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Royalty-free stock photography is all over the internet.
There are some obvious benefits to using stock photos on a church website. It’s faster and easier to download a stock photo and put it on a website than it is to take a photo, especially if it involves people, who may have limited availability. Also, most stock photos are taken by professional photographers with professional equipment, so the quality of stock photos is often better than the photos your average web admin can take with their phone.
But there’s one big negative to using stock photos – they’re not YOU.
What is the church?
It’s the people.
When people visit your church website, they want to learn about what your church is really like. Showing them a bunch of pictures of people who aren’t a part of your church is disingenuous. It’s false advertising.
This is especially problematic for churches because authenticity is such an important value in the Christian worldview.
If a church website invites people to become a part of a Christian community where people are honest about their sin and brokenness and are being transformed by the grace of God but on the same page are perfect pictures of models that aren’t a part of the church, there’s a disconnect.
My advice: Be authentic. Use real pictures of real people who are a part of your real church. Even if the people aren’t “beautiful” and the pictures aren’t perfect.
Note, this is not license to use really bad photos and leave these 7 Church Website Photo Problems You Need to Fix ASAP unaddressed.
There is one exception where I think it’s ok to use stock photos – blog articles for which you’re clearly using a photo to illustrate the theme. It’s still better to use genuine photos in blog articles whenever possible, but most blog readers understand the purpose of using stock photos in articles like we did at the top of this one.
If you use a church website builder that uses stock photos on pre-made pages like our WP-EZ Website Builder, replace them with real photos right away. If you have your website built by a professional church website design team, insist on providing your own photos.
Discussion – Do you have any stock photos on your church website? Why or why not?