Suggestions on photographing a Burial

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by blatalllic, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. blatalllic

    blatalllic TPF Noob!

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    Last night I was asked to help restore some really old pictures for a video. The pictures were of a deceased person and the pictures were part of the funeral service, they are going to play them in a video, which at the end I helped put together.

    I was asked to shoot the burial service. They have seen some of my work and loved how the restored pictures came out.

    I need suggestions on how do I go about photographing a burial service. The do's and the don'ts. This would be my first “paid” job so any suggestions would be great.

    I don't plan on shooting more then 150 pics, so Im going to be shooting in RAW. Its going to be cold and most likely cloudy...

    My Gear
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    Zuiko 14-45mm
    Zuiko 40-150mm
    Olympus FL-36 external flash
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    Thanks:thumbup:
     
  2. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I would be talking to the client more than us about this.

    As far as my family goes, photographs at a burial are a huge no-no, but this is obviously not the case. The issues here can change from family to family and even from person to person.

    Your best bet is a fast telephoto on a tripod and from some disctrete distance, move around and do your thing. Move slow, do not attract attention to yourself and make sure that in general most or all the people know that you will be doing this.

    I once saw a guy with a camera get soundly punched out for taking an unwanted picture in the middle of a private service. He was then escorted to some area where the police towed him away. You do not want someone in the throes of grief to misunderstand your task.

    I just cannot see you shooting within flash range, that would be so annoying and disrespectful especially when someone was speaking. Also, I would suggest that you limit the number of pics to well under 50. I mean, there is not a lot of action or things happening... and if you take your time, increase the # of keepers, and pic the good ones, I doubt you will be able to exceed 30 good pictures. If that is to be used later in a video... even 30 fantastic pics are too many. 30 pics @ ~3 seconds is 1.5 minutes of video. Now that may not seem much, but considering that the average pro video scene doesn't exceed 10 seconds... you have enough for 9 very sad and wrenching scenes. One would think that you would prefer to concentrate on the man's life... rather than his death. In the video, no more than 18-20 of your best pics is needed and IMHO, thats still about 10 too many.

    Burials are just so... personal.
     
  3. ilyfel

    ilyfel TPF Noob!

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    I'd personally turn down the offer. I would NEVER be able to shoot at a funeral. I wouldn't want someone to shoot at mine, and I wouldn't want anyone to shoot at my familys..

    I'd probably have to take that guy out back and show him a few things if I saw someone do that.. lol (yea I'm a tough girl ;] )

    But in all honestly I just wouldn't do it, EVER.
     
  4. bellavita64

    bellavita64 TPF Noob!

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    This is a highly sensitive issue. My cousin's newborn son died last month. He was less than 48 hours old and died from heart surgery complications. Obviously, they did not have many pictures to remember him by. With their permission, I made arrangements with the funeral director to go to the funeral home EARLY on the morning he was buried and take pictures of the baby in his casket. There was nobody there except myself and the funeral director, which gave me the opportunity to take intimate close-ups. If the family really wants pictures, that is the route I would suggest: take close-ups and wide-angles of the layout of the room with all of the flowers BEFORE the family and visitors arrive. Then, if the family wishes, you could take your remaining shots inconspicuously from the back of the room (soloists, eulogists, and perhaps pall-bearers carrying the casket). It is imperative that you blend in like a chameleon. Ideally, none of the mourners should have any idea what you are doing. Unless you are VERY familiar with your gear and can quietly knock off the shots without fumbling with lenses, etc. in low light, then I would not advise taking ANY pictures during the actual funeral ceremony. Just my $.02 worth.
     
  5. blatalllic

    blatalllic TPF Noob!

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    Ya thats what Im thinking, I dont feel comfortable doing it...but they asked many many times...I dunno, I'll have to talk to them tommorrow..
     
  6. Deadeye008

    Deadeye008 TPF Noob!

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    Your best bet is to talk to them and ask them exactly what they want you to do. That's the only way you'll be able to get it right.
     
  7. Mike Jordan

    Mike Jordan TPF Noob!

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    More and more people are having photos taken at funeral services. The reason is that in most extended familys and familys that live far apart, there are two times when most of them are all together... weddings and funerals. While some people would think it was morbid, a lot of familys treat funerals as a chance to have a family reunion of sorts. Maybe not as happy as it would be if it was because of a wedding, but many find that talking with other family members about the loss also helps. A lot also depends on the relationship of the person. If they were an eldery grand or great grand parent or other relative, the loss might not be as tragic or unexpected as it would have been had the death been from an accident or some other cause.

    If someone was to shoot un-invited, I'd understand their reaction, but if a person is asked to photograph the event, especially by a spouse or close family member, it's up to them to make sure that any other family members understand that you are there by invitation. I would clarify when you could shoot and when not too. They might want shots from the viewing but not at the actual burial. Or they might want distance shot at the burial and not close ups. Just go over that with them and be as discreat as possible.

    Mike
     
  8. subimatt

    subimatt TPF Noob!

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    I could not shoot a Funeral... Good luck!
     
  9. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think the original poster needs to be more precise.

    There are normally 3 phases to the entire ceremony:
    - At the funeral home, this is usually called The Showing". This part can go anywhere from 1-4 days in length
    - At the church This part goes from 15-90 minutes
    - At the final resting location (cemetary), *this* is the burial and lasts anywhere from 15-120 minutes.

    To me, logically a burial is part of the final phase and it was where I was discussing how to accomplish the goal of recording the event. This is the time that the casket is layed on top of the gravesite and a small ceremony is done. Now a days, they rarely do the casket lowering anymore in front of the familys as it is an extremely emotional moment. It is done after the services are completed and the family has left. It is also the ONLY place I would suggest taking pictures of people as it could be done somewhat discretely if needed.

    Pictures taken at the "showing" should be done alone and in complete privacy as suggested above, well before anyone arrives or after business hours.

    So, precisely, was it the burial that the OP was talking about or at some other point of the service or just generally all of it?

    I also doubt I could be paid enough to do one... not even for a family that I had no direct connection to. It is my firm belief that pictures need to be taken when the person is living and participating in the joy of life... not after it is over. Just my humble opinion. Life is not black and white, though... as in the case of an infant that passed away... again, in our family, this has happened, and no pictures were taken, but that is an extremely personal choice.
     
  10. blatalllic

    blatalllic TPF Noob!

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    I just took photos of the Tribute ceremony, he was a veteran....

    Here are a few of the pics......thanks for everyones comments....I like to get tips and learn more everyday.....


    The boys u see in the back are all his sons...they loved this pic
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ilyfel

    ilyfel TPF Noob!

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    well done! :hail:

    I wouldn't be able to do it. but now I realize why they would want it.
     
  12. Mike Jordan

    Mike Jordan TPF Noob!

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    Very well done.


    Mike
     

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