Church / No photographers allowed

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by luis_modesti, May 1, 2016.

  1. I've been hired to photograph a First Communion event, and the Church does not allow photographers. What to do ? I am up for the challenge and the risk. However, I'd like to hear opinions on what you do in this situation, tips and/or recommendations. If you live in South Florida, I am talking about St. Gregory Catholic Church in Plantation, Broward County.
    My fastest lens is the Canon 70-200 IS .F/2.8 which is a great lens , but I already went to the Church and metered the light , seems consistent at ISO 1600 I get F/2.8 1/60 sec. , I could rent the Canon 80mm F/1.2 which will take a $90 chunk. but I also have the problem of not photographers allowed to contend with.
    Moderator Note:
    This thread moved to Wedding and Social Events Forum from Casual Photo Conversations Forum
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    It's been a while, but my recollection is that most First Communion shots were before, after outside the Church, and at the party if any. I would not shoot in a Church if they forbid it. Others are likely up to date on the issue.
  3. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    A photo of the child receiving the host would be far more desirable than photos of the child standing around with parents before and after. During a religious ceremony one wouldn't want parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents elbowing each other aside while popping off camera flashes. Talk to the pastor to see if there could be some sort of arrangement made for a professional photographer, even a pre or post re-enactment.
  4. Hi Sandy, thank you. The thing here is that the customer has seen my previous work inside a church and that is what she fell in love with and the main reason to hire me. There are in fact pictures outside family and a separate portrait session. However, she wants a record of the event inside the church as from my perspective as well as everything else already mentioned.
  5. I would respect the wishes of the church and not take a picture. In this case, I would just think of the actual event as more important than a picture of it. I think photographers (and snap shooters) forget that sometimes NOT taking a picture is as important as taking one. Usually, we get to decide that for ourselves. Sometimes, it's decided for us, which is as it should be. The church has every right, legally and morally, to ask this of people who participate in functions held on their property. Photos don't and shouldn't always take precedence.
  6. I agree with James with regard to talking to the priest. Also, talk to the client. Why were you hired if photography is not allowed? If the client didn't know this, then I would say that now is the time to make them aware of the fact.
  7. Lujis, perhaps the church has a room or a viewing area in the back of the sanctuary, or a balcony, from which you can shoot without compromising the spirituality of the event.
  8. I've shot a few thousand pictures at our church. The rules have changed over the years. The rule used to be that photography was forbidden during church services except for the annual Christmas Pageant. For that event, a designated photographer would shoot pictures without flash and provide opportunities for parents to obtain prints. At events such as baptisms, weddings, and ordinations, the only photography was before or after the service. In recent years, the ban on photography of sacraments has been lifted (in our church). Any photo that might have outreach (PR) value was allowed. There is still a limit on who photographs events. It is usually limited to a single photographer who has some experience and can shoot without flash.
    I suggest talking to the clergy in charge. Explain to them that you can be unobtrusive. Come to an agreement and abide by it. Do not try to sneak pictures in situations where they are not allowed. You might get away with it, but it is equally likely that the service will be halted until you leave the premises.
  9. You might get away with it​

    Not sure what "get away with it" would mean in this situation. Sneaking pictures when specifically requested not to in a house of worship? Sure, maybe fellow parishioners won't notice but, in terms of what the church itself stands for, you'll be answering to a higher power, and if you don't believe in higher powers, you'll still be answering to yourself and your own ethics, something we often forget when we emphasize getting caught.
  10. Would it be sacrilege to suggest the parents find another church where photography is permitted?
  11. AJG


    Talk to the priest and see if there could be a compromise--if not, then don't take those pictures. If you need to get their cooperation again for another event such as a wedding, you'll be glad you did.
  12. While the professional follows the rules, there will be dozens of parents shooting extremely wide angled (useless) photos with flash on their cell phones.

    Oh well.

