Friday, April 02, 2010

Keeping the Faith – At Baptist Weddings

Good Morning Everybody,

Yesterday's Twitterview went off very smoothly and was quite fun.  We'll have to try that again.  If you missed it, Peachpit is planning to post a transcript next week – I’ll keep you posted. I mentioned doing a webinar with Peachpit too, sometime in the near future - I'll keep you posted.

In the midst of trying to get ready for my Twitterview, we moved in the brand new Canon iPF 8100 printer.  I hope to get things up and running over the weekend.  I'll let you know on Monday.  I am looking forward to the gorgeous color from that printer.

Master Class Update!

DAZ Master Class Shot - Fall One last note - two people rescheduled from our Spring to Fall Master Class, so we have two openings left in our upcoming week long Master Class beginning April 26 [link].  If you feel you want to spend a wonderful week fine tuning your photographic skills and hanging with an enthusiastic group of photographers from all around the USA, please give the studio a call at 800.292.2994 next week to reserve your space.

Hey, let's get right to today's post, another in the series, "Keeping The Faith At Weddings"

Keeping the Faith – At Baptist Weddings

Back in the day - that means quite a few yeas ago, I did a lot of Baptist weddings - heck, this is Kentucky and we've got lots of Baptist Churches in "this neck of the woods".

Some photographers call these smaller weddings "cake and punch" weddings.  I don’t think they intend any disrespect. It just means that these weddings are generally very short events - time-wise. Lots of photographers throughout the state of Kentucky/Ohio area could do a few events on the same day depending on the scheduled start times.

DAZ NOTE: ALWAYS remember this about weddings;  ALL weddings, large or small, are the celebration of two lives coming together to celebrate the rest of their lives together. Large wedding or small, the emotions and feeling of the day are the same.  It's our job to not just capture the events of the day, but also all the emotions, excitement and feelings of the day as well.

That said, let me point you to a few things you need to know when photographing smaller weddings.

Hit the “Read More…” link below for the rest of the story.

Before shooting any wedding, the first thing I do is check in with the minister/clergy and ask about any church rules and regulations I need to know about.  I also let the pastor know that I WILL NOT be taking any flash photographs during the service.  I will be discretely photographing from the back of church and balcony, if available, to capture all my shots.

Alex 1 I assure him/her that my flash will be TURNED OFF after the processional. And, only turned back on when the bride and groom turn and begin making their exit, the recessional.  All other photographs will be only be made with the existing light in the church (regardless how dim it might be.)  I know that the pastor appreciates the time I took in introducing myself to him/her and to check on the "house rules."

Alex2aA lot of Baptist Churches I've worked in don't have a center aisle, but two side aisles instead.  The bridal procession and the bride and her dad always go down the left aisle.  The couple always recess down the right side aisle.

Alex2 But I've still got to deal with the side aisle situation.  Not a big deal, but you need to know where you are going to stand to photograph the bride and her dad coming down the aisle.  Where is the most discrete location? I want to be sure that I’m out of the way of the bridesmaids and other attendants coming down the aisle too.  Also, after you get a few shots of the bride and her dad, you need to make a clean and quiet exit.

Alex5 The ceremony is quite short , usually only 20 minutes.  I try to get some great shots from the back of church and then always make a dash for the balcony too.  All Baptists weddings have music, many times a soloist. Get a few shots of the soloists and musicians - it's all part of the story. Most weddings, Baptists included, have special friends or family doing Gospel readings. I include images of these special individuals, as well.

DAZNOTE: The wedding couple seldom make these images part of their wedding album, but I still take them because those moments are still part of the story.  Besides, we sell DVD's, etc and those shots need to be part of the complete coverage.

Next there will be a few comments from the pastor - yes, grab a few of those shots too - same reasons as above. This will lead into the ring exchange.

Alex4 Because of the better vantage point, I'm usually in the balcony for these shots (provided there is a balcony).   I always make it a point to use my long lenses to zoom in as close as I can to capture nice close ups of this moment. I'll take at least a dozen shots of the ring exchange - all AVAILABLE light.

Be sure to get plenty of shots at multiple focal lengths of the entire church/sanctuary both from the balcony and floor level. After the ring exchange, the couple will light the "Unity Candle" - another shot not to be missed.  I like to shoot it with both a "cross-star" filter and without the filter.  You've got to be quick to pull off both shots in that short amount of time.

