To make the most of what our churches have to offer we have to get inside them which can be trickier than you think. Larger churches and cathedrals may have photographic restrictions (a fee payable to use a tripod, no flash etc.) and certain opening hours but generally smaller, local churches are more willing to give you access any time of the day. Just phone in advance to let the vicar or whoever holds the key know that you'd like to take some photographs inside the church. In many smaller towns churches are left unlocked during the day.
In buildings of this size you might as well keep your flash in your bag as it will only add light to objects a few feet in front of you. Instead you need to get your sturdy tripod out, fasten your camera to it and use a long exposure.
As exposures can be several seconds long, the smallest of nudges can cause the camera to shake so try using a remote / cable release or the camera's self-timer option to reduce it. You could even use your Smart Phone to trigger the shutter if you have a camera which can be controlled remotely via Smart devices. When it comes to lenses, anything goes. Telephotos can be used to capture the details found on the roof, wide-angles for the wider architectural scenes and macro lenses for close up details of pews, columns and altars.
Photo by David Burleson
Before we discuss shooting suggestions do please remember churches, particularly smaller ones, are quiet places so try to make as little noise as possible as you move around. Be respectful of others around you who are there to pray etc. too.
If you're visiting a church that's popular with tourists do remember that others will want to take photos too so work quickly or plan your visit for first thing in the morning or nearer closing time when less visitors will be around.
Try shooting down the aisle to capture the lines of pews, altar and everything else people think of when you ask them to describe a church. Find a comfy pew or a part of the floor you can lie on (don't worry about the funny looks) and focus your lens on the roof which often has interesting patterns and features. Don't be afraid to get in close to objects either.
Reflections off windows, cases and even abstract shots of blurred lines of pews up close can create interesting images. Although if you're trying to capture images of objects protected by cases you won't want reflections or glare spoiling your shot. Try using an ND, polarising filter or cupping your hand around your lens to cut down on reflections and have a cloth handy to remove any fingerprints that have been left on the case.
The large stained glass windows found in most churches look great when lit up by sunlight and they also work well as zoom burst subjects, something we've covered previously on the site.
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