I spend a lot of time looking at church communications: websites, newsletters, bulletins, magazines, flyers, etc. One of the things that constantly catches my attention is the use of ugly, pixelated, blurry and copyrighted photos. The ugly photos detract from your message. Especially in a world of slick publications and media, these photos stick out like a sore thumb and have a negative impact on what you are trying to communicate. Even worse, I see churches using copyrighted material, often with the artist’s watermark and copyright notice right on the photo. This is illegal and unethical and it also sends a very negative message to anyone who understands copyright.
*Please read my note about the power of using your own photos.
I understand churches often have no budget for artwork. Fortunately, there are many places where you can get high-quality stock photography and graphics for free. Below is a list of some of my favorites.
**Please read my not about image sizes and quality.
A note about usage licenses. If you use these photos, please take a moment to read the usage license on the website. Most of these sites give you total permission to use their resources any way you want. Others put some limitations like asking for attribution or limiting modification. Since people are offering their work for free, it is appropriate to make sure we are following their guidelines. With that, here we go:
Freely Photos – www.freelyphotos.com
Freely is made for churches and, as its name implies, it is free! They have photos in categories like Bible Study, Worship, Prayer. etc. It is all available under a Creative Commons Zero license meaning it is totally free to use any way you want.
Saltful – www.saltful.com
Saltful is a project of Word Revolution, a Christian Communication Agency. The images are not categorized or searchable. However, they are beautiful, very useful and come with a Creative Commons Zero license meaning they are free!
Unsplash – www.unsplash.com
After Freely and Saltful, we move on to photo sites that are not specifically Christian or necessarily for churches. However, sites like Unsplash have a ton of free images to use for free under a Creative Commons Zero license. In other words, again, use them pretty much however you like. Their search bar makes is very easy to find the sort of image you are looking for.
Negative Space – www.negativespace.co
I really love Negative Space. The offer beautiful images and, again, a Creative Commons Zero license. They also have a great search option that allows you to sort photos by category, color, and copy space position. I love the copy space filter. It is great when I am trying to create a graphic with text on it and want that copy in a particular place.
SplitShire – http://www.splitshire.com
SplitShire has some absolutely gorgeous photographs and again free to use under the Creative Commons Zero License. You can search by category or by word or phrase.
Pexels – http://www.pexels.com
Pexels is a little different from the others in that it is more of an aggregator. The images come from a number of sources, including those listed above, and from user submissions. They are still all covered under the Creative Commons Zero license so they are free to use.
Life of Pix – www.lifeofpix.com
Life of Pix offers a treasure trove of beautiful images brought to you by LeeRoy Advertising Agency in Montreal and its network of photographers. As a serious bonus, they offer Life of Vids, free videos, clips and loops also under the Creative Commons Zero license. Great for video and worship production.
That’s it for now. Here are a few more that didn’t get a full write-up but are worth checking out:
Have another good source of free images? Maybe a paid service that is totally worth the cost? Let me know in the comments.
*My favorite photos for churches are your own photos. I would rather see your people doing what they do then some flashy stock photo. However, there are times you can’t. Sometimes you need a particular image. Sometimes it actually needs to be more generic. Or, maybe, you don’t currently have any high-quality images from your church. Perhaps browsing and using some beautiful images will inspire you to go our and create some of your own.
**A note about image sizes and formats: Most of the images on the sites listed here are HUGE! They are high resolution, large format images. If you use them online without reducing the file size significantly, you will have trouble. One of these full-size images on the front page of your website will cause your page to load very, very slow for everyone except people using a super-fast broadband connection. If you don’t know how to reduce file size, check back soon for an instructional post.