    By the way, you may want to post this question in, or have the moderators move it to, the wedding photography forum. A search of that forum may also turn up a lot of info.
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Church does not allow photographers. What to do?​
    As already mentioned, talking directly with the Priest is the first step; then reporting to the Client the outcome of that meeting is the next step: the Client might not have been aware of the Church’s rules.
    In that conversation with the Priest it needs to be established what precisely are the rules: “Church does not allow photographers” is vague and allows many interpretations.
    I have found that some Churches simply have “blanket rules” to cope with the advent (pun intended) of the barrage of flashes from the Congregation which disrupts the Service.
    These “rules” are often recited by a Church Warden, Assistant Clergy or Lay Representative – talking directly to the “Boss” and (most importantly) convincing the “Boss” that one is both experienced and professional often makes a great in road to you getting one or two good shots of the Subject under Available Light, during the Service.
    For examples, these are the four most likely circumstances of the “rules”, listed (in my experience from most common to least common):
    - it might be that the Church does not allow FLASH Photography during the Service
    - it might be that the Church does not allow PHOTOGRAPHY during the Service
    - it might be that the Church does not allow PHOTOGRAPHY inside the Church
    - it might be that the Church does not allow PHOTOGRAPHY inside Church grounds (Photographer on Church Property)
    IF the first case, then when negotiating with the Priest you could explain your professionalism and experience and state there would be no disruption to the Service using Professional Gear and not using Flash to make three or four images during the Service from a predetermined position from which you would not move until the Service was complete and show examples from previous Weddings you have photographed (especially those in Roman Catholic Churches).
    If the second is the case, then you might like to invite the Priest, at the request of the Clients, immediately after the Service and before the Priest de-robes, for Portrait of the Communicant and Priest at the Altar Rails and them one with the Communicant’s Family and the Priest.
    If the third is the case then you might consider shooting from outside the Church doors with a fast telephoto lens.
    If the forth is the case, (though highly unlikely in my experience, only encountered once and not a mainstream religion), then the Portraiture can be done at the home of the family and the family might consider inviting the Priest for that Portrait Session.
    I am up for the challenge and the risk.​
    If by “risk” - you mean - “breaking the rules”. I advise that you do not do that. You run the risk of being called out and being instructed to leave the Church’s premises. In the worst case the Priest could also admonish the Family (your Clients), then it is very likely you would have very unhappy Clients, even if they previously thought it was a good idea for you to break the rules.

    My fastest lens is the Canon 70-200 IS .F/2.8 which is a great lens , but I already went to the Church and metered the light, seems consistent at ISO 1600 I get F/2.8 1/60 sec. ,​
    A little meaningless without knowing what cameras you are using?
    At that EV I’d typically be looking to bump to ISO3200 or 6400 if using the 70 to 200 to maintain a faster Tv.
    I could rent the Canon 80mm F/1.2 which will take a $90 chunk.​
    If you want ONE extra stop of Lens Speed, then the 85/1.8 would be a very wise consideration – used at F/2 it can produce excellent results.

    If you want ONE extra stop of Lens Speed and more reach, then the 135/2 can produce more than excellent results when used at F/2
    F1.2 for Portraiture on the hop during a Church Service:
    Generally I would bump the ISO one stop and use F/2 as my preference, rather than use a lens at F/1.2 for Portraiture during a Church Service.
    For a full length shot 135 Format Camera in Portrait Orientation, you get about double the DoF using F/2, rather than F/1.2 and this can be very important.
    At F/2 the DoF accommodates nicley the “depth” of an Adult in Half Profile - about 16 inches - which I find is very good for many compositions.
    But at F/1.2, the DoF is about 9 inches which can be problematic, especially for Portraiture of Women/Girls when: the hair; headdress; dress; jewellery, etc., are often an important factor in the image.
  14. I find that itis interesting that way back in "ancient" times, this was the problem with photography in the court room.
    This was solved when the judges sait that it would be allowed if the camera made no more noise than what a Leica made.
    If you can shut down the "noise" function that is built into the cameras that make it sound "good," then you could have a valid talking point.
  15. I remember years ago having a similar assignment (this was many years ago). What we did was stage the event for a photograph (in the studio) rather than in the sanctuary.
  16. Thank you all, all great recommendations and advise. By taking the challenge and the risk , I do not want to imply in any way that I intend to break the rules. This would only if not immediate, eventually backfire on me. Besides I couldn't feel good about myself. I just want to take the challenge to still make the customer happy without breaking the church rules or disrupt the ceremony. The only other option would be to turn down the job. If things don't turn out right, I rather refund the customer.

