Attending Funeral Services: Photography
There are very few reasons for taking pictures when attending funeral services. In some religious traditions, any type of recording device is forbidden at a funeral (see Funeral Customs). Even if custom doesn’t forbid photography, taking photos can be seen as an invasion of privacy.
- If you have been specifically requested by the family to photograph the service—perhaps because certain family members couldn’t attend—do so with the utmost discretion, using natural light if possible rather than a flash, and avoiding close-up photos of grieving people.
- Etiquette demands extreme respect for others; keep this tenet in mind when taking photos. Be particularly aware of what is in your background when taking photos. It is quite easy to catch a mourner in a moment that they would not like to have published.
- Photographing the deceased in the casket, unless the family has asked you to do so, is generally considered in very poor taste.
Attending Funeral Services: Visitations.
If you were close to the deceased or the family, it is customary to visit the family upon learning of the death.
This visit may be at the family home, at the funeral home, or at another designated place chosen by the family.
If you knew the deceased but not the family, be sure to introduce yourself by first and last name and let them know what your relationship was to their loved one: “I am Heather Jones, and I worked closely with Suzanne at XYZ. She was a dear friend and colleague. I am so sorry.”
If visiting at the funeral home, take a moment to stand by the casket (if it is present) to pay your respects, whether you offer a silent prayer or simply reflect. Greet the family either before or after you pause at the casket, depending on if the family is occupied when you arrive.
Be sure to sign the guestbook or registry if one is available.
A formal, scheduled visitation period may include a prayer or a brief service; it is impolite to leave in the middle of it.
It is appropriate to bring along a card with a personal note and flowers or a basket garden, although flowers are not customary for all religious beliefs and ethnicities (see Funeral Customs). Flowers should always be in a vase to relieve the family of the burden of locating one.
If visiting at the family’s home, you may want to take along a re-heatable casserole or other dish. It’s wise to call first to see whether such help is desired. Close friends of the family may offer to take on some household chore. If your visit comes at a time when many others are visiting, see if you can serve coffee or help in other behind-the-scenes ways to make the family available to receive callers.
Keep your visit brief, unless you are lending a hand or are encouraged by the family to stay longer. After you have expressed your heartfelt sympathy, asked if you can help in a meaningful way, and perhaps offered a warm memory or two, leave. This is not the time to “hang out,” talk about your own bereavement or catch up on old times.