When parishes began to see the value of having a website, for some reason someone decided that having an image of the physical building on the homepage was best practice. While it may have been that at the time (30 plus years ago!) today it is no longer the case.
If we want to attract people to our faith community, we need show them who makes up our congregation. Is it full of growing families, professional millennials, or active seniors looking to make a difference in society? Are people joyful and full of energy, or are things more contemplative and prayerful?
Whatever your parish is made of, it’s time to show people “who” you’re made of — here’s how.
Use a Photographer for Best Results
When you use your website to feature the best of your community, you need to make sure that the photos you use are of high quality. High resolution images are a must if you want to ensure that they’ll come out clear, crisp, and ready for screens of all sizes. One of the best ways to make sure is to hire a photographer.
From professional photographers to volunteers, there are lots of options out there. Try connecting with a local college to see if a third- or fourth-year photography student is looking for experience and some cash. You could also inquire at your parish whether there is a parishioner who is professional or amateur and would be willing to help. Just remember that no matter what avenue you decide on, photography is one instance where you typically get what you pay for.
Ask for examples of their work, and inquire about their experience, especially when it comes to taking photos during Mass. Do they know where they can shoot, and where they need to refrain? Will they be requiring a flash, or can they rely on manual settings so as not to disturb the congregation?
Have a Shot List
There are so many ways you can photograph your congregation, you’ll want to include a shot list to ensure that all your needs are met, such as:
- Close-ups of holy items such as wine and wafers before communion, stained glass windows, cross, candles, etc.
- The back of the congregation during Mass
- Close-ups of people praying, and engaging with one another
- Close-ups of people without identifying features (hands clasped, reading the Bible, etc.)
Find “Moments of Movement”
Choose a weekend Mass and advertise ahead of time that someone will be there to take photos of your growing congregation. If people do not wish to be photographed, encourage them to attend a different Mass, and assure them that you will get permission from first from the subjects in all the photos you’ll be using.
Finally, it’s time to capture your thriving congregation. Look for the beautiful moments, such as a parent teaching their child the Sign of the Cross, families giving each other the Sign of Peace, the pastor holding up the consecrated host for all to see and worship. Be sure to capture as parishioners leave Mass better than they arrived — joyful, encouraged, and ready to spread the message of Christ.
Feature the Best of the Best
You took the time to get a photographer and have ended up some amazing photos of your faith community. Now is the time to splash it on your homepage for the world to see!
When choosing the “hero image” for your homepage, you’ll want to find one that truly captures what your parish is all about. What people looking for a home parish should expect to see, hear, and feel when they walk through your doors.
Some great examples would be the congregation after Mass as they exit the doors, a crowd shot during Mass of the priest consecrating the Eucharist, and even a close-up of a family engaging with one another. Again, anything that shows people what to expect is most helpful.
Now that you’ve got photos for your website, it’s time to find additional ways to use them! Does your parish have an Instagram account? Check out “Instagram & Your Parish” for some inspiring ways to share your vibrant community with others.