    What I am taking away from this conversation:
    1- will advise the customer of the situation and possibilities so they are aware in advance.
    2- will attempt to talk to the priest in advance for any prior arrangements. or select a permanetn location and hope for the best.
    3- I will rent the 135 F2 instead of the 85 F1.2 . this was a tough decision since two stops is really want I needed . I use the Canon 5D Mark II . which I never take above ISO 1600 . that is my limit but I rather have reach @135 should I have to stand far away.
  17. One other thing you may want to be aware of before discussions with either clergy or the client is the difference between a professional photog at a wedding and at other sacramental events, like baptism, confirmation, and First Eucharist.
    Weddings and funerals are essentially private events. Both are sacramental and involve the Mass, but they are not part of the regular communal worship... as are the other sacraments mentioned. For that reason professional photogs are discouraged so the emphasis on the sacramental nature is maintained and the communal worship aspect is not impacted. Also, there is often an "equity" issue. No individual is special... they all are special at this time so a professional hired for one may cause grief a certain amount of grief. It is the socialist aspect of the Church. :)
    But the real truth was written earlier. First Eucharist is not a photo op. It is a sacred event and the emphasis and memory can never really be captured in a picture. And if that's what it is all about, I daresay that maybe some priorities are off.
    Truth be told, the event is not a very photographable event in most cases.
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I use the Canon 5D Mark II . which I never take above ISO 1600 . that is my limit​
    You might reconsider your limit.
    In my experience with my 5DMkII's it is usually always better to have a properly exposed image at ISO3200 than an underexposed one at ISO1600.
    Weddings and funerals are essentially private events.​
    Just on this for one moment and not to make an issue nor a long debate on this side issue: but it is my understanding that, in all Christian Religions, the “Rites of Holy Matrimony” (may be termed differently for different religions) and the Service specifically pertaining to those Rites, are just as much a “Public Service” (open to all and every parishioner and public), and are prescribed as such under the various Church’s Canons.
    Accordingly, the Service Proper of Marriage or Baptism is no more or less “private or public” than the Service of The Mass or The Communion, and etc..
    That is not to say that a Priest (this one for example) might have different rules for various Services – and I think that is more the point that is required to be addressed here: that the First Communion could be seen to be different or special by the Priest and/or the Church Community, and I concur with Brian on this aspect - knowing that is probably the position of the Priest would be beneficial to any discussion: because if you go to a conversation with an understanding of the other person's position and feelings on the matter it is more likely that they will see your position too.
  19. ... and not to prolong the side discussion... having some rather extensive background in understanding the Canon Law of the Roman Church (which isn't too different from other Churches, as you said), you are correct but not completely right. Canon Law does not directly drive the more practical decisions such as we are discussing. An analogy in civil law would be to say that we (American's at least) have a First Amendment right to free speech, so yelling "Fire" in a movie theater is okay because we have the right to say anything we want.
    The Canon you cite is very interesting, and steeped in a lot of Church history. But let's discuss that over a cup of tea some day. :) Forgive me for getting a bit carried away here... but I feel a kindred spirit in you!
    The "public vs private" discussion was much more simple and practical: "public" = regularly scheduled communal worship service and "private" = irregularly scheduled Rite that occurs on an as-needed basis, generally to confer a sacrament on an individual/couple. Weddings stand alone as the irregularly scheduled Rite that occurs on an as-needed basis where professional photography DURING THE RITE is generally acceptable.
    Other irregularly scheduled Rite that occurs on an as-needed basis, such as First Eucharist and Confirmation are generally celebrated during a regularly scheduled communal worship service. Also, a wedding or funeral is generally celebrated specifically for an individual, whereas Baptism, First Eucharist, Confirmation, and Holy Orders is generally celebrated for groups of people.
    It isn't always that way, of course, as individual clergy and certain cultural aspects can create deviation from the norm. As a Church insider I could tell you many tales that would make your hair curl about exceptions, deviations, and violations of Canon Law and other rubrics that happen in the real Church.
    But to the point of this thread: "Equity" or "perceived equity" amongst the individuals receiving the sacrament is the issue I raised as a potential concern of the clergy, not Canon Law aspects of public vs private worship. I can assure you that this, and the practicality of photographers (professional or Uncle Bob's) crawling the aisles of the church and elbowing for a good shooting position during a sacred rite is the issue that drives restrictions on photography in churches during rites and sacraments more than Canon Law.
  20. the practicality of photographers (professional or Uncle Bob's) crawling the aisles of the church and elbowing for a good shooting position during a sacred rite​
    This extreme behavior may not be the problem. It's possible that any photographing—no matter how professional, no matter how respectful, no matter how behaviorally less intrusive than what you describe—would be unwanted for a variety of valid and appropriate reasons. It may not have to be blamed on such specific and unattractive behavior. It may be about the taking of a photo itself. It may be worth considering that possibility and accepting it, even embracing it, rather than necessarily looking for extreme cases to make sense of it.
  21. Under such circumstances the priest may allow photography from the balcony, but when the actual sacrament is given, no pics, and no flash under any circumstances. It's doable.
    Do not do anything without permission.
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The Canon you cite is very interesting​
    Indeed it is. I'll leave my contribution to this side conversation at this point, I think it is a good balance of "Casual Conversation" (where the thread was originally posted) and staying on the main topic here. If I may have coffee rather than tea - I look forward to our discussion. It might go quite a while. We might require more than one cup.
    But to the point of this thread: "Equity" or "perceived equity" amongst the individuals receiving the sacrament is the issue I raised as a potential concern of the clergy,
    For clarity - your reason was obvious to me and good that you underscored it now - as I mentioned in my previous reply: "if you go to a conversation with an understanding of the other person's position and feelings on the matter it is more likely that they will see your position too."


