There’s so much to think about when arranging a Christening for your child. Amongst all the things you’ll need to consider, it’s easy to overlook the photography.
Taking photographs is something that we often tend to leave to chance. After all, most people carry a smartphone with a halfway decent inbuilt camera; many will even show up with something a little more professional. It’s all very well, but how can you be sure of the coverage, and what about the quality?
When photography is ad-hoc, things can easily get missed. How can you be sure that everything that needs to be photographed, is photographed, and that the quality is of a sufficiently high standard? How are you going to coordinate which pictures are made available to other guests, and what happens when you want additional physical prints made? After all, many relatives will want framed prints to put on the mantelpiece.
A Christening is literally a once in a lifetime event. With all the effort being made, it deserves to be properly recorded. We all want to cherish our memories and reproduce them in glorious colour. We all want to have a finely presented album of pictures in a smart matt finish to look at later. We need the lighting to be just right, and no gloomy shadows.
Call the Professionals
Given these considerations, should you always call in a professional or is christening photography something you can reasonably do for yourself?
Getting a professional photographer has certain advantages. It’s more expensive obviously, but you can be sure of the quality of the final set of photos, and the photographer will endeavour to capture the little details of the day, as well as getting in the family shots without missing out somebody important. A professional photographer is objective and impartial. They’re experts in their field and will produce the best quality photography you can expect. They’re also not involved in any part of the ceremony so they’re in a position to move around and take pictures freely without having to rush off and be elsewhere. Besides, for such a special occasion, isn’t it worth spending that little bit extra to get the job done properly?
Do It Yourself
Maybe you fancy yourself as an amateur photographer? You might have decent photographic equipment and know what you’re doing. It may be that you feel it a waste of money bringing in a professional, because you know you can provide the right sort of quality. If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with undertaking the photography yourself, but there are a few things you might want to bear in mind.
Chief among these is the necessity to be in the right place at the right time. You’ll need to be in the best position to capture all of those special moments. Wetting the baby’s head is the really important one and cutting the cake too. Then there are the family portraits with the right people in view. This is a little tricky to get right if you’re a key member of the family.
More Haste, Less Speed
Whatever your role in the proceedings, do everything you can to pre-prepare as many of your shots as possible beforehand. Set up any formal shots and arrange the props in advance, so the participants need to spend as little time as possible standing around waiting. At a christening, a lot of participants are likely to be children so be aware they might not have the required patience. And remember that whilst waiting to have their picture taken, their options for getting dirty and non-photo ready can be considerable!
Therefore, it’s important to be as quick and efficient as possible. Keep all waiting and preparation times to a minimum with the subjects simply coming into position, being photographed, then going away again. Whether you’re photographing your own family or doing it for friends, it may help to consult the organisers first in order to have a list of required shots to work with. And of course, be sure to keep a record of which ones you’ve done and what still need to be done. All this needs to be accomplished before you start taking photographs.
Location, Location, Location
If you’re the principal photographer, it’s important to have good equipment that you know how to use. It’s no good using an everyday digital camera, as others will already be doing that. Whilst okay for holiday snaps, the quality may be less than satisfactory for a major family event.
Then there’s the big question of where to take the pictures. Obviously as the ceremony proceeds, many action shots will be taken at locations over which you have little control, such as the font. However, for the more formal ‘posed’ portraits, the photographer has rather more influence. So is it going to be better to do them inside the venue? Is there a suitably decorated room where pictures can be arranged undisturbed by passing activity? Maybe it would be better to do them outside among the trees and flowers, but what are the chances of the weather spoiling your arrangements? If you’re planning to work outdoors, always have a backup plan.
Whichever you prefer, to get the best results you need to choose the best positions available. As the official photographer, you’ll probably be able to move around freely and position yourself wherever you want to be. It’s always worth visiting the venue beforehand in order to familiarise yourself with the layout and lighting. Be aware of the timings of the service as bright sunlight may be streaming in which can make photography more challenging. Know which direction the sun will be shining from and note anything that’s likely to reflect it or block it out.
For the serious photographer, this preparation is part of the process of understanding the venue and how you can best use it to maximise the quality of your shots. You may even be able to work in your own arty flourishes and themes, but don’t take risks. The importance of having a good set of quality pictures, however dull, cannot be over-emphasised.
If you’re not part of the Christening party yourself, be sure to dress appropriately. When you’re taking your hobby photographs, jeans and wellies may be perfectly acceptable, but for a christening, you’ll need to make a bit more of an effort.