Also, after the lighting of the "Unity Candle", be aware that the end of the ceremony is near and if you are in the balcony, you may want to start making your way back down to the main level.  At this point in the service there will be some additional prayers which gives you time to make your balcony exit. Remember QUIET!

Here you've got to be attentive to what the pastor is saying as he/she comes to the closing of the ceremony.  You don't want to be "caught" in the balcony when the couple turn to make their exit.

DAZNOTE: I have to "giggle"  because my assistants over the years almost NEVER pay attention during the ceremony.  I’m not being critical - they are dealing with gear, etc.  Anyway, I always have to give them a "heads up" as to when the ceremony is wrapping. Just pay attention so you too don't miss the end of the ceremony.  Hint:  The bride and groom kiss right before they turn around and make their return up the aisle.

Now that you are back on the first floor you are ready to continue to follow the action to the end, which, by the way, is very near.

Alex6After the prayer and maybe a few other words to the couple, the pastor will announce them as husband and wife.  They will turn, the groom will lift the veil and kiss his bride - again, don't miss this shot. Now they will start down the aisle hugging, kissing, and handshaking guests along the way - all good stuff - get what you can.

Alex7But be sure to get several of the bride and groom walking down the aisle. Yes, you need to learn how to walk backward down the aisle without tripping over the videographer ;~)

Get a few of the receiving line hugs and kisses, the most important ones are the hugs with key family members and friends. As the guests head for the reception, usually in the church under-croft, you need to gather up the wedding party, moms, dads, and grandparents, and any other family members to be included in the alter return group shots. 

DAZNOTE: You should have had a discussion with the couple a week or two before to be sure both you and the wedding couple were "on the same page" for these images and nothing or no one is over looked.

As the receiving line is wrapping up, make your way to the front of the church, remove the center aisle runner if there is one.  It looks awful in the photographs. I just want to see the carpet/tile in the group shots, not the aisle runner too.  I's just a way to spruce up the shots.

Now you've got to kick it into high gear - you only have 35 minutes to pull off all the family group shots, wedding party shots, standard shots of the bride and groom, and all you’re "signature" shots - those really dramatic "head turning" images you want for your samples and on your website and blog.

Gang, that's about it for Baptists weddings.  Remember, it's always about honoring the place of worship where you are shooting, having a plan to get ALL the shots, and "keeping the faith" when shooting your next wedding!


OK gang, I out of here for this week. We have a beautiful weather weekend in the Cincy here this weekend and LaDawn and I plan to enjoy every moment of it. 

More importantly though, there are many faiths celebrating this weekend in their own special way.  It a time to be reflective, to be with families, and to be celebrating the history of faith for many.  Where ever you are, what ever you do, enjoy these next few days to their fullest.

Sincerely,  -David


  1. Fantastic! This is a great post for the smaller/newer wedding photographer. Those of us in the early stages of developing a clientele may not yet have the recognition/experience/opportunity to shoot high end weddings in grand cathedrals with fancy limo's and gourmet catered receptions in fancy hotels.

    A more realistic "entry-level" or middle-class wedding ceremony is in fact more like what is described here. For that very reason, this summary contains an incredible amount of real-life information that helps make the photographer successful and the clients happy.

    Thank you for bridging the gap and helping to understand how to apply high-end pro techniques to more common, every-day settings.

  2. One thing David about a good ole Baptist "Punch and Cake" wedding, is that since the bride's parents are not spending all their money on food and booze, they tend to spend more money on photos. At least that has been my experience in the "Bible Belt" down in the Florida Panhandle. One more thing to remember, no matter the size of the bridal party, the number of guests, or still have a bride and a groom. I can not tell you how many times I have is a small wedding, all at First Baptist, etc, etc. It never meant anything to me. I have seen some huge productions all at the church.

  3. I know that location, Florence Baptist. That is Shaun Alexander, the most famous person in Northern Kentucky.

    I grew up going to the church that is shown here. I know that they are very strict at times with how much time you spend with the bride and groom with pictures before the wedding, which is very hard at times. You never know what you run into, and even though it takes more time, I find going to the rehearsal for 30 minutes or so the day before you can check out lighting, and find out any obstacles you might face before they present them selves on the day of.

  4. Thanks, the timing of this article couldn't have been better!

  5. David:

    I always enjoy your postings like these which are a distillation of your vast experience; they say the devil is in the detail (but not in the church!), and it is these little bits of detail which are invaluable to less experienced snappers.

    Best regards from the UK.