Usha Arghya, Varanasi, India (Christopher Roche)
Article 13 April

How to take photos of religious events – without offending anybody

Christopher Roche won the Portfolio category of Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition for his shots of religious events. Here he shares his tips for capturing the magic...

Settle in

Devotion, faith traditions and belief systems – the thirst for spiritual fulfilment fascinates me.

I spend as much time as possible at the event before touching my camera – sometimes days. That way I get accustomed to the place, the pace and the energy, while the locals can become accustomed to me too. I observe, just waiting for the right opportunity or for the photograph to present itself.

Dress appropriately

You don’t want to stand out as a tourist, so dress appropriately. I am as sensitive and as invisible as possible.

Priests at dawn in Lalibela, Ethiopia (Christopher Roche)
Priests at dawn in Lalibela, Ethiopia (Christopher Roche)

Always ask first

I will always request a subject’s permission first by gently raising my camera with a questioning expression. Sometimes I get a nod, sometimes I am ignored and sometimes I get a shake of the head.

If someone doesn’t want to be photographed, I completely respect that.

Sunning the Buddha in the Amdo region of eastern Tibet (Christopher Roche)
Sunning the Buddha in the Amdo region of eastern Tibet (Christopher Roche)

Consider making a donation

There is no general rule about paying for a photograph. I’ve never been asked to by a pilgrim. If a priest or a monk has opened up his church or monastery especially for me, I will leave a donation.

Do your research

Research always pays off. Study the place, the rituals, the geography, the direction of the sun and what other photographs have been taken of this event before.


You can see all of Christopher Roche’s Travel Photo of the Year 2015-winning portfolio images here. See more of his work at chrisrochephotographer.co.uk


Main Image: Usha Arghya, Varanasi, India (Christopher Roche)