Wear a smart suit or a nicely cut frock that fits with the occasion. Try to blend into the background as much as you can, even when you’re standing in front of everyone with a huge camera.
Appearance is vital, but manner is just as important. Always be charming and courteous, even when the guests are rude to you. As the photographer, you have the right to ask people, politely, to move out of the way. You may occasionally annoy people, but that’s the job you have to do. Be confident and authoritative, but not overbearing. You will have to move people around and arrange shots, so don’t be afraid to make such requests in a calm and reasoned way.
Be aware too, that there are those who don’t wish to be photographed at all. Not everybody does and that’s perfectly acceptable, so respect them as far as you can. It’s not a big issue for you, so don’t be pushy. Just smile and move on.
Taking Pictures at the Christening Party
After the ceremony there’s usually some sort of party. This will provide an opportunity to go around and take more pictures. Little cameos of groups and individuals, socialising and chatting. This can be the most important part of photographing an event, as it’s how we look back at who was there. These sorts of photos can often provide the most treasured family memories.
It’s best to keep circulating, moving around the group to see and record everybody. Keep asking permission before taking pictures, but be careful to get a good spread of the people there. Nothing is worse than finding you have twenty pictures of Aunty Mabel but none of Uncle Jim when they were both present for the same length of time and equally willing to be photographed.
Make sure you photograph everyone who needs to be pictured and avoid concentrating on the same group all the time even if their drinking games are particularly entertaining. More pertinently, there’s often a human desire to photograph younger, more beautiful subjects, whilst ignoring older people. This can cause enormous annoyance and even upset, as fleeting partners of younger relatives may be over-photographed and yet forgotten within a year, whilst a cherished great aunt is passed over, before passing away soon after.
It’s also crucial for the photographer to be aware of when it’s not appropriate to take pictures. Most people don’t wish to be pictured whilst eating, so steer clear of those with a mouthful. Never photograph them in such a way that the subject may feel uncomfortable, even if you think that shot would be riotously funny.
A Few Simple Rules
Whether you’re being paid for your work, or you’re just a willing volunteer, there are a few basic rules you’ll need to follow to ensure the best results and longest-lasting memories. These are equally important if you’re the organiser who just wants to ensure that the event is recorded as faultlessly and perfectly as possible.
Most crucially, the photographer needs to be there in good time. It seems obvious, but as the official photographer, you’re a pretty vital part of the event so you don’t want to be late and miss something important. You need to get everything set up properly, then be calm and well prepared before going about your work. If you can, arrive early, as it’ll allow you to get a better feel of the venue and the conditions. It also gives you time to make any urgent contingency arrangements. Perhaps it was scheduled to be an outdoor ceremony, but in the event of it chucking it down with rain and you’ll be taking pictures inside instead. Occasionally, something may have materially changed at the venue that makes your intended shot difficult, so you need to be prepared for that.
To ensure it all goes to plan, take a few dummy pictures first. This will help you to make sure everything’s as it should be. It’s also worth taking a few pictures of the venue and the flower arrangements before the guests arrive.
When taking the formal portraits be sure to take several of each scene, to avoid the inevitable silly expressions and closed eyes. Only select the best of each portrait for the final portfolio. Too much repetition is dull and you want everyone to look their best.
You also need to consider the needs of others at the service. You’re an important part of the ceremony, but it’s not all about you. Try not to spoil the other guests’ enjoyment of the event. Bearing this in mind, if you’re taking photos continuously through the ceremony, try not to use too many flash shots as this can be annoying and distracting for the guests and participants. Use natural light wherever possible, and plan accordingly.
Once it’s all done and you’re organising the pictures, only select the best ones there are. Remember, your work is only as good as your worst shot. Try also to choose pictures that are as flattering as possible to those in them.
Provide your work in the form of a portfolio either bound or mounted. If you’re supplying them electronically, use a CD/DVD or memory stick. Never put pictures up on public social media sites like Facebook for sharing, and certainly never without gaining the permission of everyone shown in the pictures. This is discourteous and can even be dangerous, so when sharing them do so by secure means only.
Lastly, and most of all, plan properly so that you and everyone else gets the maximum enjoyment and the most positive memories from the occasion.
For everything you need to know about planning and organising the perfect christening service for your child, visit the Little Doves website and we’ll guide you every step of the way.