Tips For Funeral Photography
For many people, photographs are the perfect way to remember an important or an emotional event and this is certainly true when you plan a funeral. However, these occasions are no easy task for the funeral photographer. How do you capture the event tastefully? While this is never an easy task and will likely change with each funeral in question, here are a few important tips for funeral photography to get you started.
Don’t Disturb People
As a photographer, you are simply there to observe, not get in the way. As such, your photographs should not be disruptive of the event, even if it means risking the quality of a shoot. Be happy with the arrangement (such as funeral flowers) as it is and don’t bring additional lighting. Lights will get in people’s eyes, distract them and make them more aware of your presence than focusing on the funeral. Most churches and official buildings will have adequate lighting but, if you think this is an issue, you can check with the person responsible before the event. The same also goes for flash photography, as this is far too disruptive.
On a similar note, you should always plan ahead when photographing funerals. Talk to the close family and visit where the event will take place. This way, you’ll have an idea of the planned procession and where to operate without getting in the way. On a similar note, you should also look into the specific faith and customs of those involved and other funeral etiquette matters such as dressing accordingly. This way, you will blend in respectfully, allowing you to get on with your task. Additionally, speaking with the immediate family or funeral planners will let you know of any additional rituals or rites that they wish to have captured.
All photographers aim to be objective but funerals are a true cause for literal distance. Don’t position your camera close to any caskets or ceremonies themselves – again, you’re just going to get in the way or distract people. It is better to stand to the side or back of the room and use a medium distance lens for any detail needs. This will help you get up close without having to physically interrupt anything. As for any close-ups of the deceased? Well, you shouldn’t do this without express permission from the family (and it’s worth asking beforehand in case this is what they want).
For a funeral, the deceased is obviously the main focus. From a photography point of view, however, this restricts your creativity. Yet, in some cases this is also an advantage, since funerals are traditional, somber affairs. Don’t be too creative with your framing and be sure to film from the back. This way you can angle your camera to capture people suffering from such grief and loss, but you’re not directly capturing their faces or emotions – this is, again, something you shouldn’t do without permission. Remember that the deceased is the main priority here, so the photographs you aim to take should reflect this.
On another note, funerals are live events and you can’t ask people to re-position themselves because you didn’t get the right shot. With that in mind, any photographer attending a funeral needs to be familiar with taking quick shots rather than long set-ups. Set your camera to quick exposure and rapid shutter settings. This way, you can take multiple shots rapidly and, in instances like this, it’s best to simply pick out the better or worthwhile ones after the event.
Adhere to Requests
Some people will not want to be photographed. Others may ask who you are, what you’re going to do with the photographs and if they could be blurred/edited out. These are all reasonable requests at a funeral and, as the photographer, you should adhere to any and all requests. If you can’t? Then don’t do what you were going to do. Your photography should not change the funeral in any way: you should change to meet the funerals needs.
All in all, these are some of the finer tips for funeral photography to consider when taking photographs at a funeral. This is a difficult challenge for even the most seasoned photographer but it’s often an important event to record.
Source: Robert Bruce, Great Lakes Caskets