Church photography rule No. 1: Meet with priest at church

    Before arriving at church to shoot the wedding, the photographer should introduce himself to the presiding priest at church to inquire about his individual dos and don’ts – guidelines that usually boil down to the answers to two questions: “Where am I permitted to take pictures inside church?” and “Do you allow flash photography?”
   “Every church is different and every priest has his own little rules,” said Darryl Schmitt, owner of the eponymous photography business based in Metairie. “Most Catholic churches allow me to be on the altar and use a flash, but a few of them do not.”
   Schmitt said an on-site conversation with the priest – and not merely the wedding coordinator – also acquaints the photographer with nooks from which photos can be taken as unobtrusively as possible.

Are we permitted to linger in church after Mass?

   It also has become increasingly important, Schmitt said, for wedding photographers to know the priest’s policy on the use of the church afterthe ceremony, because many of today’s brides wish to return to the sanctuary after the recessional hymn to pose for their group and family shots, rather than take these at the reception.
   “Some churches only allow 15 to 20 minutes for this, but if you’re a good photographer you can get it done in that amount of time,” Schmitt said. “A lot of (engaged) couples think they will not want a lot of posed, group pictures – they say ‘I just want to have fun’ – but they really do want them in the end, and they always order them.”
   After the formal group pictures are taken, Schmitt often will suggest a couple of less formal shots of the wedding party, such as having the attendants throw their hands in the air in celebration while looking at the kissing couple. Brides often will bring Schmitt additional ideas on their favorite candid and posed wedding shots by showing him examples of groupings and backgrounds from the bulletin board-style website Pinterest.

‘Unity Candle’ rarer

   Although technology and culture have seen many changes over the 40 years Schmitt has photographed weddings, the standard shots taken inside the church have basically stayed the same: Entrance and recessional shots of the families and wedding party; the exchange of vows and rings; and the couple’s reception of holy Communion.
   “I also photograph the signing of the marriage license, but sometimes this can be done at the rehearsal,” Schmitt notes.
   Couples continue to request shots of their placement of flowers at the Blessed Mother’s altar and the sign of peace, the photographer said. One wedding ritual, once wildly popular in Schmitt’s early years in the profession, has all but ceased: the lighting of the “Unity Candle” – the candle lit by the bride and groom after the exchange of vows and rings, and using the fire of candles previously lit by their mothers.

Documenting a love story

   Schmitt, who opened his photography business in 1980, said he still thoroughly enjoys the wedding-related dimension of his profession. He currently shoots 30 to 35 weddings a year.
   “I’m very conscious of getting the job done right because this is something brides have dreamed of since they were little bitty girls,” he said. “It’s one of the most important days of their lives, and I have the privilege of being the one to capture it!”
   Beth Donze can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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