No flash in a the church? Tips?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by natalie_l, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. Hi everyone,

    I'm shooting my first baptism in a low light/no flash church (little ambient light). I've never done this before (restricted flash) and would love a few recommendations to ensure this is a successful shoot. I've been practicing in my studio with low light situations, but obviously the ceiling height will be dramatically different and hard to duplicate while I practice.

    I have a canon 5d mii, 50d as backup, with a canon 24-70 and canon 70-200 f/2.4, a canon 50mm, a tripod. Should I invest in a monopod? I'd also like to upgrade my tripod with a ballhead (bogen/manfrotto?).

    I would prefer not to raise my iso above 800/1600. What is your experience with ISO and managing low light situations? I'm generally a big flash user.

    Any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This shoot would be at 3pm on Sunday in New York. Also, this shoot is for a friend and there is no stressfully high expectation placed upon me. However this shoot will enable me to practice in exchange for prints.
    Thanks in advance,
  2. I would take a monopod for backup. I am comfortable with the iso on the 5D2 being at 3200 in this case.
    Use the 50 mostly if needed but the 24-70 would likely be enough.
    I use the 322 pistol grip head from Bogen with Arca-Swiss QR and Markins custom plates.
    Best of luck.
  3. Two things I would do in the OP's shoes:
    1) Take a handheld meter to that church before the job and find out how much light there is at the church at the exact spot and time. Also a sense for the space you'll be shooting in. Assuming your 50 is at least an f/1.8, that should do it.
    2) I'd buy/beg/borrow/rent/steal a 35/2.0.
    and do take the monopod.
  4. Shot a baptism in a church the other day; metered 1/40 sec. at ISO800, f/2.8, wasn't so bad. I would visit the church beforehand to find out what settings you'll need. Fast primes are advisable.
  5. If you are being restricted with flash, I would suspect you will also be restricted as to where you can go, which will impact how you work and with what lenses. I would ask. The problem as I see it is that baptisms typically have a bit more action than wedding ceremonies, and there are two concerns.
    First, you don't have wide aperture primes except for the 50mm. And secondly, even if you are able to use 1/60th shutter (the slowest with pretty sure motion stopping), no flash, it may not be fast enough to stop some of the action. Particularly since you don't want to go above 1600. I have the original 5D, and I like to stay at 1600 or slower myself, but as David says, the 5D II is supposed to be pretty good through 3200. As usual, don't underexpose--even overexpose slightly--and control highlights later in post, to keep noise down (perhaps get some noise reduction software). You may want to take a reading in the church to get an idea of what you will do. You could rent a couple more wide aperture primes as well, particularly if you have to keep to one spot.
    As for the action, try to shoot at the pauses between action, although certain ones, like when the priest is dropping water on the baby, or dipping in the basin, will have to have some slight motion blur unless you can get those shutter speeds up. If you are that concerned, ask if you can do a few re-creations of the highlights later. I have found a pretty large range in baptisms, as to size, formality, use of flash, etc. One thing to watch for (and going to the rehearsal or talking to the priest may be in order) is that your viewpoint isn't blocked by people. At one baptism, the priest invited people up to gather round the basin, so there went my viewpoint.
    I also would stick with the tripod, particularly if you are restricted in movement. Learning to use a monopod successfully takes some practice. The most popular ballhead is the Bogen/Manfrotto Action head, with the pistol grip. I would have gotten that if I didn't also have medium format gear that I wanted to use on my tripod--I needed a heavier ballhead.
  6. Thank you David - 3200 is unexpected, but again I've only had my 5d the last month. I will look at the bogen, thank you again.
  7. Thank you ALL for your feedback. I have a 50mm f/1.4, but I may need to invest in the 35mm in the near future. If I rent one, should i get the 35mm over the 85mm?
  8. Both, unless you know you'll be restricted to a spot, then more teles than wide, usually.
  9. Natalie - if you can afford a 5D Mark 2, you should already have a good tripod, not the other way around!
    pick up the 35mm/1.4 and 85mm 1.8 or 1.2. the 35m/50/85 should be just fine, especially considering you can put the 85 on the 50D and you have a 135mm 1.2. perfect trio of lenses for this sort of thing.
  10. Raise your ISO ... if you miss "the moment" then you've missed the moment. If "the moment" has a bit of noise that only we technically minded sorts can see then so what: if the family sees the image file as "the moment" and they smile then it's a Good Thing.
    Capture the moment and let the technical stuff go for this event.
  11. Nadine's point is a good one. You will likely be told where to stand and where NOT to stand.
    The high ISO on the mk2 is only part of the equation. In my usage, I am far happier with the AF on the D3 or Ds3 for low light shooting. Large aperture lenses will improve your AF on the Mk2, but you'll have to use center focus pt. Forget about the tripod update for this shoot. Even with a liberal policy about where you can stand, you won't be able to set up a tripod (I'm bettin'). Also, even though you can't use flash, don't underestimate the assistance of the focus assist on a non-firing flash or wireless transmitter. Either will lock your focus much more quickly than body alone. And when you're shooting 'soft' apertures (regardless of lens used), your focus must be perfect.
  12. A fast prime like a 50 or an 80mm can be very useful. Image stabilization may not be as useful if you're photographing people moving as you would see the motion blur.
  13. You have a Canon 5D MkII and you don't want to go above 800/1600 ISO? Why?
  14. Thanks again for your responses today. In the past, I would refrain from going above 800/1600. I've had the 5d mkII for 3/4 weeks and have yet to see the higher ISO in action. I thought experimenting in a church would not be ideal, however, the majority of recommendations support iso's up to 3200. I feel a bit more comfortable now.
    Conrad - I just picked up the 5d mkII, my prior work was mostly studio portriats, etc... but I plan to pick up the tripod this week along with another prime. The recent upgrades have certainly stretched me a bit but I try to pick up and upgrade equipment when I can manage it. Thanks everyone!!!
  15. Nadine, flash restriction is not the same as being told where to stand. If it's a relative, they will probably let her go just about anywhere she wants to go... it is a church after all. Most churches do not allow cameras for two reasons... sound and the flash. Basically, they don't want distractions during service. Events like weddings and baptisms are considered different and many churches allow flashless photography. Why so uptight about flash? Because uphostry and carpets, wallhangings, and artwork in the church interior can be badly damaged by excessive light. In fact, many churches are adding protective plexiglass in front of the stained glass windows with UV blocking coatings to protect fabrics and paints in the interior. If your church recently took down ugly faded yellow plexiglass and had new bluish plexi put up it's likely that's what it is.... the new stuff also won't turn yellow with age.
    In terms of shooting in a church... the last time I shot in a church for a friend's wedding it was 400 speed film, f/1.8 lens and I was still averaging a 1/15th exposure... so be prepared for using high ISO's and using a tripod. People don't move tooo fast at church, but kids usually require around 1/125th to get crisp captures.
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Prepare to use the 50mm on the 5DMkII and have a fast 24mm or 28mm Prime ready, the 50mm might be too long. This serves as a redundancy kit on the 50D. I would likely shoot HH, but would carry a monopod, not a tripod. Personally I would have a fast 85mm, too.

