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?