How To Create A Church Directory With Photos

When many people hear the term “church directory” they think of a physical church phone directory. These days, many churches have elected to create digital church directories that include photos of members. This is a great way to connect your church while adding a professional touch to your church member outreach.

To create a church directory you must first create a list of your church members, organize a photoshoot, and pack your gear. You then take portrait-style photos while collecting member information. Then upload the images and member information to a church management software.

Below, I’ve outlined all of the steps you need to take to create a digital church directory and even how to take professional photos for it.

What is A Church Directory?

A church directory is a list containing relevant information about church members. These originally came in the form of church phone directories but have since evolved to become digital directories. Digital church directories often include photos of individual members and families, lifestyle, and contact information.

What Are The Benefits of A Church Directory?

Church directories match names to faces. This makes your church significantly more personal. Instead of saying “That’s the guy who plays guitar on the worship team” you can say “That’s Jeff who plays guitar on the worship team, he’s married to Jen who plays keys”.

They help new members connect with the church community. Showing up to a new church and trying to remember all the faces and names of everyone you meet is an almost impossible task, directories can help refresh the memories of newcomers.

They help staff members get to know existing members and newcomers. As a former church staffer, I can say confidently that one of the toughest parts of working for a church (for me, at least), is trying to stay up to date with existing members and newcomers. Church directories are a cheat sheet for staff members to stay current with everyone at the church.

They help members contact each other. Having contact information ready and available helps church members stay in touch with each other without having to ask around.

They foster community within your church. Church directories not only give people the means to contact each other but also help remind us to reach out to our church community.

They make organizing groups easier. Church directories eliminate the age-old “I don’t have these people’s contact information, so please forward this email to them” message. Some digital directories even give members the ability to create group chats within the software.

Digital directories make updating contact information easy. With digital directories, it only takes a few clicks to update your contact information or any other personal information your church may collect.

They help churches stay in contact with members. With up-to-date and accurate information, churches can send out emails and digital newsletters without worrying about missing a member.

How To Create A Church Directory

When creating a church directory, staying organized will make your life significantly easier. On the note of organization, I recommend creating a digital directory instead of a physical one. This will make updating it easier. Remember that you will continue to update your directory so you don’t need to stress if you are missing information.

1. Create A List of Your Church Members

The first step to creating a church directory is to create a list of your church members including any relevant information. Below is a list of some information that you may want to gather:

  • Names
  • Ages
  • Family members
  • Contact information
  • Church groups the member is part of
  • Profession
  • Birthdays
  • Significant dates

Use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to stay organized. Not all of this information will be available for church members to see, but it will be useful for authorized staff members to understand church members better.

It’s important to note that, you should always be sure to follow local laws and regulations when collecting and displaying the information of minors. It’s better to err on the safe side and show as little information as possible when it comes to children, and always have parent approval to show pictures including children in your directory. With some online directories, church members decide what information they would like to share publicly, but we’ll talk about that later.

This list of church members is going to serve as your “shot list” to ensure you get every photo that you need during your shoot. Check out my article for more help creating a church photography shot list.

2. Organize A Time and Place To Take Photos

Having a time and place to take your photos will help you better understand what gear you need to bring. Your goal is to find a time and place where most, if not all, of your church members will be present.

The best way to ensure maximum attendance is to have your church announce that you will be taking church directory photos on a specific day to allow people to come prepared. When your church makes this announcement, be sure to inform members why you are collecting their information, how it will be used, and where it will be shared.

Aside from a weekly Sunday gathering, you may want to consider taking photos at a special event like a Christmas Eve service. This both ensures high attendance and will likely mean people are dressed up and photo-ready.

3. Prepare Your Gear

Once you know the type of environment you are shooting in, you can prepare your gear. This will be a portrait shoot, so I recommend a portrait lens and a wide-angle lens, just in case.

For a portrait lens, somewhere around 50-85mm would work well. This focal range works well for photographing individuals and is the most common when it comes to portrait photography. As for wide-angle lenses, 16-24mm is a good range to aim for. This lens is in case you are photographing a family with lots of people in it.

For more help on lens selection, check out my guide to church photography lenses.

If you only own a kit lens, like an 18-55mm, that will work too. With good composition and lighting, you can even take these photos on your smartphone!

Once you have your camera and lenses prepared, you can start to plan out the rest of your kit. Remember to charge your batteries beforehand, and bring clean SD cards, a tripod, and lighting gear. When it comes to lighting gear, it’s very helpful but you can make do without it. If you have softboxes or a flash, bring them. I recommend using a diffuser or bounce card on your flash to help soften its light.

4. Take Photos & Collect Information

When each person comes to take their photo, have a piece of paper or a laptop ready for them so they can fill out a contact form. Alternatively, you can send out a digital contact form before or after the shoot to collect information.

Collecting information while shooting photos keeps things simple and ensures nobody forgets to fill out your contact form. If you have a laptop or tablet ready for members to fill out a contact form, be sure it’s not just an open Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet with other member’s information on display. As soon as you collect someone’s information, it needs to be safeguarded.

The goal when taking these photos is to have a consistent look across all of them. With that in mind, here are some tips for shooting church directory photos:

Set your white balance. Use a white balance card or a white piece of paper at the start of your shoot and leave it. Your white balance should be consistent for every photo. You can make minor adjustments to your white balance when editing; this leads me to my next tip…

Shoot RAW instead of JPEG. This allows you to retain more information when you edit these photos. JPEGs respond differently to adjustments in editing software compared to RAW files.

Use your histogram. This will help you nail your exposure and keep it consistent, making your life easier when you go to edit these photos.

Pay attention to subjects with glasses. Glasses may reflect your flash or softbox into your camera. One of the worst feelings as a photographer is importing your photos to your editing software only to realize that every person with glasses has a massive reflection in place of their eyes, trust me, I’ve been there (too many times).

5. Backup & Edit Your Photos

The next step after shooting photos is always to back them up. This can be to a secure cloud server, like Google Drive or Dropbox, or a physical hard drive.

Before importing to your editing software, your photos should either be on your computer’s internal storage or an external SSD. Do not edit off of your SD card, they are built for temporary media storage and are not meant to be used for editing.

When it comes to church directory photos, you are looking for a natural but defined look. This may mean a slight exposure adjustment, a small S-curve on the tone curve, and a white balance adjustment. The most important thing with portraits is to make sure your skin tones look natural and aren’t too saturated, or else your subjects will look like they have bad spray tans. If your skin tones look too orange or saturated, try lowering the orange saturation in your HSL (hue, saturation, and luminance) tab.

For a deeper look into how I edit my photos, check out my article showing step-by-step how I edit photos for client work.

6. Organize Your Photos & Information

The final step is to create your church’s directory. This directory should be completely digital; physical directories have a charm to them but are ultimately inconvenient when compared to digital directories.

There is dedicated software for creating church directories, but I recommend using church management software to create your directory instead. This integrates other aspects of your church like event sign-up, volunteer scheduling, and online giving with your directory.

A great choice when it comes to church management software is Planning Center, specifically Church Center by Planning Center. Church Center is a free addition to any Planning Center subscription. It has a feature called Directory that allows churches to create a digital church directory. It also allows churches to upload photos for each person or family and gives church members the ability to choose which information is publicly available.

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

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