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02-07-2010, 09:08 AM   #1
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Memorial service etiquette

I'm getting to the point in my life where I'm going to more memorial services each year. Friends are getting older.

Memorial services are a great place to get intimate pics of your friends and loved ones.

I was at a memorial/party at a workplace last year and a co-worker told me that I shouldn't be taking pictures, that I was being disrespectful. I didn't put my camera away, but I did start thinking about memorial etiquette.

Yesterday I was at a memorial in a church. I took a few good pics, but I was hesitant to take them during the service. I'm trying to not be that jerk who always shows up and takes pictures when it's inappropriate.

Any thoughts?

02-07-2010, 09:53 AM   #2
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It's a tricky situation overall - Few people would want to have a camera on their face during what some would consider a very private moment. With the exception of very public funerals, it might take a very gentle approach to get people to understand the reasoning behind photography in a funeral.

In these situations perhaps the following might help:

- No flash if at all possible. Using available light should be less intrusive than having someone popping flashes left and right.
- Stay back - use the available zoom range to give people space.
- Explain to people, perhaps via the funeral director, that photos will be taken for family and friends who couldn't be present (or whatever is appropriate).
- Don't make it too obvious - don't bring the Sigma Bigma or Pentax 60-250 when a shorter lens would do.

It also helps to consider the mood of the funeral. Some funerals are happier events than others. I don't think many people would appreciate photos of loved ones crying their hearts out. :ugh:
02-07-2010, 10:19 AM   #3
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use SDM or manual focus if there is no ambient noise.

i was shooting a military thing where they had the missing man ceremony. it is a silent ceremony. during that time, the K10D i was shooting on ceased to utilize the SDM in the lens, don't know why. (it was the body not the lens)

it was so embarrassing to be shooting in silence, then all of the sudden the whir of the focus drive screaming out....

argh

also, if you are a personal guest of the service (not just the photographer) i would suggest that you shoot light and take your place in the service and reception...or however those things go. really, IMO, the only disrespectful thing is to shoot instead of paying your respects.

if paying your respects means to shoot, then giddayup!!! 8)
02-07-2010, 10:21 AM   #4
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I've been asked to photograph memorial services for two folks now. I've kind of pigeon-holed myself, because after the first one, I created a video using the still images that was very touching and with the last one (that was on Thursday) everyone is greatly anticipating the video.

I would agree for the most part with Frogroast with the exception of the long lens thing. If you've cleared your photography with the family, then there's no reason not to act like the photographer. With the first one, I had a nice vantage point in a balcony looking over the congregation, but with this one, I had to walk around the back perimeter of the church. The direction I was given from the church staff was not to cross the pew backs of the last row. I try to be very judicious about what I shoot, so there's not a lot of tears which might be embarrassing later.

The video is here if you're wondering.

02-07-2010, 10:24 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by MJB DIGITAL Quote
use SDM or manual focus if there is no ambient noise.

i was shooting a military thing where they had the missing man ceremony. it is a silent ceremony. during that time, the K10D i was shooting on ceased to utilize the SDM in the lens, don't know why. (it was the body not the lens)

it was so embarrassing to be shooting in silence, then all of the sudden the whir of the focus drive screaming out....

argh

also, if you are a personal guest of the service (not just the photographer) i would suggest that you shoot light and take your place in the service and reception...or however those things go. really, IMO, the only disrespectful thing is to shoot instead of paying your respects.

if paying your respects means to shoot, then giddayup!!! 8)
After the fact on Thursday, I checked with several people and they said that they didn't notice me focusing or the shutter slap. I was very self-conscious about that, but did use an M50 f/1.4 for a lot of the time.
02-07-2010, 05:13 PM   #6
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Depends mostly on the folks having the service.
There are some who accept and actually like photos to be taken as that is the last time they would see their dear departed.
There are still others who wouldn't want any photos taken and want a solemn service.
Just see what type of service you are going to and leave the camera behind if the service doesn't warrant it.
I've taken quite a few of these kind of service, but mostly for the family...and culture-wise, photos are usually permitted.
Here's one of those images I took.
Apologies if some would find inappropriate and I will delete if so.
Attached Images
 
