How to Photograph a Funeral

Be Sensitive
Obviously this goes without saying, but if ever there were a situation that was worthy of a photo-journalistic approach, this would be it. Stay out of the way. Give people space. Do everything in your power to be invisible, and then know. . . that you will fail. You will feel like you stick out like a sore thumb. Which leads me to my next piece of advice. . .

Seek Open Communication

  • 1. ALWAYS ask first. Do NOT show up at a funeral, camera in hand, without first receiving permission from the family of the deceased. Otherwise, your attempt at heartfelt service and sensitivity will appear callous and remarkably presumptuous.
  • 2. Definitely make sure to give the person an easy out. You’d never want them to have you there simply because they didn't feel comfortable saying “no.” People are so completely compromised mentally and emotionally at times like these; help them out by making CERTAIN they’re comfortable with your offer.
  • 3. You must also establish open communication with your point of contact in order to clarify expectations - nothing would be as horrible as doing something so completely difficult and overwhelming while simultaneously feeling like you were unwelcome).
  • 4. Communicate about the type of coverage the family is open to. If you're in doubt, ASK. If you’re not in doubt, STILL ASK.

Quick Word on Camera Settings and Gear
Images of this nature are more about EMOTION than they are about composition and technical know how. If you aren't confident in your ability to shoot in manual settings, shoot in Program mode or Automatic. Set yourself up to be able to manage your gear as fluidly as you possibly can. When you’re already stressed by the nature of the event, don’t add the unnecessary pressure of shooting in a camera mode that you’re not completely confident in your ability to manage.

Be Confident
Believe in your ability to do what needs to be done, and you’ll be amazed at your capacity to sensitively navigate the complexity of the event. It’s hard, it’s emotional, and you ARE up for the challenge.* Remember what you’re doing this for, WHO you’re doing this for, and let that drive you when the task feels emotional and difficult to carry out. You are capable. Take a deep breath and keep reminding yourself of that. Be willing to take breaks if you need to. More than once, you have to step into an adjacent room and regroup. That’s to be expected. Give yourself space to take a break if you need it.

Post Script: Why images of this nature matter so very much
It is human tendency to run from grief and pain, to hide. This is particularly true when the pain is as horrifying and unpredictable as that of the grief that accompanies the death of a loved one.

Join The Mailing List To Recieve Free Updates!

Back Next