Tips + Techniques

Guide to Photographing Weddings in Cathedrals and Temples

April 23, 2024

By SLR Review

Photographing weddings in dark indoor environments like cathedrals, temples, and other religious structures present unique challenges and opportunities for photographers. The low light, the intimacy of the venue, and the solemnity of the moment require a delicate balance between technical skill and creative vision.

This guide is designed to help photographers navigate these challenges, ensuring that every shot reflects the beauty and uniqueness of the ceremony. Here’s how to turn low-light conditions into an opportunity for stunning, moody photographs that couples will treasure for a lifetime. We also share inspiration for additional shots using the exterior of religious structures.

All images have been provided by the photographers at Wedding Maps and used with their permission.

Get the Right Camera and Lenses for Low Light

Choosing the right equipment is paramount in low-light conditions. Cameras with high ISO performance like newer full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are important, as are fast lenses with wide apertures. Look for lenses with f/2.8, f/1.8, or even f/1.4 apertures to allow more light onto your camera sensor, which is essential for capturing sharp and detailed images without resorting to flash.

St Albans Cathedral in St Albans, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom © Andy Sidders Photography

Get a Wide Angle Photo of the Ceremony Site to Capture the Beautiful Architecture

Before the ceremony begins, take a moment to capture the venue in its entirety. A wide-angle lens can help you encompass the grandeur of the architecture, the moody lighting, and the vibe of the entire scene.

Garrett Memorial Chapel in Penn Yan, New York © Roc Focus

Capture a Low Angle

Experimenting with angles can add depth and interest when photographing weddings in cathedrals and temples. A low-angle shot can make the ceremony appear grand and majestic, highlighting the ceiling’s architecture or the altar’s design. A low angle in a cathedral or temple can also create leading lines that draw the viewer into the image.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina © JCM Photography

Capture Dark and Moody Photos Featuring Stained Glass Windows

After the ceremony, be sure to schedule time with the couple to explore the building. Stained glass windows can provide a colorful contrast to the dimly lit interior. Capture the couple near the windows to include the vibrant colors and patterns in your shots, adding depth and interest to the album.

St Nicholas in Prague – Old Town Czech Republic © Jindrich Nejedly
Kloster Schönbronn in Baden Württemberg, Germany © Andreas Pollok
St Mary Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, Oregon © Tekoa Rose Photo

Get Creative by Capturing Reflections

Reflections can create symmetrical compositions or offer a different perspective on the event. Look for reflective surfaces like polished floors, mirrors, or decorative metalwork to capture the ceremony and its participants in a unique way. You may even consider bringing a reflective object like a prism or mirror to enhance your creative options when you’re photographing weddings in cathedrals and temples.

Georgetown University in Washington D.C. © Natasha Lamalle
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado © Courtland Photography

Capture the Back of the Bride During the Entrance

The bride’s entrance is a pivotal moment. Position yourself to capture her and the train of her dress from behind, emphasizing the anticipation and emotion of the walk down the aisle. This angle also allows you to capture the guests’ reactions. The photo may have to be taken by a second or third photographer, as the lead photographer will likely be focused on the front side of the bride walking down the aisle.

Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia © Kristin Cheatwood
The Mission Inn in Riverside, California © PMC Photography

Get Your Couples Photos After the Ceremony at the Altar

After the ceremony, use the altar’s beautiful backdrop for couple photos. This moment offers a quiet break from the day’s hustle and can produce deeply personal and emotive images. This also gives you the time and freedom you need to move around and set up lighting that you may not have had during the actual ceremony.

Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas © 1836 Photographie
St. Patrick’s in Huntington, New York © Stephen Mayo 

Capture Outdoor Couples Photos

If the venue has an outdoor area, take advantage of the natural light for couples photos. The contrast between the indoor and outdoor settings can add variety to your photo collection. This also gives you an opportunity to use the beautiful exterior architecture of the temple or cathedral.

Bountiful Temple in Bountiful, Utah © Jessie and Dallin
Museum of Man in Balboa Park San Diego, California © Holding and Co
St Mary of the Angels in Chicago, Illinois © John Foley
Marriott Hotel and Spa in St. Julians, Malta © Frank Balzan

Consider Capturing a Photo That Features the Architecture Above the Couple

Position the couple with the architecture of the venue above them to emphasize the grandeur and scale of the setting. This “upshot” angle can create a stunning composition that highlights the beauty of the venue as well as the intimacy of the couple’s relationship.

Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Brno Czech Republic © Jindrich Nejedly

Get Creative with Motion Blur

Use a slower shutter speed to capture the movement during the wedding ceremony, creating a sense of motion and energy in your photos. This technique can add a dynamic element to your portfolio, especially in capturing the celebratory mood of the day.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester, New York © Bob Kniley

Focus on In-Between Moments with Photojournalism

Candid moments that happen in between the scheduled events can often be the most telling. Keep an eye out for laughter, tears, and tender glances. These unguarded moments can capture the essence of the day.

Emory Presbyterian Cathedral in Atlanta, Georgia © Cindy Brown

Capture the Audience During the Ceremony

Don’t forget to document the reactions of the guests during sporadic moments of the ceremony. Their emotions—whether tears of joy or beaming smiles—add a layer to the storytelling of the day.

Poznań, Poland © Marie Filonenko

Capture the Wedding Recessional Outdoors

If the ceremony exits into an outdoor space, use this transition to capture the joy and relief of the newlyweds and their guests. The natural light can contrast beautifully with the indoor ceremony shots.  Of course the challenge will be the changing light, so be sure to adjust your settings accordingly to get the right exposures.

Carmel Mission Basilica in Carmel, California © Picturist Photography
© The Greens Photo

Other Photos of Temples and Cathedrals for Your Inspiration

Here are more images of weddings at cathedrals and temples for your inspiration.

Macedonian Cultural Center in Troy, Michigan © Life and Lights Photography
Fred W. Symmes Chapel aka ”Pretty Place” in Cleveland, South Carolina © Freas Photography
St James Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky © Green Apple Weddings
St. Bridget Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia © Mattie Wezah
© Sofia Camplioni Photography
Shiva – Vishnu Temple, Livermore in Livermore, California © David Bowles
St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut © Teresa Johnson
Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fountain Valley, California © Luzye Photography
Our Lady of Rosary Church in Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam © Thien Tong

FAQs for Photographing Weddings in Cathedrals and Temples in Low Light

What settings should I use for low-light indoor photography?

Opt for a wide aperture (low f-number), a higher ISO (but be wary of noise), and a slower shutter speed. Always test your settings before the ceremony to find the best balance.  A good starting point is a shutter speed of 1/100th, an aperture of f/2.8 and and ISO of 3200.  Of course, adjust these depending on the amount of light in the scene.

Can I use flash during the ceremony?

Check with the wedding venue to understand their rules around using flash photography. If you can, consider using discreetly placed off-camera flashes in the areas of the venue to illuminate your subjects. If you’re not able to use it, utilize the available light by adjusting your camera settings and positioning yourself strategically.

Can I ask the couple to reposition during the ceremony for better photos?

It’s best to capture the ceremony as it unfolds naturally. Discuss key shots with the couple beforehand, so you’re all on the same page about any moments where they might pause or look towards the camera.


By embracing the challenges of dark indoor weddings, photographers can create compelling, atmospheric images that capture the essence of the day. With the right preparation and creative approach, these conditions can become an opportunity to produce work that stands out in your portfolio.

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