02-08-2010, 05:51 AM   #7
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Everybody is different when it comes to photographing memorial/funeral services.
Just over 12 months ago my mother passed away and it was organised by my family (me, brother & sisters) for the funeral directors to get some shots of the service, we were a bit p***ed off that they only took 4 shots. Just make sure that people/guests know what is happening and then everything should go smoothly. You will nearly always get someone who disagrees with taking photo's at a service, but in the end, it is the family who decides on what they want.
02-17-2010, 07:22 PM   #8
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I agree that it should be the family who decides about photo taking at these types of events, but personally, I'm absolutely appalled at the very idea. I would have been extremely upset if anyone had tried to take pictures at my father's funeral.

02-17-2010, 10:18 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by sealonsf Quote
I agree that it should be the family who decides about photo taking at these types of events, but personally, I'm absolutely appalled at the very idea. I would have been extremely upset if anyone had tried to take pictures at my father's funeral.
And I wish I had taken photos at my father's. There were people there that I have not seen since. And have no photos of. Nor did I have any to share with my uncle who couldn't be there for his brother's funeral.
02-18-2010, 07:59 AM   #10
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Simplest answer.... Just Ask! Ask the family and ask the officiant. If they say it's OK then shoot away, keeping in mind any restrictions they wish to impose

DON'T however, ask every Tom, Dick or Mary. They are there as guests. Sure, they also have rights and sensibilities and personal taboos, but if the family has given permission or outright asked you to shoot, then it's not a guest's place to object. Naturally if they don't want their own photos taken then don't point your camera at them specifically, but if the family and officiant have given permission don't miss a shot that you think is important just because Shy Sheila is in the frame.

The other advise about being as unobtrusive as possible (leave the BIGMA at home) and not using flash is as applicable here as for any other similarly sensitive event.

Mike

Last edited by MRRiley; 02-20-2010 at 02:56 PM. Reason: damned typos
02-18-2010, 08:03 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by MJB DIGITAL Quote
use SDM or manual focus if there is no ambient noise.

i was shooting a military thing where they had the missing man ceremony. it is a silent ceremony. during that time, the K10D i was shooting on ceased to utilize the SDM in the lens, don't know why. (it was the body not the lens)

it was so embarrassing to be shooting in silence, then all of the sudden the whir of the focus drive screaming out....

argh...
Coulda always turned off Auto Focus...
02-20-2010, 11:59 AM   #12
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I was asked by a photographer friend to shoot his father's ceremony, mainly for his military buddies that were there with him during his last week (from all over the nation), but they had to go back right before he passed. I got some nasty looks from guests, but kept shooting and the family was very grateful for the images I got.

I burned a couple CDs, deleted the RAWs and probably won't do another unless asked by someone close to me. It wasn't fun or enjoyable.
02-20-2010, 07:19 PM   #13
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Fixcinater - Just remember you were there to do a job, a favor for a friend. As unpleasant or uncomfortable as it may have been, you did what you were supposed to do and the family appreciated it.

Besides, I doubt you would have had much fun or enjoyed it any more had everyone known you were there at the family's request - the somber mood present at most funerals doesn't lend itself for such enjoyment.
02-24-2010, 08:49 PM   #14
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Agreed on all points, it was just odd to have been in that place, it seemed like something I would never get asked to do.

Still working on self-identity as a photographer, I guess.
02-27-2010, 12:29 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fixcinater Quote
Agreed on all points, it was just odd to have been in that place, it seemed like something I would never get asked to do.

Still working on self-identity as a photographer, I guess.
Remember that your are snapping images.
Photo journalists have to deal with this types of images on a day to day basis..accidents, terrorism, life's drama..and I would say, they do not have the permission of most of the subjects they shoot.
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