Pictures of churches and cathedrals: how to handle big space and poor light

Pictures of churches and cathedrals: how to handle big space and poor light

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 1

01 ISO and White Balance
If you’re using a tripod, you can afford to set the camera’s lowest ISO to get the best quality. On our D3100, that’s ISO100. Judging the White Balance can be tricky, but it’s a good idea to pick a setting and stick to it, such as ‘Incandescent’. Set the camera to shoot RAW files so that you can adjust the White Balance later.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 2

02 Exposure settings
To get both the foreground and background sharp, you’ll need to set a small lens aperture – of f/11, say. Switch to ‘A’, or ‘aperture-priority’ mode, then turn the rear command dial to set the lens aperture. Check your exposures as you shoot, and if your pictures come out too dark or too light, apply some EV compensation and reshoot.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 3

03 Go wider to fit it all in
Even in a vast space like a cathedral, it can be difficult to get everything you want into the frame, and that’s where a super-wide-angle lens like this Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 can help. This will produce strong converging verticals, though, if you tilt the camera when you take the shot.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 4

04 Get it straight
To avoid perspective distortion, keep the camera straight when you shoot. Some tripod heads, like this Vanguard BBH200, have spirit levels, but you can judge straightness by eye reasonably well. This may leave the bottom of the picture empty, so look for interesting foreground details.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 5

05 Foreground interest
See the difference? The picture on the left has converging verticals because the camera was tilted upwards, but the one on the right was shot with the camera level. There’s less of the ceiling in the shot, but a dark-toned panel on the floor was included to balance the composition.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 6

06 Don’t forget quiet mode
If you’re shooting in quiet areas, the sound of your autofocus and shutter release can be embarrassing, but some cameras have a quiet mode. This turns off the autofocus beep and delays the mirror return until you release the shutter button, giving you time to move away quietly.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 7

07 Stunning ceilings
Don’t forget to look up! Ceilings can offer as much architectural interest as the rest of the building, and often yield fascinating patterns and colours. The same rules apply here – make sure you get the camera straight and point it directly upwards to avoid any perspective distortion.

Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals: step 8

08 Longer lenses
Stained glass windows are a challenge because they’re usually high up in the walls. For them, switch to a telephoto lens and get further away – this reduces the angle of the camera and minimises perspective distortion, and with a long enough lens you should still be able to fill the frame.

PAGE 1: Nailing the basics of interior photography
PAGE 2: Step by step how to shoot interior pictures of churches and cathedrals
PAGE 3: How to process your pictures of churches and cathedrals

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