Julianne Alkire Church Marketing University

Julianne leads our communications team, which means she’s here to make sure you get connected with information and coaching to help your church get more visitors! You’ll probably see her the most in... read more

Is Your Church Using Photography Correctly?

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Four common reasons churches don’t use the right photos
  • Which photos will have the greatest impact
  • Tips on hiring a photographer and addressing legal concerns

Is your church using photography correctly?

If the church is the people, not the building, then why are most churches represented online by pictures of empty facilities?  Often, churches don’t post pictures of their people and services for the following reasons:

  1. They don’t see photography as a ministry opportunity.
  2. They aren’t sure what photos they need.
  3. They don’t have photography expertise.
  4. They’re worried about legal repercussions.

We know photography can be intimidating- especially if you’re not comfortable behind a camera- but getting quality photos of your church (the people, not the facilities) is one of the best ways you can begin to reach your community with the message of Jesus Christ.  That’s why we created our Photography Course, to give your church the training and resources you need to spread the gospel using photos. Below, we’ll discuss these four roadblocks that often hinder churches from using photography.

Why does my church need photography?

Simply put, your church needs photography because photos are compelling.  

The most perfectly written advertisement can’t match the authenticity of a photo.  So, if you want to boost the impact of your online presence, you need photos of your people experiencing life at your church.  We could go on, but we’ve already written an article on ten ways photography can help your church reach people.

What photos does my church need?

To answer this question, ask yourself another:  If I were far from God, what photos would make me want to actually step inside this church?  Answers vary, of course, but it’s clear that shots of empty classrooms won’t do the trick. Here are some tips on capturing the kind of photos that will help your church spread the gospel:

  • Take snapshots of your people using your facilities.  It’s great to give outsiders a glimpse of the building they’ll be using, but it’s people who attract people.
  • Convey excitement and belonging through smiles and laughter.  You want an unsaved person to think, “Why are these people so happy?  I want to know more.”
  • Tell a story.  Look for shots that capture the adventure of life with Jesus- whether that’s through pictures of families interacting, small groups, baptisms, or mission trips.
  • Include your target demographic– the people you’d like to see coming to your church more often.  Whether that’s college-age millennials or parents with toddlers, communicate through your photos that your church is a place where they can belong.

For a list of the ten types of photos your church needs in order to jumpstart your marketing efforts, check out episode three of our Bootcamp Course:  “Your Secret Weapon.”

Where can our church find a photographer?

While you likely have at least one person in your church who is interested in photography, they might lack the confidence, time, or expertise to get the quality photos that you need.  That’s when hiring a photographer can be a great option. Here are some tips for finding the right professional photographer for your church:

  • Start on social media.  Look for photographers whose photos are emotionally engaging and attract a following.
  • Look for a photographer who is skilled at taking candid (or candid-looking) shots.
  • Don’t ask them to take photos for free so they can get “exposure.”  The photographer you want to hire doesn’t need exposure- they already have a following on social media!  They need paying clients.
  • Consider multiple bids, even if you have a clear preference.  That way, your church leadership knows they’re paying what the photographer is worth.
  • Hire someone who is open to mentoring your people on how to take and edit photos for your church.  The insights of a professional can be invaluable in developing your in-house photography team.

What are the legal concerns associated with church photography, and how do we address them?

When it comes to church photography, two main legal issues arise: copyright and privacy concerns.  Our Photography Course contains downloads and examples of releases and disclaimers. Please note that this is not legal advice, but rather tools that show how other churches have handled these issues.  Here’s how we recommend using them:

Copyright centers around this question- who owns the photos taken at your church?  Is it the photographer who took them, or your church? We recommend that you require photographers to sign a release form, stating that they are unconditionally allowing your church to use the photos they’ve taken.

Privacy concerns are less straightforward.  For most cases- such as taking candid shots in the lobby- it’s fine to simply post a photo disclaimer announcing pictures might be taken and used by the church for promotion.  However, when specific individuals are the focus of a great shot, or whenever children are featured, you’ll want to get a signed release form. It’s especially key that you respect the wishes of parents, such as foster parents, who cannot or will not allow their children’s photos to be used for promotional purposes.

For access to these resources, as well as more tips and inspiration on how to have the best experience when hiring a photographer for your church, developing a photography team, or leading creatives, check out our Photography Course.