Tips to covering a Catholic Baby Baptism

It is always nice covering christenings and baby baptisms. A baby baptism held at a Catholic is a little trickier than covering a christening or baby baptisms at other churches but most definitely easier than covering a wedding.

Here are a few tips I’ve read and also learnt from covering a baby baptism recently.

1. Attend the rehearsal of the baptism.

Most of these orthodox or traditional churches are strict on procedure and as such they host mock baptisms or rehearsals to take the family through the process. As a photographer, especially if you don’t come from a catholic background, this is the best time to get familiar with the process of the ceremony, scope out the church, investigate which perspectives and angles will work on the actual day, learn the different locations the family and the baby will be. From attending the rehearsal, you will also find out how many persons will be attending per family and also how many families will be apart of the baptism ceremony. This helps in deciding locations and vantage points. 

2. Meet with the Priest or Officiator of the Baptism.

This is really important, some Priest are very traditional and strict, while others are more laid back and open to the idea of a photographer walking around the church, snapping photos. So from meeting with the Priest you will get an understanding of the type of person he is, as well as he will discuss with you the places you can and cannot be, for example the Altar. 

In my experience, at first I wasn’t allowed to step on the Altar but during the washing of the baby’s head at the Font( bowl structure where the baptism takes place), the deacon called me on to the Altar and selected a specific spot for me to stand, so that I could  take closer and more pleasing photographs of the baptism.

3. Having the right gear/equipment.

The camera and lenses I used were the Canon EOS 60D,  Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD  lens and the Canon 17-55mm F/2.8 IS USM.

Due to the fact that most churches don’t allow you to be on the Altar, you will need a telephoto with a focal length longer that 50mm to capture those close ups of the baby and the family throughout the ceremony. 

Most Catholic churches are rather beautiful on the inside and are decorated with murals and statues, etc.,. So capturing these details, especially from the baby’s point of view is great for any photo album.  It is also a great opportunity to frame the family with a nice wide shot of the church, showing the congregation, the family and the art that can be very prolific. 

Having a wide lens comes also in handy after the church service for capturing the family portraits. I didn’t end up in such a scenario, but some families are very traditional and the whole family may attend the ceremony. Most times relatives on both the mother’s and father’s side of the family attend. Not to mention the godparents who have to be captured, along with other special church members and friends. Think of it as covering a wedding formals. 

4. Be prepared for low light and freezing action.

Depending on the type of church and the time of day, natural or ambient lighting might be an issue, so if flash photography is allowed you may be forced to use it and/or raise your ISO to counter the lack of  available light. The baptism includes a few moments where freezing the frame is needed for example when the baby is at the Font, capturing shots where the water is frozen can be quite appealing. Also in the case of the baptism I recently captured, the Priest at the end of the ceremony raised the baby in the air and waved him left to right to show the congregation. These movement though not as fast as Usain Bolt doing the 100m dash, still needs a fast enough shutter-speed for example 1/100, to freeze any movement and alleviate any motion blur, which isn’t pleasing unless an artistic approach is being taken. 

These are just a few tips I picked up on during my research and through carrying out a coverage of my own.  Hope you find this helpful and feel free to leave any advice you have in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your perspective and input.

See Album for full coverage of Justin Jones’ baby baptism. 

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