Photography and Religion - Images of Faith

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Photographing feelings, emotions, and faith can be achieved with some basic understanding of photography and an understanding of the message or idea that you are trying to convey, but you will always need to have a keen eye and a sense for details.

Unlike feelings and emotions which can pose some problems when photographing them as well as realistically trying to represent them through photographs, religion is a little bit more simple.

The standard is to capture images of a church or place of worship or images of a priest, monk or rabbi. But to deviate from the standard and create really worthwhile images one should go beyond this and focus on the worshipers themselves, small details as well as acts of devotion.

Often the best religious images are composed of worship items such as candles, a menorah, a bible, the Torah. Stained glass panels often found on Catholic churches are a prime example of this genre. Don't be so focused on photographing only at religious events or at houses of worship , often some good examples can be found in the most unlikely of places such as in the form of tattoos.

A world known religious image is that of a pigeon, mostly a white one, flying across the sky; a simple but effective image. Being attentive and open minded are essential. Pilgrimages are fertile grounds to record religious based photographs and the focus is often the pilgrims themselves and the many devotional acts that are often associated with these.

Try to capture images that are simple yet strong enough to fully represent the particular faith or faith in general abstract terms. Statues are good starting points but better yet capture images of hands clasped in prayer which always make powerful symbols or religious garbs, prayer beads, books of worship, a kneeling person.

Note of caution; there are many parts of the world where it is not appropriate to photograph religious articles, worshipers etc. In Thailand and on many Asian countries this is not acceptable and can even be illegal.

Many religions shun the practice of having their photographs taken with Islam being a prime example. If traveling abroad please conduct some research and at the very least just ask. Do not take a photo if you are not allowed or it's not proper, you risk losing your equipment or worst. See the following link for an interesting example.

There are samples found in nature which can also be used to represent faith in a creator or the power of creation rather than on a particular religion. Sunsets, sun rays breaking through clouds, a grandiose canyon, a vast ocean, the miracle of birth are all great examples of faith, although much is dependent on the viewer's perspective and experiences don't overlook these opportunities.

Faith is very subjective, often dictated by tradition, historical accounts. But in general most have a belief in a creator and the wonders of his or her creations, a belief that life is wonderful and a belief in the after life. Images that can record and represent the essence of these beliefs can be very powerful and the emotions which they invoke very strong and this is what you should aim for if doing religious photography.

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Be creative in your photography and use light in creative ways. Many religious images are best shown in subtle light. If is often better to capture images that only reveal parts of the worshiper to also include some religious artifacts. Showing full face portraits it's not really a necessity with this style as the emphasis is on the faith element within the scene not on the subject itself.

Sometimes your chosen subject is found during very dramatic circumstances such as on a funeral procession or on a cemetery. Be very sensible and sensitive if faced with any of these circumstances. If a disagreement arises you will more likely always be on the losing side.

These images are always appropriate if tastefully done, for specialized greeting card companies, photographic publications, emotive posters and literature and general photography. Consider creating a web site that showcases your work, as this can be an excellent medium from which to broadcast your talent and create sales. There is a vast market for religious images and an ample demand. If your images are done with taste and decorum.

Always be tactful, respectful and discreet as well as using common sense even if photographing a large religious event. Take tips from those around you, if others are photographing it is a safe bet that photography is allowed. Off course being polite and having a smile always helps.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 11 comments

justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Years ago I documented the demolition of a Catholic church built in the 1800's and it was one of the most interesting things I've ever shot. The front of the church was intact, as was the back where the pulpit stood but a lot of the center had been destroyed. It actually felt strange to be taking photos of it. Good hub! Peace!! Tom

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

@justom: Why was it demolished ? Surely any building from that era should have been listed as an historical landmark

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justom 5 years ago from 41042

Like the song says, "They write it all down as the progress of man". It was in a section of the city where poor black folks lived and were displaced from. The whole area was eventually leveled (I got a ton of great photos during those years, all black and white). Now it's where a lot of pretentious white folks live. Through the years the city has done some strange things to the tune of progress.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

This is very good Luis, I also like the photos. I never thought there was anything special about photographing religion before, so thanks for the tips.

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John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Nice hub. It doesn't surprise me, after all, the Greeks viewed literature, music, and art, as different modes of philosophy. What do you think Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is? - Nothing but theology and philosophy all rolled up into one....

Take care,


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stessily 5 years ago

LuisEGonzalez: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with and understanding of the many facets of photography. As a camera shy person who prefers to take rather than be in photos, I especially appreciate your reminders to be aware that being photographed is not always welcome. As always, your images enhance your well-written text. I love the tattoo of Robert Powell as Jesus; I've never forgotten the gentleness that he conveyed so well in that role. Well done! Voted up + useful + beautiful + amazing

Kind regards, Stessily

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

stessily: Thank you very much, you actually made me

tnderhrt23 5 years ago

Fabulous hub and photos...this has inspired me! Thank you!

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stessily 5 years ago

LuisEGonzalez: It is so charming to think that I made you blush! Please be prepared to keep on blushing because I truly appreciate your generosity and dedication. I am finishing a hub on The Annunciation in painting, and reading this hub reminded me why I selected the paintings that I did for my hub: the artists were sensitive to the theme and respectful of their human and symbolic images. As a result of their sensitivity and respect, their paintings are loved worldwide, by those who believe in the Annunciation and even by those who do not, and that is quite an accomplishment.

By the way, I have wanted to read this hub ever since I received the notification over a month ago (!) as your follower. It was well worth the wait.

Kind regards, Stessily

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

tnderhrt23: Thank you

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

stessily: I am not used to such praise, that always makes me blush since I am a simple man at heart.

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