There's a stock photo on the Internet I've seen in a 1,000 different places.
With his right arm crooked and the same hand just slightly out of his pocket, a headless white male holds the spine of a large, opened black Bible in his left hand.
Have you seen this image? (And is this who we believe to be the epitome of "Mr. Awesome Christian?" Not only does he read his Bible, he reads it while standing.)
For a moment, let's not discuss how one could interepret why his head's not in the picture, or why he's male, or white. That's photo fodder for another day.
For now, let's agree that there's ample room within the stock photography market for new offerings.
According to founders Jon and Josh Bailey, Lightstock is "a faith-filled, safe-searching, carefully-curated stock photography website geared exclusively for the Christian community." Launched in late November 2012, Lightstock offers more than just a place to buy quality photos, and it's in these brilliant ideas that the site will find a large and dedicated audience.
For instance, Lightstock's shot list page allows you to suggest photos you need. While this has been done before, they take a Web 2.0 next step and allow anyone to follow anyone else's suggestion. In other words, if you also need a photo of "beautiful fall leaves that convey the idea of dying to myself," you simply click "follow" next to that suggestion.
The shot list page also allows you to see similar photos to that suggestion, as well as which photographer has been assigned the task. You'll also be able to see the most popular shots being requested. As a whole, Lightstock's shot list page is a revolutionary feature for a stock photo site, and one that the founders hope will be utilized to its fullest.
Possibly spurred by the blistering growth of Pinterest, Lightstock allows you to create boards of similar images, or boards for certain projects. This is a great help to church communication pastors who may be swimming in hundreds of images for a wide variety of projects.
The site is credit based, but it's affordable, especially compared to similar sites. In their simple system, $1 buys one credit, so, for example, a user can download a 1200x800 image for 10 credits/$10. According to Lightstock's parlance, image sizes range from xsmall, small, medium, and max, with xsmall costing 5 credits and max costing 20. Credits, which never expire, can be purchased in 10, 50, 300, and 1000 bulk units, with extra credits given gratis when you buy larger units.
Josh was kind enough to pull back the proverbial curtain on their digital darkroom for just enough time to answer five questions.
FV: Why does Lightstock need to exist?
JB: Imagine Christian creatives not having to photoshop out cigarette butts from concert photos because now there’s a place to find images of true Christian worship. We have this big dream in our hearts that Lightstock could fundamentally change the way Christian designers, chief-creatives and church staff members go about their creative endeavors for Christ’s kingdom.
For nearly a year we’ve been on an unrelenting journey to forge a strong link - connecting an army of faith-based photographers to the Christian community at large - an audience, hungry for meaningful visual resources.
FV: Can photographers get involved with producing or selling content through Lightstock?
JB: We use the term ‘Partner’ for our Contributing Photographers. We view this relationship more like a partnership. All Partners receive 50% royalties on every photo that is exclusive to Lightstock. In order to contribute, you have to be invited or vouched for by another Lightstock Partner. We do this in order to ensure photographic excellence and maintain a tight-knit community that otherwise would not exist.
FV: What's your criteria for selecting Lightstock photos?
JB: Curating photos at Lightstock is one of the coolest gigs around. It consists of viewing hundreds of incredibly beautiful images shot by a contributor base of believers. Our criteria is really pretty simple: we look at the image through the lens of a Christian creative and think how he or she could use it in a sermon slide, website, banner or any number of publication formats.
The more the image is faith-focused the more we’re eager to accept it. That’s where we sense the drought is in the market and that’s what we want our library to overflow with: fresh, faith-based images you can't find anywhere else.JB:
FV: Do you think churches and ministries do a good job of utilizing visuals in their communications? If not, how can they get better at it?
JB: Seven years ago we founded another faith-based media company called Graceway Media (formerly PowerPoint Sermons) because we felt like the church wasn’t well-equipped with the visual tools they needed to reach a new generation. Nowadays, many churches are using visuals, and using them well, in their services and communications.
Our belief is that there is a lack of raw material for Christian creatives to work with. Pick any other stock site and slog through there faith-based images ... what do you get? The same stuff you’ve been seeing for a decade!
We have this unwavering belief that there are thousands of photographers who are hungry to use their God-given gift to equip the body of Christ. We knew our part in this would be to build a legitimate framework that had the power to provide meaningful income to photographers who would pursue their talents for God’s glory and that’s just what we’ve done.
FV: What's your current favorite photo on Lightstock?
JB: We currently have over 12,000 images and you’re asking me to pick one?! That’s like trying to pick your favorite movie of all time — there are so many classics! I think I can do it though.
It would have to be this breathtaking and unsettling photo of Jesus' hand nailed to the cross [see inset photo]. It literally sums up what Lightstock is and what we’re trying to do: equip the body of Christ with the visual firepower they need to go therefore and share the good news of Jesus’ saving grace and reach a world desperate for a savior.
We’re just getting started; we’ve got a long journey ahead. Our vision guides us - let’s get to work!
Lightstock's images are perfect for any number of church or ministry uses, whether it's your bulletin, church website, sermon backgrounds, worship lyric slides, or video bumpers.
As a former church communications Director and a current Editor with an online media company, I truly appreciate what Lightstock offers. I know that others with similar jobs or photographic needs will be just as thrilled.
Lightstock is a site that's much needed in the Christian media world. It's a place that will help to tell the old, old story in brand new and visually arresting ways.