Jessica: Britain’s Olympic face – making image choices and where to find free photos

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jessicaBritain has fallen in love. The object of our affection? Jessica Ennis, our heptathlon gold medal winner.

Before each Olympic games, UK chooses someone to be ‘the face of the Olympics’. Their picture becomes a tangible shorthand that sums up our Olympic team and hopes.

Jess was an inspired and ideal choice: the good-natured girl next door with grit and determination, a down-to-earth woman from a city (Sheffield) and county (Yorkshire) that don’t really do pretentious, or tolerate it. She’s been called an ‘un-diva’.

Why is it so important to use an image that sums up a story? And where can you find free images to use on your website, blog, PowerPoint or printed bulletin?

And did you see her on the podium? While her 5 foot 5 inch / 1.65m height is the average for women, it is way under that for female athletes; the other medalists’ heads reached hers despite their standing so much lower!

Of course, with the Games underway, we also fell in love with Mo Farrah. His image also reflects a wider truth – that Britishness is a big tent It’s just ‘us’. I find that incredibly moving.

Effective communication is always visual

“The soul never thinks without a picture,” said Aristotle.

The picture editor of a magazine or newspaper has a key role. She is always looking for pictures that sum up a story memorably.

This is how our memories work – a picture, or series of images – is essential to anchor a wider story or abstract truth. Good verbal storytellers are also creating pictures in our heads, using words alone.

To communicate online or offline, through website or blog, paper or speech, we need pictures. Research shows that images increase the readability of, and response to, a web-page. And usually, that picture should show people.

Choosing a good photo for the homepage of a church website is vital. Many churches use a picture of… yes, you guessed it, the building. Church is people. Please, whatever else you do, use a photo of a person or small group as your main image. This is the first of many steps to make a church site outsider-friendly.

Carefully chosen photos on PowerPoint will enhance the impact and recall of any sermon or talk.

Sharing conversation-starting moving images on Facebook and Twitter is a key way to share the good news with not-yet-followers. The image-based Pinterest is also an easy way to point to faith topics.

Choosing illustrations

Check this useful guide from Sandra Niehaus on choosing pictures to illustrate web-pages and articles:
Part 1 | Part 2.

Where to find free photos?

Here are some great resources:

  • The vast majority of photos at Stock Exchange are available to use free in a non-profit context.
  • An advanced search on Flickr will find pictures that have been tagged as ‘Creative Commons’, ie. free to use, possibly with restrictions. And often, Flickr users will give permission for other photos to be used in a non-profit context if you ask nicely.
  • A great shortcut way to search for free creative commoons pictures on Flickr is to use PhotoPin, which also provides a ready-made photo credit link.
  • There are some stunning international photos, some of them Creative Commons, at Fotopedia. Some are iTunes downloads, others are standard photo sets for Africa, India and Asia, Japan and many other countries, though it is hard to find what is available on the site, because there seems to be no central index. Some presentations are designated as belonging to the Fotopedia magazine, others are standalone. It seems the search box is the only way to find everything – Geographical Magazine-quality pictures of people and places.

  • Advanced search on Google Images will also call up photos that have been tagged as Creative Commons.
  • Geograph offers Creative Commons photos of UK scenes. Similar sites are available for other countries.
  • Posed photos, film stills, and drawn illustrations of Bible scenes are available from Free Bible Images.
  • There are many other sources of free images.

In the unlikely event that you cannot find what you need on sites like this, or use your own photos, it is usually cheap to buy small low-resolution stock photos from professional sites such as iStockphoto and Shutterstock.

Illustrating your blog post, website, printed leaflet or talk has never been so simple! Think pictures. Always.

Share Olympic conversation-starting video clips

YesHEIs, the video-sharing Christian resource, has a special Olympic section. You can share these Olympic stories on Facebook, Twitter, etc.:

Photo credit Jess: LondonAnnie/Flickr | Creative Commons
Photo credit Mo: ianpatterson99 | Creative Commons

This is an edited version of a post that first appeared in the BigBible blog

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