Shooting at Funerals

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by mrraz, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. Until the last couple of years I had never considered shooting anything at a funeral. Now, I seem to be attending them with much greater frequency, and people are asking me, if I brought my cameras. I've shot bodies in the casket, family members with the deceased and kids saying good-bye. What's really odd, though, is feeling more connected to the person who died.
    I think I've found a niche that is largely unexplored.
  2. and the question is?
    should you exploited this? you feel comfortable? if so why not.
  3. Death is an inevitable part of life; generally the people who have problems accepting photgraphy at funerals are those who also have problems accepting the inevitability of death. Most people are sad at funerals and many don't look as good as they might if it were a more joyous occassion. Being discrete is important to avoid offending those few who think one is "doing something wrong/disrespectful" by photographically documenting this important life event. In general you'd probalby be surprised to find that most people wouldn't think twice about shooting at a funeral... or looking at the resulting photos. Historically funereal photography was quite acceptable and generally practiced; it seems like it fell out of favor sometime in the 20th century. In some communities it is still quite common.
  4. I think as long as your proceed with confidence, with an attitude of dignity and respect toward the deceased and the bereaved, there's nothing wrong with it. It could be a tribute.
  5. A niche that has been explored, but as the previous poster said, more historically in the past than today.
    If you want to pursue this, you might approach and discuss this with some funeral homes in your area. There was a photographer in Fort Worth, Texas who would be retained to capture these images during ceremonies for the families and the funeral homes as well. In fact, there's a book of his images titled "Bill Wood's Business", that documents the whole range of his business of photography. It is both compelling and kitschy at the same time.
    My favorite uncle passed away last year, and while I captured the reception at home on film, I wish I had had a camera at the graveside. He would have wanted me to do it, and as you said, you seem to connect more with the person.
  6. I was asked to shoot a military funeral, and felt very honored to do it. The family loved the results and was anxious to have me put together some not inexpensive books. Almost like a wedding, really, in terms of the complexity, the social nuances, and the speed with which things happen. It was a serious challenge, and one that I'm glad I took on. Next time, I think I'd be happier with a second shooter as insurance.

    It's a fine line between getting some important, expected shots... and being discreet. Long, fast lenses are very important, as is the ability to move about smoothly and quietly in the right clothes, etc. Very similar to a wedding in that regard, but indeed not everyone attending understands why you're there, or thinks that you should be. So it helps to be seen talking with some family members, camera gear in hand, so that the other folks there understand that you're doing things with the family's blessings.
  7. I actually video funerals. Done quite a few. More and more people are asking for this these days. It's good. I catch it from the end of the wake (if it's the same time) to the end of the service. It's good because you can see and hear the good things people have to say.
  8. I don't see any reason not to pursue this as a potential business option, I'm sure many families would like to have photos of their loved one's final ceremony, atribute to the deceased. As Matt says, it would require a great deal of care and discretion, but could be a very rewarding experience in many ways.
  9. I think it's going to be done more and more.
    Here's another thread from a few weeks ago about photography at funerals you might want to take a look at.
    By the way, in the thread, there are a couple of people shouting in caps that you shouldn't shoot the deceased. I think you should make up your own mind about whether or not to do it. Some families might want the photo. Others may not know they want it on the day, but may later.
  10. The older you get the more funerals you are going to attend, its a fact of life. I photographed my first funeral a couple of years ago and the family of the deceased actually hired a Videographer, so I did not feel that bad.
    My problem was that I forgot to bring my monopod and the lens I was using was not exactly a fast lens. Since this was a semi-public funeral, there were other photographers there who had the fast lenses and the monopods. They were able to stand in a corner next to the altar and discretely take pictures that I could not with my very noisy Canon EOS-3 and slow lens.
    This is not the camera to bring to a funeral folks, but after we got outside it was not that bad. The funeral was so sad, that I delayed for as long as possible sending the deceased family the proofs, until they had time to recover. Something to think about when shooting funerals.
  11. I appreciate all the comments, thank you. It gives me some incentive to look into the local potential.
    Damon, every time I've shot the deceased, usually during the wake, it has been at the request of someone in the family. It felt a little weird the first time, but now I'm comfortable with it. The attendees, who are not family, are the ones that have been most disapproving.
    Matt and Harry, no one that knows me has ever thought of me as discrete, but I've photographed enough events to know how to act in almost any situation, professionally.
    Maybe someone will get pictures of my ashes when the time comes.
  12. I think if the entire immediate family supports the idea, it is fulfilling their wishes and of course no issue. But a funeral is not a place for dissention and I think I'd want to be very certain the deceased family supported my presense and cameras--not just a faction of them. In the latter case, I wouldn't want any part of it. But it sound here like the camera's presense was very welcome and expected in all examples given. If everyone is consenting, it is a service -- not an intrusion. Also, if the sensitivity implicit in these posts is any indication, the photographers who have participated in these events seem very attuned to the needs of the families and concerned about what exactly the expectation of the photographer's role at the funerals will be.
  13. I guess you never get any complaints from the subject.
  14. Indeed a valuable service that should only be performed by someone who can act with the utmost discretion and professionalism. Here is one more thread you may wish to look at...
  15. I had photographed funerals, including that of my mother. Funny thing is I always found it hard to look at the pictures later. Somehow there was an uneasiness. So the photos were put away and hardly ever revisited again.
  16. I remember while working for a color lab in the 1970's that I had to print several 8x10's of a group of people standing around an open casket. It was rather comical in the sense that everyone had such sad faces. A complete contrast from the cheery faces at weddings that I was accustomed to printing.

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