    I do not understand how the difference in ceiling heights between the Church and your Studio affects or limits your practicing of low ambient light shooting techniques.

  17. Patrick--I realize being told not to use flash isn't the same as being restricted on where to stand. In my experience (I've shot maybe 5 or 6 baptisms), each baptism I've photographed was different re flash use and where I could stand. Some had lots of restrictions, some didn't. Some were bigger, with lots of people (more like a wedding ceremony) and some were just the immediate family. Some were for babies, some for older kids. Some dropped water droplets on the kid, some dunked the whole body in a basin.
    Most of the time, though, no flash is often combined with movement restrictions, both for baptisms and weddings. Not always, but many times. That's all I was saying. One cannot assume anything--at least, in my area.
  18. Sorry--I double posted, and don't know how to erase one... Anyway, the important thing is to find out beforehand, so you aren't caught short on lenses and methods.
  19. I recently attended a baptism as a guest in a church where the pastor has a rigid "no-flash" rule. The photographer took pre-ceremony shots without flash. But once the video guy started recording (in available light), the still phtographer switched the flash on and blasted away. You could see the clergyman was on the verge of a stroke, but he couldn't say anything while the video was rolling. Afterwards, the photographer apologised that he "forgot" in the heat of the moment. He got wonderful shots but is probably consigned to the fires of hell by the pastor. No flash in a church nowadays is just ridiculous.
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I too have a personal opinion on "No Flash Rules".

