1. Ask THE FAMILY Before Taking Pictures
Ask first before taking pictures of the deceased, their casket, or an open-casket viewing.
Many people do not appreciate having their loved one’s image taken at a funeral, and it is important to respect their wishes as much as possible. However, if you are invited by a family member to take photographs during the service or visitation, be sure to ask them beforehand what times would be best for photography and which areas may be off-limits.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
Do you want me to take pictures of specific people?
Do you want me to take photos of the place and other things?
Are there any religious ceremonies you want me to focus on?
Is there anything I should not take pictures of?
Do you want to take group photos at the end of the funeral?
As a professional photographer it is often a good idea to see the officiant before the event starts to see if there are any restrictions in terms of positions and movement. 90 percent of the time there is not yet in some churches it is common.
2. VISIT THE VENUE AHEAD OF TIME TO EVALUATE THE LIGHTING
Lighting is important for funeral photography. If you can, ask to visit the place before the funeral. Look at how the lighting is set up. If there aren’t many light sources, use a high ISO number during the funeral. You can even use a tripod if the lighting is going to be very limited.
3. Dress appropriately IN DARK COLOURS
Dressing in dark colors and avoiding anything too flashy can help show respect for the proceedings and for grieving families who may be upset by bright lights and intrusive photography during this solemn event.
It is also best to avoid wearing open-toed shoes so that dirt and rain don’t get on your feet while standing outside at the gravesite or cemetery.
Don’t dress too casual. Dress shoes, dress pants and a suit jacket are what we tend to wear for our professional assignments. The worst thing is seeing people dressed very casual or scruffy at funerals because it looks like they have made no effort for the occasion.
So in our books the better dressed and smarter you look the better, just staying with darker neutral colours.
4. Be Discreet, By using silent shutter and no flash
Be discreet when taking photos so that you don’t intrude on those who came to pay their respects in a quiet manner.
Do not get in front of the casket at any time during the service blocking the view of the family. It is best to stay at the back or around the sides of the venue.
If the camera has a really good low light performance indoors consider shooting without flash especially as a professional photographer who knows how to get the very best image quality using manual modes. Turn on the silent shutter function on your camera.
A professional event photographer should always have professional series cameras that will offer silent shutter functions.
HOW TO SHOOT WITHOUT FLASH
The best way to shoot without flash is usually using a camera that has IBIS ( in body stabilisation ) as well as stabilisation in the lens. Understand the best native ISO setting to use on your camera in low light ( you could google that ). Try to use the fastest lens you can with an aperture of around F1 to F2.8 ( unless photographing a large group photo where you may need to use an aperture of F5.6 to F8 ). Finally make sure you can get the most natural light into your camera possible without creating blur by using a shutter speed that is equal to or faster than your focal length, and using a monopod or tripod if you are still worried about camera shake or blur.
Consider Using a Smaller Camera.
As a professional event photographer even before mirrorless cameras came out, around a decade ago, some of the top professionals have always loved using the smallest camera bodies available for events.
This was not as much due to the size and weight issue as much as the communion knowledge that professionals have is that smaller bodies are less obtrusive. In a nutshell, the bigger the camera, lens and flash, the more the subjects being photograph tend to notice and act natural in front of the camera.
That is not to say that you should be using the smallest cheapest cameras available. Yet there are a lot of high quality cameras in the smaller body shapes such as APS-C and Micro Four Thirds that may be better in case of being less obtrusive.
A good example is something like a Sony A6600 with a 17-70mm lens which we have used in the past at Funeralvid to photograph funerals.
There are many ways that you can honor both your subjects and those who lost loved ones when photographing a funeral. You can choose which shots to take carefully and respectfully, use special settings on your camera, or even edit with software later to improve the quality of your photos.
Following these guidelines will ensure that you are able to capture both the solemnity and some of the more joyous moments if they occur at a funeral. However, always keep in mind that taking pictures during a funeral is considered a privilege rather than an expectation, and you should avoid doing anything that may make grieving families uncomfortable while ensuring that you get high-quality shots.
DON’T PHOTOGRAPH PEOPLE’S FACES IN AN OBVIOUS WAY UNLESS ASKED.
If your client didn’t tell you who to photograph, it’s best to avoid photographing faces. You can try to photograph people from behind. If somebody asks you to photograph them, offer to do so after the funeral.
You can also photograph at a fast aperture of 1.0 to 2.5 to only focus on your subject and keep peoples faces out of focus. Yet you need to understand if the family wants photos of guests / families faces because normally it is best to focus mostly on the service itself and the speakers rather than the guests.
Listen to / REQUEST instructions from the family
Base the amount of movement around the event on the feedback from the family/client.
Here are some examples.
– the family/culture may require you to get the very best photographs and angles. This is often the case with Indian and Asian cultures. It is often much more accepted that there are photographers and videographers moving around to get the best angles.
For these clients and cultures, it may be appropriate to always move to the best angles and positions and less focusing on being discreet because they value the footage and storytelling most.
– The family/client may mention something about the church/officiants and restrictions involved often, especially with Catholic Churches. So for these types of funerals, it is best to stay at the back of the service as much as possible out of sight or at the sides.
A good practice is to ask the family/clients if they would like shots of the family’s faces from the front as usually, the best practice is to stay at the back or the side.
5. Use a Tripod IF YOU LACK EXPERIENCE.
Consider bringing a tripod with you if it’s allowed at the funeral or viewing to help ensure that you get a clear shot without having to resort to using a flash, which can make certain family members uncomfortable.
By using a tripod togethor with a long lens, and ideal in camera body and lens stabilisation, you can get closer to the action with the photography without being too close.
6. UNDERSTAND WHICH DETAILS AND MOMENTS TO CAPTURE
Funeral photography should capture both guests and details as well as the surroundings to paint a complete picture of the event.
CHECKLIST of photos to capture:
– Establishing shots of the Venue Outside
– Interior shots of the venue
– Tributes such as flowers, wreaths, gifts and notes
– Photos of the hearse and funeral cortege arriving
– Shots of the casket being carried into the venue by family / funeral directors
– Close medium and wide photos of the casket / coffin
– Close up shots of the speakers ( using a long lens from the back including the officiator as well as the individual family members and guests speaking)
– photos of any musicians or performers during their performance
– Shots of the casket being carried into the venue by family / funeral directors
– Check if you are required to capture a shot of the deceased in the open casket.
– Grave site during and after the funeral
– hearses and the funeral cortège
– Flowers and earth being placed onto the casket
– Some cultures will want family and group photos taken at the grave site.
SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT FUNERAL PHOTOGAPHY:
Is it OK to take photos at funeral?
Want people view it as disrespectful, as funerals are meant to be solemn occasions for mourning and reflection. Taking photographs can imply that the event is just another social occasion, rather than a serious time of remembrance and sadness.
However with the world becoming globalised and families living apart all over the world, and in a time of new media technologies, digital images videos and livestreams are becoming the norm. So if the family has requested or hired a photographer to capture the funeral, it is totally acceptable and often necessary for photography to be captured.
Can you take a picture of coffin?
In general, it is usually better to avoid taking pictures of a coffin in public settings or at funerals. However, if the family members have hired a professional funeral photographer then the photographer can usually know or find out whether such photos are required. In any case taking such photos should be done in a discreet way not capturing too much attention.
How many photos can you have at a funeral?
You usually only need two or three framed pictures. But if someone is going to have an open-casket visitation, you might need more photos. You could also use a digital picture frame to show lots of pictures at once.
HOW MUCH DOES FUNERAL PHOTOGRAPHY COST?
Please download our funeral photography price list here.