Updated July 2013.
If you're heading off on your summer holidays take some time to explore the churches and cathedrals that are in and around the area you're visiting as the interiors make great photographic subjects. Here are a few things to remember when you're heading out on your church photography day trip.
Telephoto lenses will get you closer to the detail/patterns on the roof.
Wide-angle lenses are useful when you're shooting architectural shots.
Pack a macro lens to capture close up details
Tripod – Some churches/cathedrals stop photographers using tripods or ask for a fee if they do allow them in.
Camera bag – Try not to take a bag that's too big, particularly if you're visiting a church that's popular with tourists as they can get busy, not leaving you much room to maneuver. Some churches will ask you to leave your bag with them if it's too large too.
Respect Your Surroundings
In churches, small ones particularly, it's usually quiet so try to make as little noise as possible by moving around quietly and turning all the beeps your camera makes off. You may also want to consider shooting quickly as there will be other people wanting to take photographs, even more so in popular tourist destinations. If you do want more time to shoot something specific try visiting when it's less busy such as first thing in the morning or closer to closing time.
If you want to photograph the people who are visiting the church you may want to consider shooting from the hip so they're not aware you're photographing them or use a longer lens so you can still crop in without actually disturbing them.
Switch Your Flash Off
Depending on the church, flash photography may or may not be allowed, however it can disturb others so it's often best to leave it in your bag. Make sure your camera's built-in flash is switched off too.
Churches lack light and as you may not be able to use a tripod you'll either have to find something else to support your camera or be good at standing still for long periods of time if you want to use longer shutter speeds. If you can't find a support try using a higher ISO and a wider aperture or take multiple exposures and combine them later in software such as Photoshop.
Look For Light
Many churches will have large windows so find one and work close to it. Rays that fall through the window can be used to guide the eye to a specific object while stained glass can make an interesting subject all on its own. For tips on shooting stained glass windows, take a look at our previous article: Stained Glass
What To Photograph Inside
Pews, the alter and other objects that shout 'church' are obvious subjects but you can also try shooting some macros or use the patterns and lines found in these structures to shoot something much more abstract. Ceilings can be full of detail so don't forget to look up and look out for objects you can use as frames. Arches are obvious choices but you'll find other items you can shoot through to form frames and guide the eye too. For example, lines of pews will force the eye to follow their straight path so try positioning a focus point at the end of them.
Some larger churches have items that are protected by glass cases and these cases can cause problems with reflections and glare. Using a ND or polarising filter or cupping your hand around your lens should keep these to a minimum and have a cloth handy too to remove any fingerprints that are on the case.
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