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Photographing Churches and Cathedrals- Tips & Tricks

Leah Spencer

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Churches and cathedrals are known for their art and architecture. These architectural structures bring back the olden history and explain life back then. These structures have artistic interiors and the exterior is equally very beautiful. Photographing such historic buildings prove to be challenging, often because of the huge space and bad lighting. However, following a few tips will help you in capturing some nice shots of these buildings.

Exterior Structure

Churches and cathedrals are known for their architectural value and for their history. Architects in history where so good in adding intricate and minute details to the building making them look magnificent. One of the evergreen best shots is capturing the whole building using wide lens. Zoom in for some stone carvings, statues, clocks, few repetitive patterns. When the buildings give access to the rooftop, grab the opportunity as you might get a good view of the area surrounding the place. You would also be able to capture a few details of the building from great heights. Make sure to maintain the natural color of the place using the automatic white balance setting and if it doesn’t work you can always shift to a manual mode. You can also consider taking black and white pictures of the buildings to give a dramatic effect.

Interior Details

Abide by the rules: Churches and cathedrals are places of worship and meditations. Due to photography flashes and the sounds from the shots, the quiet environment prevailing inside the building could be disturbed. This is the reason why most of the churches and cathedrals do not give permission to take photographs inside the building. Hence the first challenge to overcome is to get prior permission from the authorities of the building and buy a ticket to take pictures and for the use of tripod; few places may agree for the use of tripods and the rest will not. Few parts inside the building might be off the limits and which are not accessible for visitors. Hence, if you want to visit such places, get prior permission to get access to such areas within the building.

Lighting & Capturing techniques: The lightings inside the church and the cathedrals are fairly dim. However they are bright near the windows and stain glass paintings. Having contrasts in lights could prove challenging for a photographer. Using flash in such situations is not advisable. The flash makes the picture look artificial. Hence it is wise to do some exposure setting adjustments. The exposure should be set based on the building and not for the windows. Automatic light balance could also do the trick of capturing the natural light.

Another setting which could help the photographer is to keep the ISO low and maximize the exposure time. To achieve a good photograph with this setting, photographer needs to handle the camera firmly else the picture would get blurred out. For this either a tripod or firm hand is required. You can also try capturing with high ISO speed like 800 or 1600. You will get grainy pictures which is best suited for older non restored churches and cathedrals. Manually lowering the shutter speed and increasing the aperture could also produce better pictures under these situations.

Intricate Details: Inside the buildings you come across a variety of intricate designs and geometric patterns, carvings, engraving and stain glass paintings. You could also find statues, paintings, wall hangings, alter with bible, candles and flowers. You would overflow with ideas to capture all the designs you come across inside the building. This is another challenge to face. However, make sure you decide which of these elements seem most interesting and unique and capture those details. Try to cover a whole area instead of focusing on a few specific objects or items.

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