    It may be about the taking of a photo itself.​

    That maybe that is the reason for the rule and that reason might just have to be accepted.
    Whatever is the reason for "rule", the Photographer has two choices = either to abide by the rule or to break it.
    As already established Luis does not intend to break the rule, so on that point it is worthwhile meeting with the Priest to find out what exactly is the rule, because it occurs to me that there is unsureness about the exact rule.
    And it also occurs to me it is very likely that the Clients are unaware of the exact nature of the rule and on that point it is a good idea to report to the Clients so there is no misunderstanding between the Client and Photographer later.

  23. Too bad. Rules are rules.

    The client chose this venue.

    Perhaps some in the past spoiled it for others like you.

    It should be a day for the bride and groom not just for some costumed person conducting hocus pocus.

    The universe is a pretty big place. Take a look:

    Too bad some institutions still are living in the past.
  24. I see it's first communion event.

    Same thoughts as above.
  25. What some of these church people don't understand is how important your job is, providing photographs that will produce beautiful
    memories when looked at that will last their entire lives. They should make it an important part of their agenda to provide the opportunity
    to photograph this event. How would these people like it if they wanted to watch a movie and all they got is a blank

    OK I'll get off my soapbox for now.
  26. At a recent first communion at our church, there was a sign at the door asking for no photography during the service.
    (Or it might have been confirmation. I suspect confirmation is a more solemn ceremony.)
    The church had hired a photographer to photograph each first communicant. After, families could take all the group or individual pictures they wanted.
    If you talk to the priest, they may either already have one, or be ready to hire you for it.
  27. These are two instances from my own experience doing weddings in the past where the photographer was
    placed between a rock and a hard place as the clients wishes about photography differed from the officiant. I
    did quite a few weddings at an oceanside inn where I took pictures of during outdoor ceremonies. One
    protestant minister forbade photography during the ceremony. The bride was adamant in wanting those
    pictures. She was one of those very nice clients that one would like to please if at all possible. The Minister
    was quite rude and hostile to both of us about this issue. I crawled into a bush some distance away from the
    actual ceremony where I could not be seen with a 70-200 2.8L and took quite a few pictures. Some of the
    departing guests were surprised to see me crawling out of the bush in my suit and tie.
    The bride was highly pleased with the results and we maintained contact for quite a while after the wedding.
    The second was in a Catholic church where I got specific priest permission to take a couple of pictures
    during the ceremony. I took two and he angrily waved me away I think because I may have stepped in front
    of the first row of guests. Who do you please? In both cases the client really wanted the pictures. When I
    did weddings I was also working for a newspaper and my editor expected me to come back with pictures not
    excuses in much harsher situations where I did have to elbow my way into position at times. In other
    weddings I was allowed to shoot during the ceremony without issue. I would otherwise abide with the
    decision of the oficiant and did a few weddings ex post facto after the ceremony.
  28. Work with the client and the officiating clergy. Everybody has a camera these days and not everybody has manners. And if every family hired a pro, there would be space as well as equity issues. I don't think the client is likely to have a lot of flexibility in choosing an alternative location. From the outside looking in, first communion in the Roman Catholic church is often a group event, perhaps school grade or at least a certain age group related event and going to another parish for that specific event is likely to be awkward and perhaps not any more likely to have a different clerical response.
    Aside from the individual and group shots on the steps, etc., it would seem to me the key moments are the actual communion and that would require shooting from the side or front - a location which is not usually open to non-participants. Certainly flash from there would be disruptive and repeated flash or movement would be really noticeable.
    Good luck, you may be trying to tread where others have trod before.
  29. If there are (say) 30 pupils taking part of the first communion, and if all of their families had a photographer there wouldn't be anything to see except children surrounded by photographers. The audience wouldn't see anything. Forbidding photography makes perfect sense. Sometimes at these events, photography is allowed from your seat, i.e. as long as you don't move from your position in the audience.

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