11 Tips For Doing Funeral Photography or Portraits

Updated

Photography is a powerful way to remember events and gatherings, but what happens when the event is a funeral? There are a number of reasons why families might wish to capture memories from a funeral service. Because of the often sensitive nature of these events, funeral photography and portraits require special care and consideration. 

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Funerals bring people together and serve as a safe space for healing and comfort. A funeral photographer, whether professional or amateur, captures these moments so they last a lifetime. When the family looks back on these memories at a later date, they’re met with memories of warmth and kindness when they needed it the most.

Still, there’s a lot to know about funeral etiquette. Before attending a funeral service as a photographer or hiring a funeral photographer, pay close attention to the tips below. These photographs are a part of someone’s legacy. We encourage you to treat this opportunity with kindness and respect. 

Can You Hire Professional Photographers for Funerals?

Do professional photographers cover funerals? You’ve likely heard of wedding photographers and family photographers, but what about professional funeral photographers? Believe it or not, many professional photographers offer this service for clients. 

While this might not be a service most people think about after a loss, it’s available for families who want it. This is far from a new concept. For example, in the Victorian era, funeral photography and portraits were a part of Victorian mourning customs.

Why do families today hire a photographer for the funeral? 

  • Record keeping: For families that document genealogical history, funeral photos carry a lot of weight. 
  • Family reunion: Funerals bring people together. Having a photographer to catch the rare moments that an entire family comes together is powerful. 
  • Emotional: Funerals also make emotions run high. Having the ability to look back on this day and remember how many people loved and cared for the deceased is a way to capture this emotion forever. 
  • Remembrance: Lastly, this is a form of remembrance. Like funeral selfies, it’s a way to remember who was present and how the event unfolded. 

It’s important to note that not all event photographers cover funerals. It might be easier to ask someone you know or to seek out photographers with funeral experience for this important day.

ยป MORE: Keep the family updated on post loss logistics with Cake's post loss tool.

 

Tips for Hiring a Professional Funeral Photographer

Hiring a professional funeral photographer is a good idea if you want high-quality, thoughtful photos. A professional photographer also knows how to handle the sensitive nature of a funeral compared to other events. So, they’ll be an asset on a difficult day. 

Before you hire a professional funeral photographer, consider the tips below. This is a niche service, and you want to ensure you hire someone prepared to succeed. 

1. Find an experienced photographer

One of the hardest parts of this process will be finding an experienced photographer who is comfortable working with funerals. In rural areas, this might not be easy to come by. Many professional photographers don’t advertise funeral services, but this doesn’t mean you can’t reach out and make a request. 

If you find an event photographer whose work you like, don’t be afraid to reach out. Ask if they’d feel comfortable doing funeral photography, and share information about the event and your wishes. Many photographers are experienced with a variety of events, and they might be open to being there for you on this day. 

2. Talk to your funeral home. 

Another great way to find the right funeral photographer is to work with your funeral home. Your funeral home is the best source for all things related to funeral planning

Your funeral director likely knows all industry professionals in the area, and they might have a list of photographers they work with regularly. Not only will this photographer be familiar with the venue, but they’ll also have trusted experience. 

3. Understand your wishes

Your photographer will guide you through this process, but it’s a good idea to consider what your specific wishes are. Unlike other events, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some things to think about are:

  • Who would you like to be photographed?
  • Would you like photos of the venue, flowers, or other elements?
  • Are there religious or non-religious condolences or traditions you’d like to focus on?
  • Would you like group photos after the funeral?
  • Is there anything the photographer should avoid photographing?

Keep in mind you can always delete photos you’re not comfortable with later. Talk to your photographer about what they recommend and go from there. Read your contract carefully to ensure you have this right.

4. Invite your photographer to the venue

Before the funeral, invite the photographer to your venue in advance. The lighting for funerals isn’t always the same as other events, so this is something they’ll want to familiarize themselves (and their camera) with before the service. 

Your photographer might wish to bring in additional lighting tools, talk to the funeral home about their lighting practices, or adjust their camera settings. Giving them early access ensures they’re ready to go at the start of the funeral. 

Tips for Doing DIY Funeral Photography

Are you handling your own funeral photography? This is a great idea if you’re familiar with professional photography, if you’d rather have someone you trust take pictures, or you have a tight budget. There are simple tips to follow to improve your DIY funeral photography no matter your experience level. 

5. Ask first

You should never show up to a funeral with a camera in hand. No matter your relationship with the family or the deceased, this is not respectful to the family. If you’d like to photograph the funeral service, ask first. 

By asking the family, you learn what’s important to them about this day. They might not feel comfortable having images taken at all, especially if they’re experiencing heightened grief. Even if you don’t like their answer, it’s important to respect their wishes. 

6. Practice with your camera in different lighting

Because many funerals take place in multiple venues (funeral home, church, graveside, reception space, etc.), it’s wise to familiarize yourself with working in different lighting situations. 

Some spaces will have more natural or artificial lighting than others, and you might be able to make adjustments to your camera settings to compensate. Additionally, if you plan in advance, you can make arrangements for extra lighting if needed. 

7. Wear dark clothes

As a photographer, it’s your job to blend in. Because this is a funeral, wear dark clothes to match the rest of the guests. You don’t want to stand out. 

Because you’ll likely need some equipment, bring as little as you can. A large, bulky camera and gear is a distraction, and can get in the way of the service. Instead, just use your camera and a tripod to get the job done subtly.

8. Adjust your camera settings

Before the event, you need to make key, respectful changes to your camera settings. We’ve all experienced how loud large, HDMI cameras can be, especially when they’re working at a high level. To be respectful of the service, turn off your flash and use a silent shutter. 

Your primary goal when photographing a funeral is to be respectful. That means making the right adjustments to keep your camera (and yourself) as silent and in the background as possible. 

9. Don’t photograph faces

The general rule of thumb with funeral photography is to never photograph faces unless asked by the family. Not only is it disrespectful and distracting if you don’t have permission, but you might anger someone in an emotional state. 

It’s best to take photos from behind, showing how guests comfort one another throughout the service. For crowded spaces, use a large aperture to focus only on your subject and not everyone present. Many families save time for portraits and group photography after the service. 

10. Consider little details

While photographing people is powerful, it’s not the only part of the funeral service. Highlight many of the different details that turn this funeral into a celebration of someone’s legacy. From the funeral flowers to the invitations, each detail is something the family may want to remember. 

The small things are the hardest to hold onto when years go by. Think about capturing photos of details that people will be surprised to be reminded of in years to come. 

11. Always practice proper etiquette

Last but not least, practice proper, thoughtful funeral etiquette. Whether you’re photographing an event for a friend, stranger, or someone in your own family, be mindful of your role.

Understanding how to offer condolences is essential, so be sure you’re present and aware throughout the service. Once the service ends, don’t post any photos of the event on social media or share them without the family’s permission. Turn to them for the next steps on how they’d like their images processed or handled. 

Is a Funeral Photographer Right for You?

Though it might sound morbid, funeral photography is often a powerful way to capture someone’s legacy. Because there is so much going on during the funeral service, and emotions run high, many family members choose to have a photographer capture the details they might miss. These images make the perfect mementos and family keepsakes.

Have you considered using a funeral photographer? Though not widespread, they are quickly becoming a popular way to honor loved ones during a memorial. Memories are the most important thing we have. It’s worth protecting them, both in good and bad times. 

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