I went to a church website the other day. It was created using one of the major church website companies out there, so it had a great design layout and the content was pretty good too. However, when I left the site, I felt like I never really got a vibe about who they were as a church.

As I reflected on it, I realized that there was one glaring problem! There was not a SINGLE photo of a person on their entire website. Their church website had awesome photos of the outside of their building and beautiful nature shots. There was not a single shot of a person–not even on their multi-staff page.

I don’t know why  they created their site this way. Maybe they didn’t have good images of people or didn’t want to get permission to put photos of people online.  Maybe they thought scenery was more beautiful.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Whether we like it or not, the images we use on our site communicate a message about what is most important to us. I don’t know about you, but I want first-time visitors to my site to see that our church is all about the people! The subtle message this church’s site communicated is that our church is more about objects–the building and beautiful scenery.

This made me think. What is the message that my church’s website is communicating? I did a quick photo audit of our site.  I went to every page and I tallied up what photos portrayed.   Overall, we did pretty good. We had a lot of candid photos of people from our church.  There were also more photos of ministry logos, buildings, sermon series, and other such things than I realized.

The most glaring hole that I noticed is that the first picture people saw was a welcome sign in front of the building where we meet. There is nothing wrong with this. It communicated that people were welcome and showed them where we met. It didn’t quite communicate the message that I desired.  You see, I wanted people to be the first thing my first-time guests see, so they know that people are most important to us.

It was an easy remedy.  The next Sunday, I had one of members bring their camera and take some shots of the worship service. Now, a shot of people worshiping greets you on our home page!

What do your website photos communicate about what matters to your church?

Have you ever taken the time to think about this?  I have created this short list of questions and a tally sheet to help you determine this.  Doing this quick audit can make your site better.

Church Website Photo Audit Questions:

1) What is the first image you notice (what is the most prominent photo) on your home page?  What is this photo of?

There is a lot of important information that should be included on the home page of a church (directions, worship times, sermon series, etc).  I think the most important message you can communicate is that people matter to your church.  I think some type of people shot should be most prominent.  Some suggestions would be a shot of live worship, your pastor preaching, or a fun church gathering.

2) Do you have photos of your staff?

First-time guests often want to learn about your staff before they come to your church.  Photos are a great way to begin to build a connection with them.  However, they don’t just want info about them.  They want to see them!

3) Do each of your ministry pages have people photos?

Churches often like to talk about their ministries.  We think it is also important to have photos of their ministries.  If you can’t get actual shots of the ministry, make sure you have shots of people in the demographic (age, sex, etc) that this ministry serves.

Quick Church Website Photo Audit Tally Sheet:

Go to your website and open up all your web pages.  Look at your images and determine what the most prominent thing featured in them is.  Put a mark in the tally column for every image that meets that criteria.  Count the number of marks in the tally column at the end and write it in the total column.  Which category is most prominent on your website?

Final caution about image size and resolution:

Adding images or photos to your church website is important.  However,  when you add photos to your website, they should always be resized and cropped to fit in the space where you need them.  Don’t simply use digital photographs from your camera because the files are usually much bigger than they need to be and the size may not be appropriate for the space you plan to use them.  For best results, photos should be cropped and saved 72dpi in a JPG, GIF, or PNG format.  There are a ton of different ways you can do this.  GIMP is a great free program option that works on Mac and PC.  WordPress also has a built-in photo editor that lets you crop, resize, and resave your final image.  Here is a great tutorial on how to use it.   Using the right size images is a critical component to page load speed and overall site performance.

Other helpful articles on church photos:

10 Commandments of using photos on your church website!

Photos and church websites.

Legal stuff about church website photos.