At ChurchWP.net, we have started a unique Designer Interview series.  It is a great way for our readers to learn about some of the great people behind some of the companies we recommend!  In this episode, we interview Josh Bailey of Lightstock.com – a Christian stock photo company he started with his brother, Jonathan.

How did you get interested in Christian stock photography?  

I wasn’t necessarily interested in Christian stock photography for its own sake, but for the end result that it would provide – Christian design that we could all be proud of.

So what’s the problem that Lightstock solves?

The problem is that art has been marginalized in the Christian community. There are too few people making a concerted effort to produce visual excellence. Most good-hearted people think the “look & feel” doesn’t matter as long as the “content” is good. I can tell you that among my generation and the ones succeeding it – we’re not okay with poor aesthetic. To excel at one and not the other is to diminish the value of the whole.

What drove you and your brother to create Lightstock?

We were sitting around our boardroom table getting ready to sell our first startup, Graceway Media, to Rob Thomas of the RT Creative Group. We thought about what to do next. We both had been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug so getting a job wasn’t an option.

Someone said, “Alright guys, we need ideas, what could we do to make money?” The first and most obvious pain point from our experience at Graceway was the sad fact that when our artists started designing, they were faced with slim faith-based stock content, and much of it was cheesy. We sensed that the future of church media might not be in pre-packaged, plug-in-play content, but rather in raw design materials for Christian creatives to draw from.

Luckily we had just purchased a Canon 5D Mark II. We didn’t know how to use it – however, we knew how to push buttons.

We knew if we built Lightstock we would also need to be a big photo contributor to the site, leading the way with faith-focused photography. We found some old train tracks and did a quick photo shoot with myself as the model. We raced back to the office, gathered around the laptop and waited for the pictures to download.

We were amazed at what popped on the screen. Even though the model was terrible, the photos looked fantastic. Very professional. Cheers erupted from the boardroom as we said, “We can do this! We can learn whatever else we need to learn, let’s go for it.” That was the genesis of Lightstock.

How does your faith impact what you guys are trying to do with Lightstock?  What makes it unique compared to other stock photo sites?

I think of Colossians 3. “Whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our faith informs all that we do and that includes startups. At the end of the day we want to bless the Christian community. One of the gifts God has given my brother and I is the identification and appreciation of beauty. We call it polish – it’s one of Lightstock’s core values. This makes Lightstock unique because we have some beautiful stock photos.

How do you find the artists and choose the images you offer on your website?

We were very guerrilla in the beginning. We spent two weeks trolling Twitter feeds for Christians photographers with beautiful portfolios. It was grueling. We ended up with 400 – when we launched the Partner side of Lightstock in July of 2012, roughly 25% signed up to be contributors.

Nowadays artists find us. We receive about eight invitation requests a week and end up inviting half.

What are the key elements of every great photo?

We’ve come up with three. Check out this great vin diagram that Lightstock’s Tastemaker, Matt Boyd, put together. This is an easy way to visually understand what we’re looking for or what we consider a good content fit for Lightstock.

What is your favorite image on your site right now? What do you like best about it?

It’s always changing because we always get new stuff. But, this one I am particularly fond of. Why? Because where are you going to go and get a quality image of Jesus leaving the tomb like this?

Since ChurchWP is a church website, I have a few questions about churches use of photos on their site. Are there any mistakes you see churches make with their website photos? Anything churches should try to avoid?

There are some no-no’s when using stock and we outline a few of them on our FAQ.

When highlighting real people within your organization, never use stock photos; make sure they’re personal images. The photo may not be as professional or visually interesting, but it’s always the better alternative. Don’t misrepresent.

Avoid using cheesy photos! Invest in a beautiful site with beautiful images. Think about it – it’s going to be the first experience someone has with your church. Seriously, Lightstock exists to elevate the impact of the story you’re telling. Let us and others help you.

What are the some of the key things churches should consider when choosing images for their website?

I would say find images that resonate with your church’s core values or mission. Beyond that choose photos with a similar style. We’re always aiming for unity of content and design at Lightstock, so I would say shoot for the same thing. Make sure all the pieces come together and fit well.

What do you like to do when you are not working on Lightstock?
If someone would pay me to read books and tinker with my landscape all day, I would be a happy man.

Looking for other resources to improve your church website? Check out our other photo tips!