Wedding Photography and church restrictions

Many churches have restrictions about photography that brides may not be aware of. It is important to ask your minister if your church has any restrictions so you can let your photographer know about them ahead of the wedding.

Is flash allowed

Some churches will not allow flash during the ceremony. For experienced photographers this is not a problem. We invest in “fast” lenses that allow us to get good images in low lighting without flash. We also invest in cameras that have high iso ratings that allow us to shoot in low light. In really dark situations we may need to use a tripod. There may be some movement blur in really dark situations where we need to leave the shutter open for a long time. Your photographer will be able to let you know if blurring will be a problem ahead of time if they have shot in that church before. If flash is not allowed at your church you should ask your potential photographers before you book them if they have fast lenses in the 2.8 to 1.2 range and if their camera has an iso of 1600 or higher. This may not mean anything to you but it should to your photographer. If they seem confused or don’t know what you’re talking about don’t book them. They don’t have enough experience to shoot weddings.

Are there restrictions on movement and position

Sometimes the church will have restrictions where the photographer can stand during the ceremony. Again for an experienced photographer this shouldn’t be much of a problem. They will have telephoto lenses so they can still get in close.  The photographer will be restricted to the back of the church or to a balcony most of the time, which does mean that your images will be from one perspective. To help improve your images you will want to stand facing each other during the ceremony if the minister will allow it so the photographer and guests can see your faces in profile instead of your backs. You’ll want to face each other or leave room to walk around the unity candle table as well so everyone can see the two of you light the center candle. Although it seems like a good idea, standing and facing the crowd with the minister in front of you doesn’t always work well for pictures. Yes, you are facing everyone, but the minister is in front of you blocking the view for good images. If the minister is positioned lower or off to the side it can work well but in most cases the minister will stand directly in front of the couple.

Is there a time limit for posed images

Many churches will schedule more than one wedding or have other activities happening in the church that might limit how much time you can be in the sanctuary. If the time is too short to do images in the church you may need to do them outside the church or at another location. The average time that a photographer needs for photography is about two hours. Some photographers may need less time others may need more. You can always choose to cut out family shots or bridal party shots to shorten the time. You could also opt for photojournalistic coverage and skip the posed images altogether. The best solution is normally to shoot the images at another location. You can also plan for a very short ceremony to allow for more photography time after the ceremony. 

What if photography is not allowed during the ceremony

There are a few very strict churches that will not allow photography at all during the ceremony. Some will allow pictures during the processional and recessional but not during the service. Your only options are to recreate the ceremony images either before or after the ceremony or forego having ceremony pictures altogether. Most churches that have this rule have had bad experiences with photographers that weren’t professional. They were noisy, used flash that blinded the minister, moved around a lot, wore clothes that were inappropriate, maybe even moved around on the alter and were distracting in some other way. This is why it is so important to hire a professional and not have a friend or amateur photographer shoot your wedding. A professional will know how to handle the shoot with discretion.

What about outdoor weddings

Some ministers impose the same rules on outdoor ceremonies as they do church ceremonies so don’t assume because your wedding is outside that your minister won’t have any restrictions. Always ask so your photographer will know ahead of time.


If you don’t like the restrictions of your church you may want to talk to your minister and let them know that you are hiring a pro who is experienced in being discrete and they may relax the rules a little. If they just won’t budge on the matter and you really want images during your ceremony, you may want to consider another venue for your ceremony. You should not expect your photographer to negotiate the restrictions for you or try to get away with breaking the rules for you. This will only foster bad relations between vendors and cause more churches in the future to have strict rules when it comes to photography.

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