually followed by: No one will notice. People notice. 

5. Is this type of image overused?

Again, I wish I could define this a little better, but the definition is somewhat relative.  There’s nothing worse than finding out you’re using the same image as a church down the road.  There’s also the possibility that you could use an image that’s simply forgettable, because the viewer has seen so many image that look almost exactly the same.  You may really love that image of two people, wearing suits and shaking hands on a white back drop, but it’s probably not helping you at all.

Now, here is a package of stock photos for your church that I think you’ll love!

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