First Communion Photos

Available light portraiture–Keeping things simple is sometimes the best way to go especially when you don’t have a lot of fancy gear. This portrait inside the St. Catherines of Alexandria Church, Riverside, CA was done using window light on the left and a reflector on the right. Canon 80-200 zoom. ISO 400 1/125 @ f2.8

As the beneficiary of those “toys,” you get to shoot the annual extinguishing of birthday candles and other recurring events.

Those are the easy ones.

If you blow those, there’s always next year.

But not so for those milestones which happen only once in a lifetime.

Blowing that might mean a fast auction for your “toys” on ebay.

More likely, your next lens of piece of equipment will undergo a prolonged approval process by your “boss” who holds the purse strings.

Since we camera buffs have to stick together, I have some suggestions which should keep you in business.

A First Communion

Just because the church has a hired a photographer for the day, it doesn’t mean you should settle for the same picture everyone gets.

If you plan ahead a little, you can have some wonderful and memorable pictures.

Say, it’s your child’s First Communion.

More than likely they already have the attire beforehand, so you should plan on doing this very formal portrait before the actual day.

Once you have that formal portrait in the bag, you can relax and not think about pictures on the actual day of the event.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather be a spectator and be part of the event on this all important day?

If you still feel like taking pictures, the pressure will be off,  so just carry your point and shoot camera.


In most cases, you usually have access to the venue when it isn’t in use.

I can’t underscore enough the importance of scouting ahead to determine the best time that you’ll get beautiful light inside your church.

Please don’t misunderstand this critical point.

Beautiful light is not necessarily plenty as in bright and lots of it.

Beautiful is more of a quality.

Does it fall where you want it casting and shaping your subject but not lighting distracting elements in the background?

It can be the difference between hauling out all your lighting gear and just using available light and a reflector.

So start with a phone call to the office to see what hours are available. Most churches don’t have restrictions on photography when the clergy isn’t officiating.

Using just available light  with today’s low-noise digital SLRs is a sound approach.

In my case, I was able to use ISO 400, a fast lens and a monopod.

You should weigh increased ISO for your particular camera against increase in noise to see what you’re willing to live with in your images.


You might need is a tripod or monopod depending on how fast a lens you have.

I used a 80-200 f2.8 zoom lens and a monopod.

A tripod would work as well, but it those two extra legs while giving you more stability can be cumbersome to work in confined spaces.

Consider also using a flash— off-camera— to provide separation of your subjects from the background.

I used a very affordable radio slave to trigger my flash which was on a light stand for this picture on the right.

The scene is pretty much the same as the one above.

Compare the 2 pictures.

That little bit of light might be a bit much especially if you don’t modify its spread.

Indiscriminately blasting away with your flash can ruin your scene.

Your Star

Whatever you do, do not forget to be nice and praise your child a lot as you’re working.

As a rule, kids at that age would rather be playing than be dressed in a suit or dress.

My guess is you have at the most 40 minutes of their attention.

That’s why the planning is so important.

Before they even show up, you should already have in mind where this picture will take place.

Get your gear in place, have your star arrive 15 to 20 minutes after you so you can be all set up.

By the time your star arrives, all that should remain is for you to coax/cajole your star into giving you their cooperation.


Light the candles just before you call it quits–I did this picture last simply because playing with fire requires your full attention. Plus you don’t want the flame to get all out of control. Remind the “stars” to hold their candle upright. Set up, shoot quickly, don’t dawdle because you don’t want to explain to the parents how their child got burned by hot wax.

Since all of us are closet pyromaniacs, including yours truly, lit candles tend to make us all feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Just remember to get  candles that have a holder which will protect your stars’ hands from dripping hot wax.

That’s it for this time. If you’re finding my posts useful, please be a fan of my Facebook Page.

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Thanks for reading.

Peter Phun Photography

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5 thoughts on “First Communion Photos”

  1. Greetings Albert,
    Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I was trying to find an “about” you page but there wasn’t one.

    I’m always curious where my visitors are coming from, that’s why.

    Best regards,

  2. These are absolutely stunning communion photos. I just ordered photo first communion invitations but unfortunately they don’t look half as nice as yours! At least from the directions you posted I will be able to try again for my youngest sons 1st communion in 2 years! Thanks

  3. Hola Milagros!
    Before I can offer you some concrete advice. I”ll need to know some things about your equipment.

    Your flash, model and make
    Lenses, focal length and f-stop
    Do you have reflectors/diffusers?
    Do you have an off-camera sync cord?
    Do you have a webcam on your computer?
    Do you have Skype installed on your computer?

    Finally if you wouldn’t mind, if I give you some advice over a videochat, may I record it to share on my blog?

  4. Dear Pete: I live in Mexico and I come from a photographers family, but all of them do not share tips, my father is 81 and he is having trouble with digital cameras. I use to help him 3 yrs ago. Now my niece is having her first communion and I will take the studio pictures outdoors. I have a canon rebel digital camera, and I need some help with the f and should I use a flash. I would love to hear your advice, I am sorry but I am not a good outdoor photographer, neither inside but my clients like it and I can manage that a little bit better. Hope to hear from you. Will you give me some ideas. Thank you

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