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This last winter I had the great experience of going to Europe exclusively to visit and photograph the old Cathedrals and churches there. This trip was full of both adventure and serenity, and every day I had the opportunity to learn more about myself and my craft.
Photographing these old churches presents a very unique challenge, and it is neither a simple nor an easy challenge to master. What I did learn about this special area of photography though, equipped me for shooting in similar environments in the future.
By far this is the most important part about photographing within these churches was having an attitude of quiet respect. People literally come from all over the world to get a glimpse of this faith which has been in existence for over two thousand years. For many, these visits are part of personal journeys of deep meaning. Do whatever is necessary for you to maintain respect of that. Some ways to do this may be:
These great churches are infamously dark – almost to the point that you can try everything to get a good exposure, and the fact of the matter is, you probably can’t. A few settings to keep in mind:
Unless you have a pro-photograpers clearance, there is little chance the church curators will be pleased with you if you take several minutes to compose a shot. Remember, you don’t want to be a distraction at all. Think about the shots you want before you even lift your camera. Ask yourself:
You may sacrifice some of the technical awesomeness for being invisible, but you may catch a h3er story for it.
The large, open windows will be your first choice of location for shot creation. Find this light and create an image using it’s contrast.
How can you give perspective to a wide open area? Use angles. Take your shot by crouching down quickly, or lifting your camera in the air and taking a shot looking down. Also, shoot between objects, arrange your shot with elements in the foreground and the background to keep the image interesting.
The shots I loved most were the ones that literally “came” to me. They were the ones I was not planning on taking. They were the ones that came when I wasn’t looking for them. Sometimes, your state of mind can actually impede your ability to create a shot. So while you are there, sit down, and take some time to be introspective. I think you may be surprised how inspired you become.