Finding or taking the right photo for the communication pieces in your local church can be both time consuming and difficult. I have spent countless hours sifting through page after page of images looking for that “right” image to fit my vision and my church community. If you have ever worked on materials that needed some photos I would bet you have done the same.
While this does not sound like a hard or technical task on the surface, it can be very easy to go wrong and gravitate to some of the most cliché and overused images that, in my opinion, do more harm than good.
I want to give you what I think are the top four types of images that you should try and avoid using. Then I want to break down some practical tips on how to steer clear of the following stock image pitfalls:
#1. The Worshipper of Wheat
Because it is apparently very common for people to find themselves in the middle of a wheat field hands stretched in praise. This one especially does not make sense when a church is in any urban environment or geographical location that is void of any wheat fields whatsoever.
“But Steve, the wheat and the tares!? It’s Biblical!!!”
I can count on 1 finger the number of times I have seen wheat used within good context. The rest of my fingers are busing counting all the flippant default uses of this sort of image in places that it has no right.
#2. The Abnormally Happy Strangers Doing Things
We never actually know what these people are doing or why it has made them so enormously happy. I get it, people’s faces pull a lot of attention in design. And do you really want to show unhappy people?
There has to be a balance here however, my problem is not just that you see this stuff ALL over the place, but it is not real or genuine. Seriously.
#3. The Babbling Brook of Hope and… Water
This one is a little more tricky. There certainly can be good use cases and implications with a graphic like this, as with the wheat. However people are simply overexposed and too savvy for the same thing year after year. While you could argue that this image logically fits, it still may have trouble in remaining effective with people.
#4. The Uprooted and Soon-To-Be Dead Plant Sprout In My Hands To Represent Life and Growth
This one has to be one of my top. I have seen so many versions of this exact same concept that it is nauseating. In all fairness I used a very similar image early on in my church design days. It was ok to do in that current situation because the church had NOTHING up to that point. It was new to everyone there and really worked… for about a year.
Nothing screams lazy more than this one. If you want to communicate growth or discipleship or something to that effect – there are plenty of ways to do it. You just need to start thinking out of the box and put the work in to it that it deserves.
So now what?
How do you actually avoid and break free from this viscous cycle? Here are some methods I have found to work for me in recent days:
Do a Google image search. If the same image pops up several times in the first 20-30 images it is probably a good sign to avoid using something like it. This may not ALWAYS be the case but it serves as a good rule of thumb.
Keep your context top of mind. I have pounded this point to death in the past. Just make sure to consider your area and demographic.
Take your own pictures! Not everyone can do this all the time. But the most genuine picture is, well… a genuine picture from real life!
Know where to find good images. I have a blocked list and a good list when it comes to stock images. My block list includes some of the really well known and well established sites (who I will allow to go unsaid here) that are simply farms full of time wasting canned images.
My good list includes some of the following:
- IM Free: IM Free is well… FREE! Which is a great price and to top it off they supply some very genuine photos, not your normal hub bub.
- Little Visuals: Again, if its free its for me. But better yet the photography here is updated often and a great modern quality. You can get the new images emailed to you in a zip file. How convenient is that!?
- Unsplash: I have found a ton of great images here. The styles and colors are just awesome. Again, free!
- Lightstock:Ok, not free. Which turned me off at first to be honest. BUT I did sign up on the site and get a free image once a week or so and these guys nail it. Better yet is that they focus on the church unlike the above. If I had to pay for an image this is where I would go first (not just becuase you can click their link in the sidebar, though that is a bonus)
If nothing else get signed up and start getting their free shots – they are not the bottom of their barrel – they pretty much rock just like the rest of the site.
Well what say you? I am sure I missed some images in my list, or some ways to avoid – so why don’t you criticize me in the comments and let me know what you think!