How to Photograph a Church Wedding: Part One - Catholics, Protestants, & Mormons
Weddings are more than just a celebration of love and commitment between two people, for many couples they are a significant religious event in their lives.
As a wedding photographer, it’s important to understand your clients’ customs, traditions, and expectations in order to capture those meaningful moments that make the day so significant for them. Whether it's the Catholic couple's exchange of vows during mass, the Jewish couple's breaking of the glass, or the Muslim couple's signing of the nikah, each religious ceremony is unique and deserves to be captured with sensitivity and respect.
In this article, we will guide you through the customs and traditions of different religious weddings, so you can create beautiful and meaningful images that truly capture the essence of the couple's special day.
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How to Photograph a Catholic Wedding
Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the US making up ⅕ of the population. You will likely be asked to film a catholic wedding at some point in your photography career, so it’s important to know what to expect beforehand.
Catholic wedding ceremonies are typically held at the local parish church or cathedral where the couple attends. The ceremony will typically be overseen and officiated by the local priest.
Catholic wedding ceremonies typically last about an hour. After the ceremony, the couple will often have a reception at a different venue or property.
Here are some of the most important tips for capturing a catholic wedding:
Practice your low-light skills. Flash and artificial lighting are rarely allowed in catholic churches and how much light you have for the wedding completely depends on the building you’re in and the sunlight that day. Make sure to ask beforehand though since some parishes are not as strict and do allow flash.
Arrive early to get your camera settings right and take detailed shots.
Silence the sounds your camera makes. Some cameras have beeps or other sounds to let you know they’re ready. If you can it’s a good idea to silence these in your settings. This doesn’t include your shutter. If you decide to silence your shutter remember that can affect how your photos turn out.
During the beginning processional, ask everyone to wait for the people in front of them to walk down the aisle past you so that you can get a picture of everyone. If they all walk at once you’ll miss some of the people behind the others.
Don’t enter the sanctuary. Catholic church buildings have many different parts, but the two most important for you as the photographer are the Nave and the Sanctuary. The Nave is the area of the church with the pews or chairs where everyone sits. The sanctuary is usually a slightly raised platform at the front of the church where the priest will officiate from. As the photographer, you will need to stay in the nave. It can be tempting to walk up the steps to get the couple’s faces during the ceremony but don’t.
Use a zoom lens. Once everyone enters and the priest starts the ceremony, you will not be allowed to come up to the front of the church anymore. You’ll need to stay on the edges and the back of the church so using a zoom lens is a good idea.
Use the talking and singing parts to get pictures of the people attending. During the rituals focus the pictures on the couple.
Once the ceremony is over the couple will usually kiss and then walk out. Be prepared at the end of the ceremony to be at the back of the aisle so that you can get them kissing and then walking down the aisle together.
How to Photograph a Protestant Wedding
Protestant weddings vary as much as protestant denominations do, but you can typically expect a wedding that is pretty similar to a lot of secular weddings. The biggest difference will be the language and words said during the ceremony.
The ceremony may or may not take place in a church, but the wedding officiant will typically be a member of the clergy, like their pastor.
Here are a few tips for photographing a protestant wedding:
Ask the church officials before the wedding if flash photography is allowed. If they say no, arrive early to prepare for any low light concerns.
Stand near the front of the church at the beginning to capture the procession walking down the aisle.
If you’re a videographer make sure to mic the couple before the ceremony so that you can record their vows.
Ask about any traditions that the couple wants to be captured. For example, many couples light a candle symbolically as part of their ceremony.
The couple will kiss at the end of the wedding ceremony. If possible ask the priest beforehand if they could step to the side so you get a good shot of them kissing without someone directly behind them.
How to Photograph a Mormon Wedding
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints get married in temples. There are a lot of different temples around the world, but they are typically white or stone colored, have a gold-colored angel on top, and are surrounded by some gardens.
The actual wedding ceremony for latter-day saints is called a sealing ceremony. These take place inside the temple and are only attended by members of the church that have already progressed in the religion and are considered worthy by their local bishop. Photography is not allowed inside the temples for the ceremony. This means as the photographer or videographer, you will not be expected to photograph the ceremony, even if you are a member of the church.
The ceremony is typically followed by taking photos in front of the temple and on the temple grounds. After the ceremony, the couple will usually have a reception at a different location that will have more typical wedding activities (cake cutting, dancing, bouquet toss, etc.) except for the booze.
Here are the most important tips for photographing a latter-day saint wedding:
Arrive before the sealing ceremony is over. These ceremonies typically only take about 30 minutes unless the temple is very busy.
Ask the bride to assign a family member or friend to greet you and let you know when and where they will be coming out. The Bride and Groom will exit the temple last during the ceremony, so you likely won’t see them before you need to start taking photos.
Take photos of the exit. These will be like pictures you’d take at the doors of a catholic or protestant church wedding. Have the couple kiss with the family standing on the sides.
Take photos of the family and friends starting with the largest groups and the youngest kids. After those most people will leave to go to the reception location.
Take about 30 minutes to 45 minutes with just the bride and groom taking pictures in different spots around the grounds.
Make sure to get at least a couple of shots where you can see the whole temple in the background. The temples are an important symbol of family, eternity, and faith to latter-day saints and the couple will want a few pictures with the building visible.
Thank you for reading our post! We hope it was informative and prepares you to capture these important religious events for your clients. We will be continuing this series in the future to cover other religious traditions.
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