For the Connected Missionary

Missionary Geek

Where do you go when you are looking for the perfect image to go with that slide presentation you are doing or to complement your Bible story? Maybe you have a prayer letter that needs a little something extra to help you communicate. There are lots of places online to find pictures. And just as easily you can find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Yikes!

Don’t despair. There are also legitimate places to grab photos and illustrations that you can use freely without fear of litigation.

Before I list a couple of these, let me be quick to say that you need to be careful to not mislead people with your images. In missionary slide presentations it is assumed that almost all of the pictures are ones that the missionary took himself. And, that the works and people represented are ministries that the missionary is personally involved in. Some people have been known to attend large events in order to take pictures that then get passed off as pictures of their personal ministry. This can be misleading at best and outright deception at worst. Don’t be known as that guy.

On the other hand, when you use pictures in a multimedia presentation that enhances your sermon, I don’t believe there is any expectation that the pictures were taken by you.

Websites and prayer letters can go either way. If your prayer letter is talking about a particular person or event, you should only include a picture of that actual person or event. That is not the time to comb the web for stock images. But that does not mean you could not use stock images for other purposes in your communication.

Free Illustrations and Photos: FreeBibleImages

Photo of Jesus and disciples sitting by a boat.

One of the images from FreeBibleImages.org

One website that I recently learned about from another missionary is FreeBibleImages.org. This is a site that has photos and Bible story illustrations that you can use freely. I have recently used some of their illustrations in blog posts on another site (for the story of Ruth and the healing of a paralytic man). Both of the illustrations I used were from story packs that they have put together.

Besides their illustration packs, they also have actual photos of Jesus and His disciples! It is amazing. Well, since Jesus lived on earth before the time of Mr. Kodak, I guess these might have been taken more recently. The folks at FreeBibleImages have staged various stories with real people dressed in period costumes and taken their pictures. They have photos of Jesus teaching as well as story packs like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

They do have a simple terms of use that they ask you to agree to when using their images. Basically they want you to use the images to tell biblically accurate stories. And, they want you to use them in a Christian context. There are a couple of other things, but those are the big ones.

You can get the images in several different formats ready to use. Currently these include PowerPoint, PDF, Apple Keynote and JPEG images. They also all come in two different format ratios: 16:9 and 4:3 (widescreen and “normal”).

Free Photos: Morgue File

Photo of a photographer

A sample picture I grabbed from Morgue File. Taken by vahiju.

Morgue File is a website where you can find a large set of photos of varying qualities. The vast majority of the photos are not the quality of images you could get on a stock photo site where you pay lots of money per image. But the tradeoff is that you don’t have to pay for these. They are uploaded and made available for you to use freely.

The idea of Morgue File (also seen written as morguefile on their site) is to provide images that you will then use for creative projects. They actually require that you alter, modify or remix the images in some way. Though not required for all images from Morgue File, you should provide a link back to the image or credit the photographer when possible.

The licensing on the images is very generous and simple to abide by. Basically you must modify the file in some way. You cannot claim ownership over the photo (but the creative work done with the photo can be claimed). You can use the images for commercial purposes, though you cannot sell the images themselves. In other words, if you use the image in your book and make a million dollars there is no problem. But you cannot create a CD containing original Morgue File images and sell it for a penny. That would be against their terms of use.

The image that I used of the photographer to the right has been cropped and I have done work with the colors to create an image that looks different (and I think better) than the original.

There are plenty of other places to get free images but you need to be careful. Just because an image is free, does not mean that it is free for you to use in any way that you choose. Then, of course, there are many great sites where you can buy high quality images with various restrictions on how you use them.

What sites are you using to find images for your ministry projects?

About the author

David is a missionary working with the Deaf. His focus is helping churches in Latin America start ministries for the Deaf in their communities. He currently lives with his wife and kids in Mérida, México. David also serves as the Director of Deaf Ministries for his mission board, Baptist International Outreach.

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