Dramatic church wedding photography in Northumberland

I always scout out new wedding venues that I haven’t photographed before. Although I had previously shot a wedding at The Alnwick Garden, I hadn’t photographed inside St Paul’s Church in Alnwick where Noor and Callum’s ceremony was due to be held.

It turned out that the church was in an ideal location, just a few steps from the bride and groom’s guest houses, and then within walking distance to the Alnwick Garden for their reception. The church had ample grounds for group shots should we decide to use it for that purpose and there was plenty of parking.

What wasn’t ideal was that I couldn’t get into the church. The doors were locked and there was no-one to let me in. Noor & Callum had spoken to the priest and invited him to their wedding reception, and they had already confirmed that I’d have good access during the ceremony for photographs, so I wasn’t unduly worried.

On the day of the wedding I was quite unprepared for how large and dramatic the interior of the church would be. Alnwick is a relatively small town of around 8000 people and has an even small congregation, so the scale of the church seemed out of all proportion to the needs of the community.

It was great news for me though, as I knew I could get a dramatic photograph. I knew I wanted to get the bride and groom in the shot, even if they were tiny in size. In order to maximise their visibility I waited until they were standing. Next I had to be right at the back of the church. I was planning on using my 18mm lens, but once in position I found my 23mm was perfect. There were empty pews and other clutter just out of frame that the wider lens would have included.

To capture the scale of the church I positioned Noor and Callum at the bottom of the frame. That meant I got in as much of the columns, arches, stained glass windows and ceiling lights as possible. I stood dead centre of the aisle and then checked my settings.

Ideally I’d be at f8, or at least f5.6 for architectural photographs, but the gloomy church interior meant that I had to stop down to 2.8 (which is equivalent to around f4 on a full frame camera). Even then I was at 2000 ISO, which meant introducing grain into the image.

However, what I’ve found is that as long as the light you have is good quality, even if there isn’t much of it, the finished photograph will still look good even with a little grain. Poor quality light, even if it allows you to shoot at lowers ISO’s is far worse for the final image.

I also knew I’d be converting the image to black and white in post production, where I often prefer images with grain rather than without.

The final image is pretty much exactly as I envisaged and I hope that it will be one that Noor and Callum will treasure.

St Paul’s church in Alnwick is pretty epic. Who knew?

St Paul’s church in Alnwick is pretty epic. Who knew?

Camera: Fujifilm X-Pro2

Lens: Fujifilm 23mm 1.4

Focal length: 23mm

Aperture: 2.8

ISO: 2000

Exposure: 1/125