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Wet T-Shirts, Web Sites, and Church Baptisms

Some lessons to be learned in communicating with images on your Web site or in print:

  1. Just because something is meaningful to you does not mean an image of it will automatically mean the same thing to someone viewing it.
  2. You MUST either caption or put into context through a sidebar an explanation what is going on in your images.
  3. Be especially careful of an image that has a double meaning, e.g. if an image might mean something completely different in the secular culture than what it means in church. The example in this instance was a girl in a wet t-shirt coming out of a hot tub: one meaning in the church – a completely different meaning in the secular culture.
  4. No image has an innate meaning obvious to everyone. No image. You tell people what to see in an image or slide show of images.
  5. If you don’t tell people what to see, they will unconsciously make up their own meaning or story–and often the result may be a thousand wrong words.
  6. Though this is unfortunate in any communication, it is especially sad when we are illustrating one of the most important sacraments of the church. The images can have a powerful teaching component to them, but that is lost without words along with the image.

Mistakes like this really aren’t funny

Examples like this one are ultimately not really funny situations. We represent a holy God. I had a hard time writing about this because I didn’t want to be either outraged or flippant. Part of me wanted to either laugh or ask, “How could you not see the potential problem here?” but neither approach would be helpful. We all do the best we can and most often with the best of intentions.

But good intentions or not, we need to always pray that we see our communications through the eyes of those that do not know the context, including the visual vocabulary of those of us who go to church. Getting a second opinion of people outside the church is always a good idea; being open to comments and criticism is essential.

Final advice, some tips on the message communicated with images:

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