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Should You Take Photos at a Funeral?

Deaths, like any other moment in your personal history, deserve to be remembered, and photos of a funeral can bring you some comfort in the trying months to come.

But funerals also deserve extra care and respect. If you casually take photos next to the casket, you'll likely offend more than a few guests in attendance.

Two Photo-Appropriate Situations

With advances in technology, you can take high-quality photos in seconds with your camera phone or tablet. But just because you can snap a selfie, doesn't mean that you should.

As a general rule, keep your portable camera in your pocket, and only bring out your lens in the following situations.

1. The Family Members Request It

Depending on the type of funeral and the personality of the family, some individuals may request that you professionally capture the event. In these cases, the family will likely specify whether they want images of the deceased, of family members and friends, or just the grave site and the memorial setting.

2. The Photos Happen Before or After the Service

At some funerals, family members and friends gather from all across the globe to pay tribute to the deceased. They might not have a lot of time for socializing, but they may want a quick group photo or two to help them remember the moment.

Though a large group photo during the memorial service would distract everyone involved, you can take a few smaller photos before and after the funeral. In these photos, you'll want to find a quiet, out-of-the-way corner so you don't interrupt other guests and visitors.

3 Tips to Follow When Taking Funeral Photos

If you must take photos during a funeral, you should exercise some restraint and follow these simple rules.

1. Give the Grieving Their Privacy

Even if the immediate family members hire you to take photos, remember that not everyone will want to participate. Many individuals will feel distressed, lost, or overwhelmed during the funeral, and they'd rather grieve in private silence.

Do not pressure anyone into letting you take their picture, and let participants know that they can feel comfortable saying "no."

2. Watch Where You Step

As a photographer, your first inclination might be to find the perfect position where you can get the best framing and lighting for your picture. In everyday circumstances, that ideal position may involve standing on chairs, crouching in the middle of hallways, and squeezing into tight places.

But at a funeral, your first priority should always be the comfort of the guests. You don't want to hold up the line at the viewing just so you can get a better shot of the flowers on the casket. You shouldn't step over (or on) other gravestones to photograph the family. Nor should you open up the casket yourself to take a photo of the deceased.

3. Avoid the Flash As Much As Possible

Some services take place in a quiet family church, mortuary, or funeral home, and many of these locations have dim lighting. Though the lighting may feel soothing to those in attendance, it can make your photos look washed out and blurry.

Despite lighting limitations, however, you should keep flash use to a minimum. The bright, sudden light will attract attention and detract from the overall service. To accommodate for dim lighting, lower your aperture settings instead.

When in Doubt, Ask (Respectfully)

Though the above tips can help you maintain proper etiquette, keep in mind that not everyone feels the same way about funeral photography. If you ever wonder if your photos would be appropriate for the setting, discreetly and respectfully ask those around you for guidance. They'll let you know what is and isn't appropriate at the time.

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