should-you-take-photographs-at-a-funeral-add-headingEarlier this year, we wrote about families hiring a professional photographer to take photos at their loved one’s funeral and the ways it might benefit families in mourning. Families have control over a professional’s work and distribution of the images; however, they often lack that control when non-professionals, even those with good intentions, take photos at funerals. Sharing funeral photos can cause distress for the deceased’s loved ones, particularly when they post images on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The news is frequently filled with people coming under fire for taking casket selfies. Just last week, the daughter of rap music star Shawty Lo publicly criticized fans for posting images of her father in his casket on social media sites after they were asked not to take photos.

The issue of photography at funerals isn’t likely to fade away. How is your funeral home responding? Does your funeral home have a policy on photography?  Are you steering the families you serve in the right direction and communicating best practices? 

OGR has developed Funeral Photography Etiquette Guidelines for people attending funerals, memorial services or celebrations of life. Feel free to copy the text below and adapt it for your funeral home. You can even use the copy on your website as helpful advice for members of your community.

Funeral Photography Etiquette Guidelines
Cell phone cameras and social media have made it possible for anyone to take photographs of virtually anything and share them with others within seconds on social media sites. Is taking photographs a good idea at a funeral, visitation or celebration of life? We don’t think so.

Losing a loved one is the most difficult experience most people will ever go through. Unexpectedly seeing images of a loved one lying in repose can trigger a deep feeling of loss and a disturbing sense of vulnerability. Images of a family’s deceased loved one is, in a sense, something that belongs exclusively to them.   

[FUNERAL HOME] recommends the following etiquette regarding taking photographs at funerals, visitations or celebrations of life.

  1. Ask the attending funeral director if photographs are allowed in the church, funeral home or other location.
  2. Even if the location allows photographs, never take pictures of the deceased without permission from his or her family. Ask the attending funeral director if the family has given permission for such requests. If they haven’t, don’t ask to be the exception
  3. If given permission, take photographs only if those images will be meaningful to you after the ceremony.
  4. When taking a photograph, be as quick and discreet as possible.
  5. Do not post photos of a deceased person on any social media site unless you have been asked to do so by the family. The decision to make such an image public should always be made by the family.

Contact [FUNERAL HOME NAME] at [PHONE NUMBER; EMAIL ADDRESS] for more information.

Funeral professionals have a responsibility to safeguard grieving families from as many damaging setbacks to their healing journey as possible. Some families may appreciate seeing images of ceremonies and their deceased loved ones, but many will take offense if they have not been involved in that decision. Use the guidelines above to urge members of the community to be sensitive about funeral photos. It’s a positive step in serving families who have lost someone they love.

By Mark Allen
OGR Executive Director & CEO
International Order of the Golden Rule