Pictures in Church

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on April 4, 2017

in Facebook, Photography

With the invention of digital photography and the culture of social media, it seems that people are taking photos and posing for photos with greater ease today even in Church. I have become by default and now after a few years, by intention, the Facebook photographer for St. John Bosco Parish in Parma Heights  where I belong and where I manage their social media. Photo taking has become part of my ministry. Photos are very important in social media and getting the photos takes commitment and planning.

The Evolution of a Ministry

When I first started working with the parish social media, I would ask people to send me their photos from an event, but that was a not a successful strategy. Often, with a very few exceptions, they never sent the photos, or they sent them days or weeks later, or what they sent was not usable. So, I just started taking the photos myself. I usually post the photos immediately after the event or no more than a day later. Immediacy is a big part of social media.

With experience I have created some rules for myself:

  • I tell the people that I am the “Facebook Photographer” and that’s why I want to take their picture.
  • I never take photos of children without their parents’ permission
  • I don’t take photos of people who don’t want their photo taken
  • I try to take photos of as many different people as possible (not the same people all the time).
  • I don’t post photos in which anyone has their eyes closed or a strange expression on their face or looks awkward, etc. If I wouldn’t want a picture of me like that shared, I don’t share theirs either.
  • I don’t tag people in photos.
  • And I am always grateful to those who send me usable photos.

The Best Photos Tell a Story

Photos tell the story of the parish community. I try to look for the shots that tell that story the best. Because I have been doing this for a few years, our parishioners are used to seeing me with my camera and they are happy to smile for me. Sometimes when I am at an event, people will call me over, “Sister, take our picture.” Or they will point me in the direction of a great shot.

Some of the most popular photos we post on Facebook are the photos of couples celebrating their wedding anniversaries, 25, 40, 50, 60, 70 years at Mass. These posts get a lot of comments, shares and likes. Fr. Jurcak, the pastor, asks a member of the family to take the photo of the couple with their phone and email it to him immediately after Mass and he posts it with a note of congratulations. Usually a child or grandchild is happy to take the photo!

Photos of people happy to be engaged with or for their parish attract interest. People “like” and share and talk about photos. Photos can also convey positive messages. This week I am taking photos at the parish Lenten mission. The mission preacher, Fr. Damian Ference, requested that people bring their bibles each night and he is leading them through some key passages in a very interesting and engaging way. I made a point to take photos of the people with their bibles. Message: Catholics love and read the bible.

Here is one of my group shots with the people with their bibles open:

I post the photos in Facebook Photo Albums immediately after the event, and I save them for use in various parish videos I create throughout the year such as an updated Welcome Video or as part of the annual highlight video. In the case of annual events, I can use this year’s photos to promote next year’s events.

Photos Are Evangelizing Connections

In addition to conveying the vibrancy of a parish, photos help people who could not be there for whatever reason, age, health or other commitments, to stay connected. And to those who been away from the Church, they can be a simple reminder of what they are missing and an encouragement to return. For those who are looking for a church to join, the photos make a welcoming and positive impression.

Posting photos on Facebook is a way for a parish to build community and share its joy, warmth, and engagement with the larger world.

What is your experience of taking and posting photos of your community’s life and mission?






Ruth April 4, 2017 at 7:41 am

Great article Sister. I’m not that great with a camera but one of the women involved with our parish website is and she takes great photos around the parish and posts them on the parish website. I agree that asking people for photos rarely works 😉

Joanne Gallagher April 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

We take photos in our Motherhouse chapel intended for various uses. Some go in our electronic newsletter, some end up as a slide presentation about the event. These often don’t happen for a few days. For the immediate postings on Facebook I often take a photo before the event is starting and mention what it is. Sometimes it serves as a reminder if neighbors want to show up. Sometimes I take a very brief [30 second] video of the group singing and post that. The videos seem to yield a wider reach. Yes, designated photographers work best for all the reasons stated above. I have a cluster of three of four that do a great job.

Connie F LaMotta April 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said. I am the marketing and social media pastoral associate for the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River. Immediacy is very important in the social media world. We have people who have moved from our parish, newcomers, long time parishioners, college students and everyone in between. When pictures of events and videos of a homily, mission, speaker, music ministry hymns, the response and reach are tremendous. I believe social media is an important evangelization tool that touches people’s lives in an intimate way. It’s the best job in town. Connie LaMotta

Pat April 7, 2017 at 4:10 am

Thanks Susan! Your article is encouraging and gives us direction about taking photos for the parish. It makes me want to become a photographer! God bless you in your ministry in capturing those special moments in parish life!