Notre Dame of Lyon – aka How to Take Clandestine Cathedral Pictures in 10 Steps

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 security 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 lenient 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 embarrassing for them, really.

10. See #9. It’s your duty to stop tourists from using flashes… next thing you know, they’ll have their flash on when shooting the Eiffel Tower at night.

Daily Photo – Notre Dame of Lyon

I arrived in Lyon today for an upcoming game conference and went to the old medieval section of the city to grab some shots before dinner. This is the interior of the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvre. It is probably the most lavish and beautiful cathedral I have ever been inside. It beats the other Notre Dame in Paris by a mile. I’ve never been in the Sistine Chapel, which is probably more lavish. I was going to visit it on my last trip to Rome but the Pope died the day I was there… so that one was… busy.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Lyon France

Notre Dame of Lyon

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4.0
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10mm (15mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

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  • Esh

    Don’t know about your advice on using the tripod but this is truly magnifico I like the balance.

  • http://vlavagphoto.blogspot.com/ Vaggelis Vlahos

    this is amazing!!!!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/skandros charles

    I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel and this is nicer. If you ever get a chance to see the Cathedral in Albis, France, it’s a nice one too, althout the exterior is not that imprssive, the inside is very very nice.

  • http://imposedblog.wordpress.com/ Linda Summers

    Beautiful shot! And wonderfully humorous advise. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • http://imposedblog.wordpress.com/ Linda Summers

    Advice, that is (wherever is that edit button).

  • Esh

    A little more guidance needed oh almighty guru :-) what is a good dslr to go for

  • Susan

    Beautiful shot Trey – wow it’s impressive! Funny advice too!

  • Maya

    not sure if i need to try since your photos are more beautiful than i can imagine.

  • http://ladylanguage.blogspot.com Michelle

    I enjoyed tip #9 as I am learning how not to use my flash whenever possible – I am a reformed flash user and this made me laugh! Stunning pic.

  • a_m_m_b

    o m g! absolutely gorgeous :) looks as if one might step right thru the screen & be on site.

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com tratcliff

    Thanks all – ! It was a pretty place for sure!

  • Shaun Yasaki

    my suggestion is to carry around a fake photo pass in your bag at all times. Ive been in europe for the semester and a really confusing pass in complicated english does the trick nicely…..and yeah, the sistine isnt as impressive as you would think……

  • Kayel Cambrian

    Hello. This comment does not pertain specifically to the post to which it attached. I just followed a link to your website and I wanted to tell you that I find your photos truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing them.

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com tratcliff

    haha thanks for the comments… that is a good idea Shaun! :)

  • Denise Weston

    I have never been accosted when trying to take a photo in a European cathedral. But then, my photos have never turned out so fabulously magnificent! Congrats on a photo that beautifully communicates the feeling of really being there. You MUST go to the Pantheon and see it. Stunning. Thanks for sharing.

  • Suzanne

    Your pictures are wonderful. If you’d like to take pictures of beautiful cathedrals, visit some of the Russian Orthodox cathedrals. If you live in the USA, there’s one in San Francisco that will give you just an idea of what a simple one looks like.
    http://tinyurl.com/2uedf3

  • Timnmy G

    Most beautiful picture!

    You should see the St. Louis Cathedral in St. Louis, Mo. Incredible scenes created from mosaics on every wall, stained glass, etc. Seriously, go see it!

    Keep up the good work :o)

  • Matt

    I will say up front that I’m anti-HDR, in general (so we’re on opposite sides of the fence). The images I saw on your link are amazingly beautiful, but they strike me as artificial. That doesn’t mean they aren’t art, or I’d be condemning every artist outside of photography (and many photographers even before HDR was even possible). I really like them, as much as I don’t want to, and despite the fact that my own work will never move in that direction. So you’re convincing a skeptic.

    I also like the advice you give here. It’s often in photography that confidence and the appearance of legitimacy are more important than your actual right to be there. For official work (we do event photography) if we don’t take charge and make sure that we act like we have the right to boss people around things will fall apart. And every few weeks I think I really need to print up some sort of personal business card to explain myself when I can’t find an owner and…uhh…stray onto other people’s property because there’s an amazing decaying structure or I see a good opportunity.

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com tratcliff

    Haha thanks – yes good points!

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  • http://rvvind.com Arvind

    OMFG! Sorry for the profanity – but this is simply surreal.

  • Chantelle

    Great photo. I lived in Lyon for a year and that is still my favorite by far. Just got back from Rome and i think Fourviere beats the sistine chapel for sheer beauty. WOnderful shot and fuuny advice :) I got a great one in st peters basilica too.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/deymos/ Deymos

    #9 and #10 are to the point! i’d take away their cameras. :) the problem is they’ve moved to #10 long time ago.

    as to everything else, i’ll agree with Matt. :)

  • Boris M.

    Hey, Trey, I will remember your advices!
    Fantastic photo you made here!

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  • David

    In regards to #4:

    Probably the easiest way to get a tripod into a Church is to become Catholic. Once one joins the Church, we get a Vatican issued card that lets us to a whole bunch of cool stuff, like carry tripods in Church, miss school for Holy Days (great back in 7th grade), etc, etc.

    Just a suggestion!

