7 Quick Takes (vol. 14)
When I first wanted to get into church photography, I scoured the internet for some guide. I was a pretty new Catholic, and I hesitated to start going into these churches and taking pictures without knowing if what I did was, well, OK. I never did find something I was happy with (mostly a lot of wedding photographers), but below are some of the guidelines I use when visiting places. Without further ado, 7 Quick Takes this week is 7 Etiquette Tips for Photography in Religious Buildings.
1 – No Flash Inside
Many popular sites may note this somewhere inside of their building, but flash photography indoors is never a good idea at these places. Essentially, a flash from your camera is like a slower version of sun damage to artwork. One flash won’t do much, but if everyone is doing it, it will take its toll. Plus, that camera flash can be annoying to others, and it is very noticeable in the confines of an empty building.
2 – Call Ahead for Appropriate Visiting Times
Of course you want to make sure that the church is open when you visit, but there are many considerations beyond that, such as weddings. Some buildings have calendars online to check. But if you call ahead, you may be able to also figure out when you will be disturbing the fewest number of people.
3 – Ask for a Brief Tour
If the church has a rich history, or if it’s part of a denomination or religion you aren’t familiar with, asking for a tour can help you to better understand the significance of each part of the building, as well as what is and isn’t appropriate regarding photography. Most of those on staff are only too happy to oblige. Plus, it can be less awkward if you take pictures while with a guide.
4 – Dress Appropriately
If you’re only visiting or are a tourist, it can be tempting to just dress however you please. But even the Vatican has a dress code now. If you’re unfamiliar with the group you’re visiting, call ahead or email to ask. Most sites are pretty forgiving to visitors, but they’ll be very appreciative if you make the effort.
5 – Leave the Equipment at Home
I love my tripod. And if you heed my advice in quick take 1 about turning your flash off, you’ll need it! Taking a photo without flash almost always means the camera will have to open its shutter for longer, resulting in blurrier photos. But lugging all that stuff around inside a religious building isn’t very appropriate. If you really need a tripod, I recommend investing in a GorillaPod or a Modopocket. Additionally, if you’re familiar with your camera’s controls, bump up the ISO as much as you can first, and then open up your aperture if necessary.
6 – Donate
Popular destinations will likely have some sort of donation box for the upkeep of their frequently traveled grounds. It doesn’t need to be a large donation – most churches I’ve been to ask for a dollar. Other churches will instead ask for a donation in return for a larger pamphlet or guide to the artwork and layout of their building.
7 – Be Respectful
The most important point is to be respectful. All of the above points will help you achieve that, but if your photography is bothering someone who is praying, maybe go somewhere else for a bit (or grab a bite to eat) and circle back later. As much fun as photography can be, it shouldn’t supersede those who are there to worship or pray.
Do you have any additional rules to share? Or perhaps something that annoys you when others are photographing your religious home?