How to get the best photographs during your church wedding

The shortest of introductions today because Andrew from Lightworks Photography writes beautifully – better than I do. Unmissable reading… an eye-opener indeed! Enjoy. Claire x

On arriving at church to photograph a wedding recently:

Vicar: “You must be the photographer, I can tell because you look like you don’t know what you’re doing”

Me: (having picked jaw up from floor and mentally counted to ten) “Hello, nice to meet you. I can assure you I know exactly what I’m doing, I’ve been photographing weddings professionally for over ten years. What are you worried about?”

Vicar: “That you won’t do as you’re told!”

Me: (struggling now, but outwardly the paradigm of professionalism) “Ok….What exactly would you prefer me to do?”

He went on to tell me in no uncertain terms that I could photograph the bride entering the church and the bride and groom exiting and that I would be allowed to photograph a set up shot of the signing of the register (if I didn’t take too long) and for the rest of the time I was to sit at the back of the church and not move. Now the irony of this whole scenario is that, as I sat on the floor at the back of the church during the ceremony inwardly steaming, I counted no less than seven members of the congregation happily snapping away on their phones throughout! One gentleman even got out of his seat during the vows and took pictures from the aisle! I’m sure they were wondering why on earth I was wasting time as the professional photographer just sitting there!

Clearly this type of situation is ridiculous and is often borne out of the fear that the photographer is going to intrude on the proceedings, stick his or her lens into things and behave in an unprofessional manner. This is a great shame as any truly professional photographer will be able to get some great shots during most ceremonies fairly much without anyone noticing. Most of us are experts at being non intrusive, are wholly respectful of the solemnity of the occasion and some of us are embracing a new breed of smaller and virtually silent cameras as well.

There are a number of things that can be done to smooth the way to great ceremony photographs including:

  • When booking your photographer discuss with them their approach to photographing during the ceremony itself.

  • Discuss photography with your vicar at the rehearsal, convey what you would ideally like in terms of pictures and reassure them that your photographer is professional, non intrusive and discreet.

  • Show images (preferaby taken by your photographer) of images taken during ceremonies to demonstrate what can be achieved.

  • Ask your photographer to make contact with the vicar before the big day to clarify any issues and to introduce themselves before the ceremony on the day itself.

  • Ask your photographer if they are able to use a quieter and/or smaller camera than the standard DSLR during the ceremony.

Of course it is entirely possible that there will still be a refusal to allow photography during the ceremony and this needs to be respected. In this type of situation I always feel slightly frustrated as I feel I am being prevented from doing my job and this can be doubly infuriating as I watch guests all photographing away, cameras bleeping, flashes going off etc etc whilst I, as the professional have been asked to not take photographs! However I do, on the other hand, appreciate that a wedding is a religious ceremony and I can understand the point of view that it is not to be photographed (if it is put politely to me!)

Of course the ideal situation for me, which would enable me to get the best photographs, would be for the guests to be asked to be “unplugged” completely during the ceremony and this is a concept that would fit in with the sanctity of the ceremony as well. How nice would it be for all phones and technology to be turned off so that the congregation could fully concentrate on the proceedings and for the professional to be left to do what they do best – quietly, discreetly and sympathetically recording the proceedings. From my point of view there would be no scrum of photographers at the signing of the register to contend with and my photographs of the bride and groom walking out down the aisle wouldn’t have a multitude of hands with phones in them! I’ve also seen some terrible amateur/guest photographers with massive cameras do things that I wouldn’t dream of in terms of walking around, getting in the way and photographing ultra close in a way that I just couldn’t bring myself to do.

The wedding ceremony itself is obviously the very heart of your wedding day. Consider how you want it recorded and what type of photographs you want to look back on in years to come. If you do decide on an unplugged policy make it extremely clear to your guests both verbally and in the order of service but above all, whatever you decide, try to work with your photographer to help them to do their very best for you and to allow them to do the job you have paid them for!

Lightworks Photography Cambridge – further information

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Sarah
    7 years ago

    An excellent post and, as you said, beautifully written. I haven’t had too many church weddings but it amazes me the different reactions I get as a photographer from the residing Reverend. Some have quite happily let me get into the heart of the action up near the altar while others want me tucked away at the back of the church, making it very hard to get many photographs of the proceedings.

    I always make a point to get in touch with the vicar prior to the wedding though and I think this is a very important step in preparing for a wedding day. My last church wedding I was lucky enough to have a very liberal vicar who took the step of asking the guests not to use cameras/phones/ipads(!) during the ceremony and actually told them to enjoy the wedding and “leave it to the professionals” which was a pleasant change! It made the job so much easier and a pleasure to photograph.

    I’ll be sharing this post with future clients and I’ll be popping it on my Facebook page too! Thank you x

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Thanks for commenting, Sarah!
      It’s refreshing to hear of a vicar asking guests to ‘leave it to the professionals’! I couldn’t agree more… but I wonder about the guests’ reactions to that!
      I’m glad you enjoyed Andrew’s post – he’s just brilliant at these and it’s great to hear from you too.
      Claire x

      • Nathan @ Artemis Stationery
        7 years ago

        Yeah you might be a bit peeved as for some people would mean no photographs. We might all have google glasses soon (ish) anyway!

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