A bit of a detour from our regular programming here at Transform Your Parish to talk about images that you use on your website, bulletin, newsletter, and social media. Let’s walk through what’s Okay and what’s Not Okay. This was our final tip of the month for webmasters, but the rules apply to us all!
The key to a great website is great pictures! This isn’t news to anyone. If you’re your parish’s webmaster, I’m sure you are always in search of a great picture to put on your homepage, describe your next event, or engage your visitors. To ensure we’re following all of the legal, moral, and ethical rules about image rights and usage, this was a recent tip of the month I sent out to our website users which works through “What’s Okay and What’s Not Okay Regarding Images* on the Internet (& Everywhere).”
It’s OKAY to use an image that you took with your camera. So take great pictures (most smartphones have great cameras these days, so it’s easy to do) of your Church,people at your church**, events you host, artwork you have up. You’re the owner of those photos, so take them and use them! This site has some great tips!
If you have a professional photographer in your church or community, you might ask them about a photo shoot of your church and staff. They may even offer you a discount. Not only will you gain a quality library of imagery and standardized staff photos, but you may be surprised about how beautiful your parish looks through the trained eye of a professional! Make sure that the professional photographer understands and agrees that you want to use the photos on the Internet and other promotions.
It’s NOT OKAY to use images that someone else takes without their permission. If someone in your parish takes a great picture and posts it online, you can’t use that picture without their permission. Most people will give you permission to use the picture, but you should always ask the owner of the image (the owner is often the person that took the photo). A simple, “Hey, that’s a great picture you took at the church festival last week, can we use it on our website, in our bulletin, or as part of the newsletter?” is a great way to get the conversation started. It is important to get the permission and any important details regarding the image usage in writing (either in a document signed by the owner or an email from the owner confirming the agreement). When you use the image,don’t forget to give credit where credit is due!
It’s OKAY to use images from libraries online that you have permission for. For instance, we have a gallery in the OSV HUB***(sign in & click on resources for website graphics) for your use. You can use these images on your website, in your bulletin, and with your newsletters. You can also use images from online sources that are labeled for reuse such as Unsplash and Pexels (both free!) or paid services like iStockphoto and Shutterstock. These sites aren’t Religious but they do have many great photos – be sure to know what you’re searching for.
It’s NOT OKAY to just use an image that you found on another Church’s website. “I like their icons so can’t you just right click, save, and add them to my website?” That’s a hard NO, no we can’t. You can call that Church and ask for their permission to use their artwork. If they created it and are willing to give you permission, then it’s OKAY to use it on your website. If they said, “we found that somewhere online so I guess you can use it too,” that’s NOT OKAY for use on your website. If you aren’t speaking to the original source of the image, then they cannot give you permission to use the image.
It’s OKAY to create images with online photo editing software like Canva or PicMonkey. We even have some tutorials about how to use these programs on our Tips& Tricks page. There are some libraries within these sites that include clipart, images, and layouts that are free and available for use and modification. It’s OKAY to use those as long as you are logged into your account. Some of these are free, others require a monthly subscription or one-time fee. Keep in mind that you cannot modify someone else’s photo unless you have permission to do so.
It’s NOT OKAY to use Google image search (or any other online search engine) to find images,save them to your computer, and use them on your website (or even modify them). It’s OKAY to search for images and find inspiration, but it is important to create your own original image with your own flare. When we just search for an image and use someone else’s creation (even for a Church to promote a spiritual event) we are taking advantage of their intellectual property. It’s NOT OKAY legally, morally, or ethically.
The same cautions apply to using literary materials taken from the Internet. Posting an inspirational poem from the Internet on the Church website could result in an unpleasant letter demanding payment for the use.
We want you to have a great website and will help you in whatever way we can to have great images to use on your site that you have permission to use! If you’ve done any of the things that are on our “NOT OKAY” list, take a look at your site and replace your images with ones you have permission to use! It’s the right thing to do, and it will give your website a refreshing new look – which we’re all about for the New Year!!
* Images include photographs, illustrations, drawings, icons, cartoons, and logos.
** If you take a picture of people at your church for commercial or publicity purposes, make sure you get a signed release from all identifiable persons in the image before you use it. A parent or legal guardian can sign the release for any minors that appear in the images.
*** If you don’t have an OSV HUB account, please contact our support team at 800-348-2886 option 3 to get set up!
These tips are just general informational points of the best practices we’ve seen for use of images on websites. For legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.