Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Church Photography, part 1: Don't be THAT woman

Beyond “just” attending and praying at beautiful liturgies, Church Ladies often have a desire or a need to take pictures of churches or during Masses. I’d like to offer a few tips (both technical and concerning etiquette) for getting great shots without getting tapped on the shoulder by an usher.

First, a few words about church photography in general. Personally, I find that I am able to balance my camera with actual prayer. If you have trouble with that, you might want to consider which is *really* more important. Also, if you come into Mass with the proper ordering of your priorities and a realization that what’s going on is more than just a great photo op, you’ll find yourself automatically becoming more discreet. This will help you avoid the ire of those around you. With that, here are a few pieces of etiquette advice.

Become familiar with your camera

If you pick up your camera for the first time on your way to the big Mass, I guarantee there will be things that will confuse you and prevent you from 1) concentrating, and 2) getting a good picture. The more comfortable you are with the camera, the less obtrusive you’ll be able to be.

Respect requests for no photos

Chances are, there’s a reason for that little announcement before Sally’s First Communion requesting no photos. Don’t be that person who blithely disregards the rules. That said, it’s worth noting that “no flash photography” does not mean “no photos.”

Turn off the sound!

Your goal is to be as inconspicuous as possible. That means you’ll need to silence the MIDI symphony that chimes in whenever you power up. It also means turning off the beep that might come whenever your camera focuses. And really, you probably don’t need those noises anyway; chances are, there’s also a little light that comes on in the viewfinder or on the screen when it focuses.

Turn off the flash

This is a good idea for three reasons. First, the flash is DISTRACTING to the priest as well as those around you. A Mass procession is not the same as U2 taking the stage. Turn off the flash. Secondly, the built-in flash on most cameras has a range of 12-14 feet, max (most are less). So really, it’s not going to do you much good under most circumstances anyway. (There are exceptions to this second point which I’ll cover in a more technical post). Third, in older churches, the “no flash” signs are there for a reason: flash bulbs are powerful and can cause damage to works of art. Do you want to be responsible for making a priceless painting fade beyond repair?

Time your photos well

Some points of the Mass are better for taking photos than others. Any time the congregation is making a response, the noise from that will cover any sound your camera might make (of course, you’ve already turned off the blue jay chirp, right?). Same goes for Sanctus bells.

Above all, remember: Don’t be THAT woman.

You know the one. The one who has her camera up constantly, decides it’s okay to use the flash *sometimes*, and keeps nudging the person next to her to look at the great photo she just got.

Getting an aisle seat so you can get a good picture: okay. Standing in the middle of the aisle: not okay. Don’t be standing up with your camera when you should be (and everyone else is) kneeling. If you can tell you’re annoying the person next to you, it’s probably a good idea to pull the camera out a little less often. It’s not worth leading them to uncharitable thoughts about you.

I’m sure our readers have their own thoughts on what is and isn’t acceptable for Mass photography. Share your suggestions in the comments!

Coming up next: Let there be light


Margaret Mary said...
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Margaret Mary said...

I was recently at an ordination where the woman in front of me was persistently holding her camera up as high as she could reach to get photos over the heads in the crowd. It was annoying and distracting, but since I'd gotten the impression she was related to one of the new priests, it was a little easier to forgive her. Also in her defense - she did not use the flash and she stood, sat, and knelt at the proper times. She just *really* wanted to record this wonderful moment!

Gianna said...

That's another thing I forgot: sit on the aisle if you're planning on taking pictures. Not only will you have a better angle, but you'll also be less likely to annoy the people behind you.

Jachele Leodory said...

There are certain rules of conduct that should be observed by people who attend Mass, and these also apply to church-goers who wish to take pictures during the liturgies. These rules are meant to ensure that the solemnity of the ceremony is maintained.