How to Create a Church Photo Directory

Step-by-step instructions on how you can make a local congregational photo directory like ours.


1) First, take the pictures
The easiest thing to do is take pictures before and after church, when people are all dressed up and happy. Let them know in advance.

If your congregation has a photo buff, that's great! He or she can bring in their lights and camera and background and get nice pictures for you.

If not, find someone with a tripod and a digital camera with at least two megapixels.

Ideally you would set up in a room with only a little light in it, since you want the background a little darker and the subjects a little lighter.

Tape a plain, darker-colored king-size bed sheet to the wall. If you have to iron it or let it hang out the wrinkles, do so. You just want a plain background that won't distract from what's important—people's faces.

Put a piece of tape on the floor six feet out from the wall. Make people stand on that tape when you take their picture. That will help them stay six feet from the background so it is fuzzy and not distracting. Your camera will focus on the people in the foreground so they are nice and sharp.

Set up a nice, bright floor lamp on a table. You want it a foot or so above people's heads, and off to the side, angling down and in at a 45-degree angle. Not so far off to the side that half their face is in deep shadow. You want to see that catchlight in both eyes. Move it around to get the best angle so it doesn't cast a shadow on the background.

Set up the camera on a tripod, maybe five or six feet away from the subject. If you have a zoom, fill the frame with their faces, capturing maybe down to the button in the middle of the shirt. Get in close if you don't have a zoom lens. The name of the game is fill the frame.





All it takes is a simple setup of a king-size bed sheet taped to a wall, a living room lamp set on table, and a digital camera on a tripod for sharpness.
Put a piece of tape on the floor six feet from the background and have your individuals or groups stand on the tape (keeps the background fuzzy and darker than your subject).  


2) Next, crop the pictures on your computer
The usual temptation is to not crop in tightly enough on your picture, as shown below on the left. Overcome temptation! CROP IN TIGHTLY! You can do it!

In your photo editing program, set your photo resolution to 250 dots per inch. Click here for a detailed seven-step regimen on exactly how to do this in Adobe Photoshop. 72 is fine for e-mailing pictures to people, but you want 250 for printing. If you're preparing a file for a copy shop with digital printing capability, set your color to CMYK, not RGB, and save it as a TIFF. They can help you with technical questions.

This is when you set your picture size also. If you're following the layout style shown below, make the pictures 2 inches tall and 2 3/8 inches wide. That will give you eight pictures to an 8 1/2 x 11-inch page, a handy take-along digest size when folded and stapled.


Most people "bulls eye" the subject and don't zoom in close enough on what's important—the face. But you can do it! For other great tips on improving your pictures surf to
Zoom in with your camera to fill the frame. That also helps make the background fuzzier. Note the catchlights in both eyes—you want those. The glare on the glasses isn't too bad. For some you might have to have them tip their glasses forward by lifting the bows off their ears slightly.


3) Finally, lay out your publication
We used a professional page-layout program for ours, but there are plenty of programs that come bundled with compters these days that will let you do layouts. Just follow their instructions and yours will turn out fine. Have somebody proofread everything, then take a printout to church and have everybody double check their own. After everybody has seen theirs, take it to the printer and print enough for one per family and a dozen extra for new members, lost copies and your church library.


In the front of our directory we list our elders, board members, location of services and a brief history of our congregation. This helps orient new members and preserves a sense of history for our group.
In the back we have our rapid calling chart so we can spread the word quickly for prayer requests, news or other needs. Each person knows where they are on the chart so if someone is unavailable the chain won't break down.


A nice size to print is digest-size, 8 1/2 x 11 inches folded in half and stapled in the middle. That gives you eight 2 x 2 1/4-inch photos with head sizes of a quarter. Also plenty of room for contact information and handwritten notes if people's addresses or e-mails change between printings.



Geek details: We used an $800 Macintosh eMac with 1GHz processor, 385 meg ram and 40 gig drive, running 10.3.2 Panther. Layout program is Adobe InDesign 2.0 (only $211 on eBay for a shrink-wrapped, new-in-box, unregistered copy! Normally $700). Photo program is Adobe Photoshop 5.0 (less than $100 on eBay, maybe as low as $25). Camera used was 4 megapixel Olympus E-10 ($400 on eBay), set on aperture priority at f2 to blur out background to the max. Set on maximum megapixels, just-below-maximum quality. Tripod kept the pictures sharp. We shot them in the hallway after services. Raw camera images about 700k each, sharpened and color-corrected TIFFs about 1.2 meg each. Printed digitally at Wolf's Color Graphics, Fort Wayne, Ind. Once you have this stuff you can easily do congregational newsletters too. Questions? E-mail me at