FAQ : Churches + Dark Ceremony Photos


Yesterday on the j* Facebook page, I was asked by Amy McFarland how I dealt with dark ceremonies and/or churches. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I don’t face that particular issue as–perhaps–other photographers around the United States. I’m lucky enough to live in a state where outdoor weddings are preferred, and I believe it plays to my strengths. Thankfully. Like most photographers, I prefer outdoor weddings, but I embrace the fact that it isn’t always the case. Happily.

I get asked a variation of Amy’s question quite often, so I decided to blog a few ceremony photos in dark locations and post my settings for today’s FAQ Post. Yes, I had to dig a little through the archives, but I hope they’ll show what I do…and please note…I do NOT think I’m doing things the right way. Quite the contrary. I’m merely showing my way. There are a few of you who might think I’m crazy and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’d be the first to welcome you to the club!

Most churches don’t allow flash during the ceremony, so this is where prime lenses come in extra handy. Using a wide aperture offers a unparalleled luxury and I’m hooked…
f/1.2 1/25 85mm, 1.2 1600iso

f/1.4 1/125 50mm,1.4 1000iso

f/3.5 1/50, 1.4 50mm 1600iso

Most churches won’t allow photographers past a certain point during the ceremony, so here’s where the 70-200, 2.8 comes in to save the day and capture candid moments from a distance…
f/2.8 1/50 70-200mm, 2.8 1600iso

Now here’s a random bit of info: The first three pictures were shot in the same church as the following two pictures. The difference? I used the Canon 5DMII in the following shots and lah-lah-lahved the higher iso capabilities. So amazing!
f/2.8 1/40 70-200, 2.8 2500iso

f/2.8 1/40 70-200, 2.8 1600iso

f/2.8 1/40 70-200, 2.8 1250iso

f/2.8 1/40 70-200, 2.8 1250iso

As I’ve stated before, I’m not the biggest fan of flash. Don’t get me wrong…I use it…I embrace it…it’s a great additive to low-light situations. But in the same vein, I also think it takes away the natural setting of the photograph. When possible, I try to shoot both with flash, and without. In the following photo, I was able to get a few photos of the bride and her dad walking down the aisle illuminated with flash. Once I knew I had the safe shot, I turned off my flash, and changed my settings. I prefer this photo to any of the flash photos…hands down.
f/1.2 1/100 50mm, 1.2 1600iso

I love using candle light for illumination when possible. This church was dark. So, so dark. There’s no way I could’ve shot this photo at f/2.8 (I wanted both subjects in focus as much as possible) had it not been for the candle compensation…
f/2.8 1/40 85mm, 1.2 1600iso

f/2.8 1/80 85mm, 1.2 1600iso

Hope this helps and, if not, I’ll try again soon! 🙂

Happy Tuesday!