How to make “average” church photos look amazing

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Last year I conducted an informal poll asking the Christian Facebook world what they most looked for in a church website. Some of the top responses were, understandably, service times, locations and a message from the pastor, but another component that many responders say they looked for in a church website was photos. And not just any photos. Real photos, of real people, who actually attend the church.

Visitors to your website love seeing photos of real people who go to your church. They want to see smiles, passion, engagement and community. They want to get an idea of the venue they may visit. They want to familiarise themselves with staff and leaders. So in order to put photos of real people on your church’s website, you have two options: hire a professional event photographer to take some for you, or do it yourself.

But the problem is that it’s actually really hard for the average church-goer with a camera phone or entry-level DSLR to capture awesome photos of their church. They’re probably not going to have a lot of natural light to work with, and unless they have some expensive equipment, flashes are unflattering and can result in some pretty disappointing photos. Although the latest iPhones are sporting some seriously good cameras these days, they still won’t give you great control over your aperture to create beautiful depth-of-field in your photos. And if your church meets in a temporary venue (like my church — we meet weekly in a school gym), you’ll be dealing with some pretty unattractive backdrops (hey, who doesn’t want a basketball hoop in the background of their church’s photos?!)

So here’s my secret to getting professional-looking church photos on an amateur budget.

Firstly, here are some examples of photos taken at my church. They’re okay, but not great. They’re certainly not images I would want plastered over our church’s homepage.

To me, these photos seem to lack any sense of emotion, depth and interest. They’re very “average”. I want the photos on our church’s website to capture the audience’s interest, so I want my images to tell a story.

And here’s how I do it.

Photoshop Actions.

Specifically, Photoshop Actions purchased from Greater than Gatsby (although there are loads of other quality producers of Photoshop Actions out there — this is just the company I choose).

Photoshop Actions are sets of pre-determined, pre-organised “actions” or edits that take place on an image. In the same way that a photographer might use Photoshop to edit the colours, levels, brightness and sharpness of a photo, Photoshop Actions apply those same edits in an identical fashion every time they’re applied. Think of them as a more complex, more customisable, more flexible Instagram filter. And they make your photos stunning.

Photoshop Actions generally come as a one-off purchase consisting of a collection, full of different actions that do different things. You simply choose which action you want to apply to a particular photo. You can apply multiple actions to a single image, and you can adjust the opacity of each action, giving you complete freedom to use the actions as you please. If you’ve found a particular combination of actions that you love, you can even record your own action, meaning your new action will apply each of the actions in that combination to every photo in a collection.

Really, the possibilities and combinations are endless.

Here’s an example of what you can achieve in 10 minutes using Photoshop and Greater than Gatsby Actions:

Each photo uses a different combination of actions, with each action at a specific opacity, to create three very different photos, each with a completely new “feel” to the original.

Is your website soft, pale and pastel? Loud and bold? Bright, colourful and cheerful? There are Photoshop Actions to create awesome photos to fit your brief.

If you’re not currently using Photoshop to edit your graphics, now’s the time to seriously consider it. Companies like Greater than Gatsby (who, incidentally, are another Christian company using their website to bring glory to Jesus), make it so easy to get started, even if you have no prior experience with graphic design or photo editing.

Don’t let average photos let your website down. All you need is Photoshop, a set of actions, and 20 minutes, to make a world of difference to the photos that are pasted all over your church’s digital “shop front”. Give it a try!

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