Over the last few years, the number of church weddings we’ve been photographing has steadily fallen- but during this time we’ve gained a wealth of experience concerning the various rules and restrictions which can sometimes be in place.
Around 32% of recorded marriages in the UK take place in church, so if you plan to be one of them, this blog post is for you! Unlike registry office or civil ceremonies, the rules surrounding photography at church ceremonies are not in any way uniform. The rules regarding photography will vary according to who is conducting your ceremony. It can therefore come as a bit of a surprise to some couples to learn that photography may not be permitted at all at any point during their ceremony.
This can be heartbreaking if having physical memories (photos/video) are of particular importance to you as a couple. If photographs of your ceremony are something you’ve set your heart on you need to find out early on exactly what the restrictions are and whether (if applicable) they are up for negotiation. To date, we’ve photographed church ceremonies with the following restrictions in place:
- No flash
- No movement
- Photography only permitted from pre agreed location
- Photography from the back only
- Only 1 photographer permitted
- Photography only permitted for the brides entrance and/or couples exit
- No photography at all
As you can see, it varies massively.
If your church has a booklet or otherwise details in writing exactly what it allowed, ask to see it (and if possible make or obtain a copy of it for your records.)
We always make a point of discussing with our couples what restrictions are in place, but in around 50% of cases, what the couple have been told and what we are subsequently told when we arrive on the wedding day are completely different. In the most extreme of cases we’ve had a couple who were told that there were no restrictions in place, yet when we arrived at the church, we were informed that photography was not permitted at all. With only moments to spare before the bride arrived we did our best to negotiate so that the couple would have some physical memories of the most important part of their day. In the end we were able to photograph from the back only, as long as we didn’t move- which wasn’t ideal, but better than nothing.
The point I’m making, is get whatever terms you have agreed in writing and preferably signed by both yourselves and whoever is conducting your ceremony, because by the time the day rolls around it’s too late. Photographers are bound by whatever restrictions are in place, so if we’re told no photography on the day, no matter what you have agreed previously, we can’t break church rules. It happens a lot, so please make sure you have this conversation early on. Once any terms are outlined, be sure that you agree with them. If you don’t, there is no harm in trying to negotiate a little.
Something that often comes up is that cameras are a “distraction” which, in this day and age, with silent shutters on most professional cameras I’m not sure I agree with, but there you are. The root of this is generally a prior experience with an unprofessional photographer. As long as you have booked a photographer who is a professional and isn’t using flash, or moving around all over the place then it should be fine. As previously mentioned using a silent shutter will mean you wont even hear the “clicking” that they may be worrying about. Aside from anything else, i’ve never known a ceremony where there wasn’t some kind of distraction- whether it’s a bawling baby, venue staff wandering around, late comers, or coughs/sneezes. There’s no avoiding it.
Other things worth finding out…
- Is the photographer allowed to take photographs at any point during the ceremony? If not, when are they permitted to take photos. i.e only key moments, not during prayers.
- Where is the photographer(s) permitted to stand? – Sometimes an official may allow photographs, but only from certain locations. It’s also worth asking if the location is up for discussion if it is unsuitable.
- If there is a complete or partial ban on photography during the ceremony itself, will you be allowed to re-enter the church after the ceremony to recreate any key moments, such as the ring exchange or kiss (if you wish to) In these circumstances, would flash be allowed?
- In the event that conditions are not suitable outside for photographs (bad weather, no grounds/space) will you be allowed to have family or group shots inside the church? If so, is there a restriction on the number or amount of time spent on this? Again, would flash be permitted under these circumstances?
- It’s also essential to find out if there is a time where you need to be off of church grounds. This will allow you to plan whether you have any time after the ceremony for photos and if so, how long.
It’s quite rare for there to be a complete ban on photography, but do bear this in mind when booking and be prepared to have no “real” photos of the actual ceremony. Imagine a worst case scenario prior to getting clarification and hopefully you’ll be surprised. If after a chat there really is no chance of photography being allowed, do not pressure your photographer into taking (or attempting to take) photos anyway. It’s their job and career on the line and will just reinforce for whoever is conducting the ceremony just how disrespectful they believe photographers to be. The best thing you can do is to state the facts and hope for the best.
Reassure them that:
- You are using a professional wedding photographer who has a great deal of experience shooting church ceremonies. They are therefore respectful and mindful of remaining discreet.
- Your photographer has a range of professional equipment which will allow them to be almost invisible. With specialist lenses ideal for shooting in low light, no flashes will be required.
- Your photographer will have a range of zoom and/or prime lenses which should also mean movement isn’t necessary.
- You have studied your photographers work and discussed with them at length their approach and are confident that they will not interrupt proceedings- it’s not their style.
- It’s unfair to hold your photographer accountable for the actions of others as this will hinder your own photographs and memories as a result.
If it’s still a no and photos really are important to you, talk it through and try to negotiate re-entry to the church post ceremony so you can “re-live” some of the key moments. Don’t be dis-heartened, your photographer should still be able to capture some beautiful shots of yourselves our your guests leaving the church after the ceremony.
Making sure you hire a professional
Now, as much as it may seem like a bias point of view, if you’re marrying in church and would like photos you’ll be able to cherish for a lifetime it really is essential that you hire a professional. Churches tend to be quite dark and lacking in natural light, which can make capturing great images a little tricky. In order to capture the best possible images in the absence of a flash, your photographer will need suitable kit, which sadly is unlikely to be in the possession of a family friend/student/budget photographer (as they’re stupidly expensive!) Suitable cameras and lenses for such situations run into thousands of pounds (1 camera and lens alone can easily top £4,000) but are a staple that all professionals should have. If your church is particularly dark and your photographer does not have this kit, you can expect very dark, noisy/grainy images and possibly camera shake or blurring especially during all the important moments, such as the ring exchange and kiss as they all involve movement.
As always you can see more of our work on our website: www.samandlouise.co.uk And our thanks to the Office for National Statistics, for providing the data mentioned in our introduction: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/