By now you should know that visuals are crucial to engagement online, especially on social media. Posts using photos and videos see exponentially more interaction than those with just text.
The difficulty comes with finding the right images to use. This means getting an image that will resonate with your audience. But it also means making sure you have the right to use that image on a public digital channel.
Messing up the first means that people will just ignore your post. Messing up the second can result in unwanted attention on your post—the negative legal kind.

Finding Free Images for Your Church Marketing Can Be a Headache

Stock images can be a huge time saver when you’re a church marketing professional short on time and resources. How many churches actually have a full time photographer following people around and going on assignments? Not many.
That’s why bookmarking your favorite free image resources is crucial for most church marketing strategies. Before you jump in to the free image resources, you need to learn more about what you can and cannot use for your marketing material.

What Images Can You Use for Your Church?

There are a few different options you have when it comes to what images you can use:

  1. Taking a photo yourself
  2. Purchasing licenses for photos
  3. Using Creative Commons images
  4. Finding 100% free images without restrictions

1. Taking Your Own Photos

If you have a good eye for photography and a decent camera, then taking your own photos might be the best option. One added benefit of taking your own photos is avoiding the staged feel that sometimes comes with stock images. Your pictures are sure to be more authentic.
Hiring a professional photographer to take your photos can be a great use of your marketing budget. If you don’t have the talent or budget, you can always recruit a helpful volunteer to snap some photos for you.

2. Purchasing Licences For Photos

You can also purchase licenses for photos and then download them directly to your computer. Websites like Getty Images or Shutter Stock have licenses that allow you to pay for the image once and use it infinitely on printed and digital marketing material.
There are even premium photo sites specifically for churches and Christian ministries. Visit Lightstock and Creation Swap for reasonably priced, professional-quality images.
Don’t think that you can get away with trying to “borrow” their images for free. These companies have gotten pretty good at tracking down Photoshoplifters. Besides, it’s not the right thing to do.

3. Finding Creative Commons Images

CreativeCommons is a nonprofit that “enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” They provide wider access to a library of shared images, video and music.
Within that framework, they allow the artist to set how they want their intellectual property to be shared. There are a number of different licensing levels with different levels of permission.
Some licences restrict the alteration or editing of their work. Some licences allow the work to be used for commercial purposes. Some licences require that the artist be attributed for each use. Just be sure to read the fine print to make sure you’re following the rules.
Most churches should look for a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. This license typically requires attribution to the artist. You can also adapt or edit the work to fit your needs.

Church.org’s Creative Commons Images Available for Use

Church.org’s Flickr Account falls under Creative Commons with Attribution 4.0. Feel free to use any of the images that we add to our photostream on Flickr.

4. Completely Free Images

Free images without restrictions are typically more difficult to find. Luckily, there are a few sites that offer a variety of free images that can be used online. For instance, the photo accompanying this blog post came from Pexels.com.

Using the Right Images for Your Marketing

Whether creating a new blog post or posting to social media, make sure that you know what images are OK to use. Taking a few minutes to research or paying a few bucks will help you find the right image. It’s not just a legal issue, but an ethical one as well.
Do you have other resources to add to our list? Leave a comment and share with the community!

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