Funeral Etiquette: Is it Okay to Bring a Camera to the Funeral?
Funeral planning often comes with difficult questions. Is it better to opt for burial or cremation? What type of casket should I choose? What is the appropriate funeral attire? Should I bring the wide-angle or long-focus lens?
Although it was unthinkable for family members to photograph a funeral just a few decades ago, it’s becoming more mainstream to capture funeral memories with amateur photography. This is especially true for families that are spread out over long distances and who don’t get many opportunities to gather at one time.
If you’d like to photograph a funeral—even if it’s just people (and not funeral-related objects) you want to take pictures of—always be sure and ask first. And always frame your question in a way that allows them to feel comfortable saying no. Use phrases such as:
“I know it’s unorthodox, but I was wondering if I could bring a camera to the funeral. Of course I respect if it’s not something you want, but it might be nice to have memories of the family gathered all together.”
“I’d love to bring along my camera to the funeral to capture the day. Is this something you would be comfortable with?”
Providing an opportunity for the family to turn you down is the polite thing to do—and it won’t add to the stress of an already stressful time, which is the most important thing.
If You Have Permission to Photograph the Funeral
If permission is granted, try to determine in advance how you’d like to go about photographing the funeral. Here are a few tips for ensuring you remain tactful:
- Ask people before you click. Even if you have general permission to photograph the funeral, some people may not want their moments of grief captured in this way.
- Always have permission to photograph any part of the deceased. Even an artistic shot of a loved one holding the deceased’s hands could overstep boundaries.
- Don’t use flash during the memorial service or when it may be considered distracting.
- Look for inanimate objects that evoke the mood of the funeral. While candid photos and family group shots are always nice, you may want to take a more artistic approach. Take pictures of the funeral flowers or the first handful of dirt being tossed onto the casket. Play with focus. Don’t be afraid to think outside the traditional.
- Let the family decide if they want to see the photos. You may be eager to share the funeral photos with loved ones, but let them decide when and where to view them. Never post to Facebook or other social media sites without permission first.
The common theme here is permission, permission, permission. Photographing a funeral can be a great way to take advantage of gathered family members and to memorialize an important life event. However, this is one instance in which it isn’t better to ask forgiveness than permission. Always talk to the people in charge of funeral planning and respect any and all of their wishes regarding this subject.