The title is obviously an over exaggeration as not all priests hate wedding photographers, BUT .......... ask any professional wedding photographer or videographer and I’m pretty sure they will tell you they have had a fracas at some point with a priest, or an officiant on the day of a wedding.
Why is this? Well I think there are two points that often get overlooked when it comes to wedding photography and ceremonies. Firstly, wedding ceremonies are sometimes religious celebrations but always legal events. The process of getting married is very important and there are certain rules that need to be followed. In the case of a religious ceremony, there is a certain amount of respect that needs to be shown towards the beliefs and process of the ceremony.
On the other hand and in my case, particularly in my career as a photographer/videographer, I’ve spent many years of my life learning, developing and crafting my skills. I see myself as a professional and with over 15 years of experience and class myself as an expert when it comes to photographing a wedding. By this I mean, I understand the boundaries, the process and what generally is acceptable.
So when it comes to this topic you would assume that two professionals, one conducting the ceremony and one documenting the event would combine their experience and understanding and professionalism, work together to get the best for couple and guests….? Well in most cases yes, but also no!
I suppose it is like any other profession, how many times have you in your professional career had a dust up over post it notes or a tantrum over the incorrect message being taken or when Dave from IT can never fix the slow internet!
As a wedding photographer we are there to capture images of your special day and of course we will abide by any rules or guidance organisers of your event set. We are used to doing this in our commercial and corporate work, rules are in place for many different reasons and should be respected and followed.
I’m going to give you just a few examples however of why I feel the relationship between photographers/videographers and officiants that can at times be preconceived with tension.
As you know we offer both photography and wedding film for weddings. Personally, I tend to shoot photography when it comes to weddings however, I am a camera operator and do work on many commercial and broadcast items outside of weddings. So it is not uncommon for me to work a wedding either as a photographer or videographer. This has given me some insight into how other professional wedding shooters conduct themselves during a ceremony.
Generally when we are shooting a ceremony, be it a religious or civil ceremony, we speak with the person running the ceremony and agree upon a position for our cameras. Once these are set and the ceremony begins we will stay in these positions and not move until the signing of the register. This is out of respect for the event and so as not to distract the couple, officiant or guests. We will not use flash for these reasons and we will be as silent as can be.
I have however witnessed other ‘professionals’ walking on the alter behind a priest, walking around a church in front of guests and directly in front of a priest. I have even seen a photographer ask a priest to step aside during the exchange of the rings so they could get a better shot! I’ve seen people set lights up and have rapid firing of flash during the event. All of which I feel are not very professional and more consideration and communication should be adopted.
Due to what I have witnessed, I believe we as wedding photographers do get a bad reputation due to the inexperience shown by some who are indistinguishable from the rest of us. After all, when a person with a big black camera shows up at a ceremony, how is anyone to know what their experience is and how many ceremonies they have shot before? Do they know what is acceptable during the ceremony?
This is one of the reasons you should always choose your wedding suppliers with great care. Experience is essential and given the ease, availability and access to the wedding industry, anyone with spare time at the weekend and a passion for a certain service can become a supplier!
I understand that there are some unprofessional photographers out there and as a result of this we may all be approached with a certain level of caution, but let me tell you some of my encounters!
Some years ago a female colleague of mine was setting up for video. We arrived at the church in Liverpool around two hours prior to the ceremony. For film we put a small microphone on the pulpit from where the readings take place. The reason for this is when guests stand up to read during the ceremony we have the audio. It’s a pretty standard practise and one we have done in hundreds of churches all over the country.
We had previously spoken to the priest and agreed upon positions and introduced ourselves, so we set about our work. As my colleague stepped onto the alter to place the microphone on the pulpit the priest from the back of the church yelled ‘Woman! Get off the alter, women are not permitted to be there!’
This really rattled my colleague, initially because of the tone and manner of which she had been shouted at, but secondly because I as a male was allowed to place the microphone on the pulpit but as a female she was not allowed to.
The difficulty I believe is as a hired professional we aren’t necessarily familiar with the complete religion of the ceremony we are attending. I have shot many different religious events in multiple countries and find that as long as we show respect, communication and an openness to adapt then we can achieve our goal of capturing the event to the best of our ability.
However, this shouldn’t mean that a member of the team is left in tears over an incident that has taken place prior or during the event. There are some churches that don’t allow photography period, where no images are allowed to be captured during the ceremony. There is a church local to us in Liverpool which has this restriction. We of course abide by the rules but always make sure couples are aware of the fact prior to booking us.
So where does this rant come from I hear you ask! Well, a few weeks ago I shot a lovely wedding for a couple who have been through a lot to get to the point of their wedding being able to take place. The groom usually arrives at the church circa 1 hour prior to the ceremony, so as a crew we like to arrive 2 hours beforehand to get set up and ready for the grooms arrival.
Sometimes churches aren’t open this early but when you consider quite often that florists, choirs and venue dressers often attend the morning of a ceremony, to have the church open an hour before the expected arrival of the groom isn’t too unreasonable.
This particular church we had previously visited last year, where we arrived 2 hours prior to the ceremony start and the doors were locked. Because of logistics on the day, one crew member was left at the church with equipment whilst the rest of the crew went on to shoot other elements of the day.
The morning was wet and it was raining. All of the equipment was transported in weather sealed Pelican Cases so there was no concern for the wellbeing of the kit and the crew member had his two Keyhole issued jackets on and large Keyhole golfing umbrella. He was left there safe in the knowledge that the church would be open very shortly!
Sure enough the priest arrived about 10 minutes after our videographer had been stood in the rain and after some pleasantries were exchanged the priest explained to the crew member that he was too early and would have to wait in the rain for another 40 minutes until the groom arrived.
He explained that he would like to bring the equipment inside as the rest of the crew had left to continue shooting off site and he intended to bring the cases inside and get the cameras and microphones set up for the arrival of the groom. His request was denied and he had to wait outside in the rain for an hour. When the groom did arrive, all were allowed into the church. I have never really understood this situation, so when returning to the church a few weeks ago we were cautious that access may be limited once again.
Sure enough it was, although this time we made sure our crew member had a vehicle to wait in. We were allowed into the church 15 minutes before the bride arrived. There may well be an explanation for this rule, but it certainly hadn’t been communicated to us and here lies our problem.
Getting married in a church is a magical experience. I love shooting at churches because of everything the ceremony represents, the traditional values and the atmosphere a church offers. However, I would urge all couples to ask the question of photography and film to your officiant prior to booking. If there are restrictions or rules which effect the way in which we deliver our services we will of course abide to them, but we always want to make you as our client aware of them prior to the event.
Having said all of this, there are many churches that don’t have restrictions and churches that welcome the documentation of the wedding ceremony. There are some boroughs such as Lancashire registration services who have a policy whereby their officiates won’t wear microphones. Now this isn’t the end of the world but does effect the audio quality of your wedding film. If we are aware of the rules, we can then make you aware of them.
These are questions you possibly wouldn’t consider asking when booking your ceremony. But a quick enquiry with your chosen church such as 'Are there any restrictions or rules we should be aware of that we can pass onto our professional photographer and videographers?’, will go a long way to ensuring the ceremony runs as smooth as possible.
So there we have it, my interpretation of why priests hate wedding photographers. A fair portion of disrespect, lack of communication and general grumpiness on all parts!
If church ceremonies aren't for you, make sure you read one of our previous blog posts by clicking here, featuring Lorraine Hull who is a Liverpool Celebrant.
For more information about wedding car hire, you can visit us at www.keyholemotors.com or call us on 0151 708 7077