How to Take Clandestine Cathedral Pictures in 10 Steps

Photo by

I was browsing Flickr today and found this dude’s Flickr page. His photos are out of this world amazing. His blog posts about them are also amazing and entertaining. Here’s an excerpt of the post on the above photo. (Go on, the guy has character.)

My method for getting tripods into cathedrals and shooting is this:

1) Go in the exit and act like you are lost if someone asks

2) Wear a long matrix-coat and stuff your tripod up inside like a shotgun. Try not to walk with a limp.

3) Stride confidently through the crowds like you are in a hurry on a photo assignment.

4) Work your way into the pews and have a seat. You can even pretend to be Catholic and say a few Latin words as you sit down. I suggest “Pater Noster (My Father) or Quid Pro Quo (Rub Beads and go to Heaven)”

5) Slide out the tripod and assemble along the ground, When other parishioners look at you suspiciously, give them the sign of the cross.

6) Watch for old people in the main aisle, because they have trouble getting around tripods. Jump out, take your long exposures at 100 ISO, then sit back down.

7) If securty comes to get you, blame Stuck In Customs and that will confuse them long enough so you can make a getaway.

8) Don’t worry about getting caught. The church is much more leniant than they were during the Inquisition. Most big cathedrals do have crypts, but they are full of dead saints and they have never put a photographer in there.

9) If you see a tourist with a tiny camera taking a picture with the flash on, please tell them to stop. The flash does nothing in that situation. It’s just embarassing for them, really.

10) If you want some post-processing techniques, check out my tutorial at


What a personality.

Here are some quotes I like from his post about post-processing techniques/.

Regarding Photomatix:

Now it is time to fire up Photomatix and get crunk in the HDR house. Okay that was stupid.

Regarding tripods:

You gotta have a solid tripod. What? You don’t want to carry around a tripod? Comon… if you are going out to shoot beautiful pictures, you better get serious. Also, if you have it over your shoulder or carry it in an aggressive way, it makes an effective weapon. As you can see, I go all over the world, often into sketchy areas, and a big tripod is often an effective deterrent. I carry it so much, I am very good at flipping it around and whipping it around my body like ninja nunchaku.

Regarding Photoshop:

What? You are not good at Photoshop? First you tell me you don’t like carrying tripods, and then you tell me you don’t like using Photoshop. How about this… Let’s get you a little bit out of your comfort zone, eh? That’s what good friends do right… push you to make yourself better. If you keep doing things you are comfortable with, then you are never going to improve and experience new things, right?

Amazing, huh? Check out his website, he has some bad-ass night city photos. And travel photos, and, and, and, just go see.


9 thoughts on “How to Take Clandestine Cathedral Pictures in 10 Steps

  1. Some of that advice would work fro ANYTHING sneaky you’re trying to do, eh? Just act like you know what you’re doing, and people will leave you alone. Heck, in my profession (univ. prof.) act like you know what you’re doing long enough and you might even get tenure!

  2. When I visited Paris in 2003, I was able to take photos openly in most Cathedrals. One notable exception was Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart). I tried, but was quickly told that it wasn’t allowed. Still, I was able to get great pics of Notre Dame and St Sulpice (the one described in The Davinci Code).

  3. Hi Chuval, I think mostly it is the tripod part that makes it forbidden.
    This photo on my blog doesn’t do it much justice, you have to see it on his Flickr page.

    In some citiies you can’t even set up a tripod on the sidewalk without a permit. Tripods make much better photos, those which can be for commercial use, so places get upset when you pull one out.

  4. I actually set up a tripod in the Louvre and took photos for about 45 minutes until someone approached me and told me it was forbidden. Still, got some great pics out of it.

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