Britain falls in love. It’s official (@soonguy)

jessicaBritain has fallen in love. Only those of you outside UK need ask who is the object of our affection. Jessica Ennis, the heptathlon gold medal winner.

Before each Olympic games, UK (and doubtless other countries) chooses an individual who somehow embodies the team and the country. Their face becomes a tangible image that distills the essence of the story.

Jess was an inspired and ideal choice: the good-natured girl next door with grit and determination, a down-to-earth Yorkshire woman from a city (Sheffield) and county that don’t really do pretentious, or tolerate it. She’s been called an ‘un-diva’.

And did you see her on the podium? Her 5 foot 5 inch / 1.65m height is exactly the average for women who are not also athletes; the other medalists’ heads were level with hers despite standing so much lower!

Effective communication is always visual

“The soul never thinks without a picture,” said Aristotle.

In magazines and newspapers, the picture editor has a key role. She is always looking for the picture that sums up the story in a memorable way.

This is how our memories work – a picture, or series of images – is essential to anchor a wider story or abstract truth. Even good verbal storytellers are creating pictures in our heads.

To communicate online or offline, through website or blog, paper or speech, we need pictures. Research shows that images increase the readability of, and response to, a web-page. And usually, that picture should include people.

Choosing a photo for the homepage of a church website is vital. Many churches use a picture of… yes, you guessed it, the building. Church is people. Please, whatever else you do, use a photo of a person or three as your main image. This is the first of many steps to make a church site outsider-friendly.

Carefully chosen photos on PowerPoint will enhance the impact and recall of any sermon or talk.

Sharing conversation-starting moving images on Facebook and Twitter is a key way to share the good news with not-yet-followers. The image-based Pinterest is also an easy way to point to faith topics.

How to choose

Here’s a useful guide from Sandra Niehaus on choosing pictures to illustrate web-pages and articles:
Part 1 | Part 2.

Where can I get free photos?

Learn to quickly scan the thumbnails of free images here:

    • The vast majority of photos at Stock Exchange are available to use free in a non-profit context.
    • An advanced search on Flickr will find pictures that have been tagged as ‘Creative Commons’, ie. free to use, possibly with restrictions. And often, Flickr users will give permission for other photos to be used in a non-profit context if you ask nicely.
    • Advanced search on Google Images will also call up photos that have been tagged as Creative Commons.
    • Geograph offers Creative Commons photos of UK scenes. Similar sites are available for other countries.
    • Posed photos, film stills, and drawn illustrations of Bible scenes are available from Free Bible Images.

In the unlikely event that you cannot find what you need on sites like this, or use your own photos, it is usually cheap to buy small low-resolution stock photos from professional sites such as iStockphoto and Shutterstock.

Illustrating your blog post, website, printed leaflet or talk has never been so simple! Think pictures. Always.

PS, share Olympic conversation-starting video clips

YesHEIs, the video-sharing Christian resource, has a special Olympic section. Share Olympic stories on Facebook, Twitter, etc, from

Photo credit: LondonAnnie/Flickr | Creative Commons

About soonguy

Tony Whittaker is coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day | Team member, SOON Ministries, Derby UK. Contact him here.