By Jeremy Poland
Every year, we take more and more photos of weekly services, events, and facilities to showcase our church in a digital age. This mass of photos easily becomes an ominous, disorganized folder on a desktop, or maybe it’s getting carried around in a pile of SD camera cards.
When we receive a request for a photo for a social post, a website banner, or an event promo slide, it always seems to be urgent. There isn’t time to sift through the archive and find the perfect image. How can this hunt be simplified?
Build a church stock photo library
The solution is to build a comprehensive, organized church stock photo library of the images taken at your church. You can easily develop systems and processes for importing photos, narrowing down the best of the best, and labeling them with simple keywords.
The more labeling you do, the more grateful you’ll be in the future. Type in as much detail as possible. Whenever I can, I first label an image with the name of the people who are pictured; then I add words that give more description. Some of my favorite additional labels are “funny,” “crowd,” “youth ministry,” “volunteer,” and “joy.”
It’s especially helpful to tag moods like “joy,” so you can regularly share photos of members who are truly having a good time together. It’s essential to post lots of images that show emotion, so be sure they’re easy to find.
Here are five benefits to building an organized church stock photo library.
1. You’ll speed up your workflow for social media.
Let’s face it—without an organized archive, you’re never going to remember when you took that passionate, engaged, joyful photo of the ninth-grader in the front row of worship. When the time comes to run a social media post about the impact of your church’s youth ministry, it’s helpful to be able to locate relevant imagery in moments, not hours.
2. You’ll avoid ‘cheesy’ stock photos.
Most people—especially the younger generations—can spot a stock image a mile away. This means a lot to a church-seeker browsing online. A church home page full of fake-looking, overly diverse images can scream inauthenticity. The ability to find an image quickly allows you to easily use real pictures of your congregation, whether you’re working on the website, social channels, or print media.
3. You’ll save on storage space.
The essential process of “culling,” or selecting from a large quantity, will not only allow you to clean up your hard drive but also will save you huge amounts of time searching for the perfect shot. There’s nothing worse than discovering you have to wade through a massive, two-year-old folder full of blurry, unusable shots. Just after you import your photos, make a quick cull and pick out your favorites. Then trash the rest.
4. You’ll find event-specific images fast.
You’ll likely be regularly accessing images from Easter weekend, VBS, and the staff headshot day. Use tags and well-planned folder structures to find these important photos easily. Keyword tagging can also help distinguish photos from different campuses or different worship services.
5. You’ll improve collaboration among your team.
Having all of the church’s photos in one organized place allows your entire team to collaborate easily and speed up the turnaround on media projects. What happens if you’re suddenly no longer working with the church? This library of imagery needs to be easily navigated, so anyone can find the right photos with no stress.
Building a church stock photo library may sound like a daunting task. And if you have years of unsorted images, the process is bound to take some time. But trust me—the time you’ll save down the road is well worth the investment.
This post was adapted from the original post in the January 2019 edition of Ministry Team magazine.
Jeremy Poland is the Creative Director at 4640 Student Center, a youth ministry in Western Colorado.
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