How to Photograph a Funeral

While photographing a funeral may seem morbid to some, it is normal in some cultures to want to capture the moment. Funerals tend to be one of the very few times where entire families and friends gather in a room, even those who haven’t seen each other for 10 years. Asian funerals tend to have a lot of tradition and are quite interesting to document.

To be honest when grandma asked me to photograph grandpa’s funeral, I thought it was weird. I thought I would be shy, break down (well I did occasionally), or that it would be awkward. However, I learned a lot from this experience and think I became a much better photographer because of it.

Here are a few tips:
1. No Flash
Having a photographer at a funeral can be awkward enough for some visitors, don’t be intrusive with a giant flash. I used my 50mm 1.8 lens for the majority of the shots so that I could absorb the most light as well as purposely blur backgrounds.

2. Be Considerate
Funerals can be a great opportunity to be photojournalistic, but at the same time you have to still be sensitive. Don’t stick cameras in people’s faces and be as invisible as possible. In my case, it was a little bit more difficult because I was part of the immediate family.

3. Edit Photos to Fit The Mood
Photos shouldn’t really be high of contrast and colour, that doesn’t really fit the mood of a funeral (or at least not the ceremony/wake). Don’t “bloom” your photos, apply appropriate filters that aren’t too bright and cheery. A mix of black and white and colour is okay too.

4. Watch People Interact With Each Other
Chances are if you’ve been asked to photograph a funeral, the person doesn’t just want to remember the deceased, but also all those who came out.

5. Be Confident
If you act like you are unsure you are supposed to be there, than it makes it awkward for everyone else too. If you’re confident than people will know you are doing your job.

If you ever get asked to photograph a funeral, treat it as a honour to help someone keep their last memories of a loved one. For now, most of the photos are for my family’s eyes only but they are some of the most intimate and emotionally beautiful photographs that I have ever taken.