photographing the wedding processional
The processional is technically probably the most difficult part of a wedding to shoot and get right. Light levels are low in cavernous churches while people are walking towards you. Getting enough light on them, and having that light look good, as well as getting the image sharp .. that’s a tall order.
In the photo at the top, the adorable flower girl just had to stop and check in with dad half-way down the aisle.
[ 1/80th @ f4 @ 1600 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 ]
My preferred approach to photographing the processional:
(and I have to stress that this is my approach and might not be universally applicable)
I find my settings so that the available light is about 1 stop (or a little more) under-exposed, and then bounce flash behind me into the church .. but still making sure I have a useful shutter speed. By the way: 1/60th isn’t necessarily a useful starting point.
This does mean cranking up the ISO considerably … I’m often somewhere between 1600-3200 ISO, at wide apertures. Therefore a high-ISO capable camera is essential for me to work in what is usually under-lit scenarios.
I really really really try my best to stay away from using a diffuser cup of any kind, since this most often just makes for ugly flash photos. But sometimes when the church is simply too large, or has wooden paneling, then I am forced to accept that compromise.
I nearly always gel my flash for Tungsten, to make the flash not be as obvious. This way I am adding tungsten light to the tungsten light and the flash therefore blends more easily with the prevailing light.
Here are a few more examples:
[ 1/100th @ f2.8 @ 2500 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 ]
[ 1/125th @ f3.5 @ 1600 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 ]
Here is the image from my second photographer on that wedding, where you can see me at the very edge of the frame. Well, not quite me, but The Black Foamie Thing. That is the flash modifier I still prefer to use with processionals, even though it isn’t an efficient use of the light from the flashgun. But I am after “pretty light” here, instead of volumes of light from my flashgun.
[ 1/250th @ f2.8 @ 2000 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 ]
This technique would obviously also work for the second processional. Apparently that is the correct phrase: “second processional”. Not the “recessional”, as I was once corrected by a priest when I talked about the recessional. It’s the second processional. Now you know.
[ 1/250th @ f2 @ 2000 ISO // Canon 580EX II, Canon 1D mkIII, Canon 85mm f1.2 II ]
[ 1/100th @ f3.5 @ 2500 ISO // Canon 580EX II, Canon 1D mkIII, Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II ]
[ 1/100th @ f3.2 @ 2500 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 ]
.. and if you’re good enough, you can swing around with your 70-200mm and grab a shot of the groom watching the bride come down the aisle …
[ 1/100th @ f2.8 @ 2000 ISO // Nikon SB-900, Nikon D3, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 ]
However, I’m rarely that good, so the shot of the groom is usually from a sequence from just before the bride comes down the aisle.
So there is my approach to photographing the processional. No specific settings that I could advise to be used, but rather a range of settings. I really much more prefer a natural look to the lighting, but with the light being “open” rather than the top-heavy light you usually find in a church. I therefore use my flash to augment the light in the church .. and for that, I need high ISOs and wide apertures and a sensible shutter speed.
- flash photography during the wedding ceremony in church
- photographing the wedding processional with extreme bounce flash
- bounce flash photography at wedding receptions
- wedding photography: using high ISO and flash at the reception
- bouncing on-camera flash in manual mode
- more articles about wedding photography