    I also have an opinion on Best Business Practice.

    When the Client is paying me to work in the venue of their choosing, the latter outweighs the former, every time.

    I always advise to: find out the rules from the rule maker; perhaps negotiate the rules; and then follow the rules – no exceptions.

  21. Natalie, the fact is that when you shoot weddings, you have to be prepared for almost anything.
    A religious institution may provide you with it's rules before hand, only to have them changed on the wedding day because the officiant is more lenient, or more strict. In the end, he/she sets the rules, and you should follow them to the letter.
    I do not agree that if they restrict flash you will be restricted to a certain spot or distance. My experience shooting around the country is that "in general" no flash after the procession, no approaching the "sanctuary" area, no excessive or interruptive movements.
    One thing you can count on, IF they DO restrict you to one place it is almost always at the back of the church ... which argues for inclusion of a longer lens ... and by extension a tripod.
    IMO, the basic all around kit for "church work" is: one wide to medium f/2.8 zoom (24-70/2.8 ... or equivalent for a DX camera); one fast normal (50/1.4 or 35/1.4 on a DX) camera); and a longer prime or zoom (135/2 or 70-200/2.8 IS/VR); a tripod and cable release, and a monopod.
  22. The clients picked the venue, they have to live with the restrictions, period. I'd follow the officiant's rules, even if they are senseless. If the clients complain, let them talk it out with the minister.
  23. OK--I don't know why some seem to be gravitating to my statement about the possibility of being told where to stand in combination with flash restrictions. I said it often happens in combination, but not all the time--at least in my neck of the woods. I didn't say it was the same thing. What is the misunderstanding?
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I understood the original question to be specifically about a Baptism. I have covered about 30 or 40. That experience brought my particular comment about being prepared to use Normal to Short-Telephoto, Fast Prime lenses.

    It is important to realize that different Cultures and Religions (and perhaps Regions) have different protocols, procedures, and emphases on Particular Ceremonies and I think I might have catered for an area, more used to the Baptism, being covered by a Professional Photographer.

    My experience is the Baptism Service is quite short (duration), intimate and at close quarters: the Official Party and Photographer moving to the Font for the Service, even if the Baptism has been an attachment to, (i.e. after), or in the middle of the Regular Form of Church Service (usually a Morning Service). This has been a very similar Protocol in all the Christian Religions - various Anglican, Roman Catholic and various Orthodox, when I have been the Photographer.

    Though this has been my experience, and my experience has been reasonably universal within different Churches, obviously the Baptism referred to in this thread, might be completely different.

    Two issues pertaining to every job, are, IMO very important for the Professional Photographer:

    1. Reconnoitre;

    2. Personal Introduction to the Priest, Minister, Pastor . . . (i.e. The Rule Maker).

    It is my opinion that fewer and fewer Professional Photographers practice this etiquette.

  25. Sorry Nadine, it wasn't my intention to aggrivate you. What may be common in your neck of the woods may not be in others. I've had maybe half a dozen weddings where I was restricted to the rear of the church, a vast majority are not ... However, a vast majority (like 95%) do restrict flash after the processionals when shooting in a church ... at least in my neck of the woods.
    In the end you have to be prepared for anything.
  26. Thanks, Marc, but I'm not aggravated. Just scratching my head. I agree that one should be preapred for anything.
  27. I just shot my first baptism today and this thread was very helpful. All I own are primes and I had thought about renting a 24-70/2.8 zoom. But, in the end, all I needed was my 35/2. The speed gave me great shots and the size made me less conspicuous than if I had a big zoon poking in the goings-on. Before shooting I asked the Priest if I could go in certain areas and I think he appreciated my concern.
  28. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What (format) camera, Mike?
    The 35F/2 is really handy IMO: it is small, (short) as you mentioned, which is really handy sometimes.
  29. I was using a Nikon D700. Was shooting up to ISO 2000 in the church with nice results.
  30. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I was especially curious about your experience, because of my experiences (which I outlined above): Baptism's here, are usually in tight quarters, a fast wider Prime has been my friend, more often than not.

Share This Page