Funeral Photography

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by lburk1, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. We had a recent family death and I have been asked to make some photos of the
    services. I know I can do it but is this an unusual request? What would the
    proper time and ettiquette be? Do I shoot before and after the ceremonies -
    during? They are being held outdoors at a military cemetary with full honors.
    Because of who this person is I feel honored to do this. But I just want to
    make sure the proper protcol is observed and the the proper respect shown.
    Thanks for any input.
  2. We had a friend who lost a brother in Iraq 6 months ago and the funeral was huge and drew state wide press coverage. I watched the press and all except for one avoided the grieving family and took only pictures of the speakers and military personnel that was part of the ceremony. I commend the photographers who respected the family. If I was you, talk to the family and asked what pictures they want taken. Offer them choices so they can say yes or no. Get an idea what is going to be happening at the service and use this as your planning tool and what shots they would like taken. The military does a great job honoring the fallen soldier and this is what I would want captured if it was my son or daughter. My condolences goes out to you and your family for your loss. God Bless our soldiers who willingly serve and have served our Country.
  3. That is unusal, but not unheard of. Surely the family will give you pointers on what you are expected to shoot.

    From what you say about the person and their funeral I'd probably try to get shots that reflect the honour being paid to them, rather than the emotional shots. So get the flag, the uniforms, etc.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I've done this. Apparently, based on the comments so far, there isn't much real experience. I found that nobody paid attention to the camera and nobody cared what I shot. As opposed to what was said above, I shot the emotional moments. The widow in this photograph asked for a print, so it was certainly something desirable more than "honor" (this was a military cemetery.)
    RIP, Copyright 2002 Jeff Spirer
  5. It might be worthwhile to contact those in the military that are orchestrating the honor guard.
  6. I would suggest that if possible, have someone mention early in the service that you are there at the family's request- to let people know you are there as a service to the family, not just some rude person that decided to snap away. Perhaps it would avoid a few glares.

    For some families, funerals are the closest thing to a family reunion- they might be interested in getting photos of every person there. Unlike a wedding, the attendees may be the most important people to shoot.
  7. The important thing is to make sure that the camera doesn't intrude on the service. Don't use a flash (shouldn't be a problem outside in sunny weather), and use a lens long enough to allow some distance between you and the proceedings. Make contact with the officer in charge of the honor guard and let him know you're there at the family's request.
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Have any of you actually done this? Because my experience was that the military people didn't care that I was there, talk to me, or even acknowledge my presence. They were there to do their job, and I was there doing mine. If you act like a dork and get in people's way, maybe they would want to know what you were doing there, but I shot for about an hour with absolutely nobody caring.
  9. The only reason I mentioned making contact with the OIC is that there have been problems at some military funerals with crazies trying to disrupt the service. The odds are against it, but it never hurts to be up front about who you are ane what you're doing...
  10. ...the military people didn't care that I was there, talk to me, or even acknowledge my presence.
    That they didn't acknowledge your presence, doesn't necessarily mean they didn't care that you were there. It could be that they didn't want to create a scene, and it was deemed that you were causing less of a scene shooting than if they were to approach you. Likewise, it could be that you were unobtrusive enough that you weren't noticed. It could also be that it was out of protocol for them to do anything but whatever their roles were at the time.
  11. There's lots of good advice in this thread, but foremost Lavern, I would say you need to also feel comfortable with death. It is, afterall, just part of life. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it, and that's why someone probably didn't think twice about having you photograph the event. You'll do fine.
  12. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    That they didn't acknowledge your presence, doesn't necessarily mean they didn't care that you were there
    I was there because of the family. That was what mattered, not what the military thought.
    Where can we see some of your funeral shots? You seem to have some strong feelings on this subject, so there must be some photos.
  13. I don't think you'll have any problems, especially if the other attendees are aware you're family (or for non-family, if you've come with/for the family). I'd suggest calling the cemetary in advance and asking about any special details or considerations. In a newer national cemetary near us, the funeral party is gathered in arrival areas that allow the cars to be staged in an orderly fashion and to avoid congestion. Then the whole party moves together to the area designated for the service. Services are often held in centralized areas with sunshading and paved pathways.

    Others the funeral procession tried to arrive together from the place of the church or chapel services and moved directly to the grave area.

    If you can speak with the one of the military representatives, or the celebrant, or even the funeral director, to get the service details in advance, it will help you plan you positioning. I'd expect there will be a point at which the flag is lifted from the coffin, folded and presented to the widow or another member of the family, taps is played (check if this is done by a bugler or will be done remotely by recording), and a rifle salute is typically fired. I'd expect you'd want to be aware of these and ready and not want to have to rush for positioning.

    It's customary that those present in uniform stand at attention and salute during movements of the flag draped coffin, say from the hearse to graveside, unless there is a procession, etc. Salutes will also be rendered at other times. These are times to be ready for and not times to be rushing about.
  14. Strong feelings? What makes you say that? I was just pointing out the flaw in your logic. If all you cared about was being there for the family, then fine. Not everyone has your goals, however. As for funeral shots, I don't have any. Is that a prerequisite to contributing to the discussion? I don't remember seeing that rule anywhere (not even the new ToU).
  15. Thank you everyone for your input. It has given me the direction I needed. I am familiar with military funerals and how they work. (Being a Navy brat and former US Marine) I was just very unsure on how approach the shoot. The family has told me to do what I feel is right. I just didn't know what would feel right. Now I have a good idea. Thanks again to everyone. This is exactly why I joined PN.
  16. IMHO the military (and police) turn funerals into three ring circuses.
    My advice would be to find a good vantage point (maybe some distance away) and stay put, unless the family has asked or something specific.
  17. You may take more photos that will raise emotions afterwards in the family.

    Maybe you can approach an "uncle" to prescreen the ones you want to hand to the parents, wife, children, ... To make sure that they pass muster and to give you feedback on how wrought up the immediate family still is. And maybe in a year or so they will love those intimate shots of grief even more so.

    Good luck and shed a tear, too if you must.
  18. It's difficult to know what to expect in terms of response when you photograph a funeral
    (every one will be different), but one thing to avoid is "distance" and "long" lenses. I
    understand why people are suggesting this, but I think it's a misunderstanding of the most
    sensitive way to work - you'll seem predatory and remote rather than respectful. Work
    closely and quietly.

Share This Page