    (and just in case it wasn’t blatantly obvious, in the words of one Homer Simpson speaking about a “gumbdrop house on Lollipop Lane”: “By the way, I was being sarcastic.”

    Well, duh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janusz-Leszczynski/629391442 Janusz Leszczynski

    If it is absolutely impossible to use tripod or object to steady the camera. I have seen a trick with a string. Tie a length of the string from your camera and drop it on the floor than step on it so tight – take a look how steady it is – surprise ! I know it will not replace a tripod but it may help and nobody can say that they can’t afford it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neil-Howard/1533150634 Neil Howard

    A little off topic Trey, but I would Love to see what you could do with the Winchester Cathedral. (It is the largest Norman Church in England, and really is HUGE, despite being 1000 years old or so.)
    Funny thing is, you can carry a tripod in there anytime! The place sometimes literally TEEMS with tripods ;-)
    Funny thing is, the best day is Sunday, no one even watches or cares who goes in, or out.
    Photographing is frowned upon during services though, I think it scares the spirits or something…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neil-Howard/1533150634 Neil Howard

    Sorry for the second post, but here is proof that photographers with tripods end up in the crypt! (LOL!)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilsingapore/3324173482/in/set-72157601821460792/

  • Daniel

    So it’s more important to satisfy your selfish desire for a photograph by lying and cheating than to respect the rules. That’s so mature.

  • Sue

    Some rules need to be broken.

  • Michael

    It’s tough to get a good shot in most of those cathedrals let alone fantastic shots like the ones shown here. Often the big cathedrals are anti-flash and anti-tripod but they don’t really enforce it but Trey, be forewarned, I’ve been to the Sistine Chapel and it’s a strict “no photo!” zone. I saw an Asian man trying to nonchalantly sneak a few photos from the hip and security spotted him as well. They literally grabbed him by the collar and shoulder and dragged him backward, feet flailing to the exit and they shoved him forcefully out the door. In some places, no means no. Just an FYI. :)

  • Richard

    The photo is undeniably great, but the way it was obtained is dubious. It displays the sort of contemptuous attitude that gives Americans in particular (and photographers in general) a bad reputation in Europe. If it is clear that taking photographs, or the use of tripods are not permitted, then why can this not be respected, rather then going to all this deception and subtefuge. The fact you feel it does not matter if you get caught, shows an arrogance that ignores the fact that you are a guest and should respect the sensitivities of other cultures, not take advantage of them because you can. Next time you are in a place of worhsip, you might use it for it’s original purpose and put your camera away and sit quietly for a few minutes. I hope along with Daniel and some of the respondents, that this would encourage to be a little less selfish.

  • Travis

    The rules imposed on photographers is not because they don’t want you to photograph their property. The main reason historical places ban photographers is for reasons #9 and #10 above. Camera flashes can cause irreversible damage to paintings, tapestries and other art work. The way Trey captures his images requires no flash and therefore does no harm. Since most places have a hard time policing “No flash photography” rules, it is much easier for them to just ban it all together.
    Tripods are another story all together. Most of those rules are the result of perceived liability since someone might trip over it. Or, they think that tripods might be banged against furniture, walls, or scratch floors.
    I think Trey that you have enough support, credibility and clout that you would be granted private photo shoots anywhere you go…once they reviewed this site. (i.e. Coke Museum)
    Keep up the great images!

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  • http://www.hair-transplant-surgery.com jean

    You sens of humor is very refreshing.
    I’ve spent all the day in the Met (NY) and I’m spending all the evening taking a look to you fabulous work.
    Just what I needed to be happy. Thanks a lot for your we site!

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  • Joel

    Haha I love your comment about the flash. When I was in europe there were some many people using flash and wondering why their pictures looked messed up.

  • LInelle707

    Recently I spent two weeks in Jerusalem with a little Canon point-and-shoot. On my first day, deep in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I realized that using a flash robbed my photos of the mystery of the place. I didn’t use it thereafter, even at less holy sites. For sure, a few shots are blurred a bit, but mostly I captured the feel of the places.

  • http://KidsLoveAnimals.com Paul Garrett

    I just visited some Byzantine chapels in Greece that would have been amazing subjects for HDR photography because of the the beautiful paintings that adorned almost every inch of their walls and ceilings. However, photography was strictly prohibited and there was always a stern faced Bishop watching over us. Next time I’ll know to just go ahead steal a series of shots and blame it on StuckInCustoms. Thanks for the tips!

  • John

    Hi Trey,

    As a Catholic who goes to Church and prays the rosary, I find #4 and #5 offensive. I’m a big fan of your photos and website, but this post takes you down a few notches in my book.

    I’ve bought a couple of your ebooks and recommended your website to friends, but after discovering this post, I’ll have to think twice next time.

    -John

  • Matt

    I understand where John is coming from…
    I seriously think that after seeing this photo though, none of us will ever need to take another picture in that place. I’m very thankful that you snapped it, however you were able to. Otherwise I, and many others including many/most Catholics, would have never seen this truly spectacular structure. Absolutely gorgeous! Now when we visit, the rest of us can just enjoy it without our cameras.

    I liked #10, but don’t forget the people like my mom who take sunset pictures with her flash! hilarious :)

  • Lucien Alvin Thomas

    Same here. I am quite offended.

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