Is it rude to take photos at funerals?

Quick Answer

Taking photos at a funeral is generally considered rude and inappropriate. There are a few exceptions, such as taking a photo of the funeral program or a picture of the flowers as a keepsake. But in general, taking photos during the funeral service itself is seen as disrespectful to the grieving family and the solemnity of the occasion. Some key reasons not to take photos at a funeral include:

  • It can be distracting and interrupt the service.
  • It may make mourners feel uncomfortable being photographed in a vulnerable state.
  • The flash can be disruptive in a solemn environment.
  • It could be seen as exploiting the situation for social media or entertainment.

If you do want to take a photo to remember the funeral, it’s best to ask permission from the immediate family or at least be very discreet. Turn off flash, take pictures before or after the service, and avoid photographing grieving faces. With sensitivity and respect, photographs may be allowed in moderation.

Should You Take Photos at a Funeral?

Taking photos at a funeral is generally seen as inappropriate etiquette. Here are some specific factors to consider when deciding whether or not to take photos at a funeral:

Reasons Not to Take Photos

  • Can be disruptive – The sound and flash from a camera can interrupt the eulogy or prayers during the service.
  • Invasive for mourners – Grieving family and friends may not want their raw emotions photographed.
  • Disrespectful – Photography can seem trivializing of the serious, solemn event.
  • Unauthorized – The deceased or family may not have consented to being photographed.
  • Distracting – Taking photos can divert attention from the memorialization of the deceased.
  • Not allowed – Some funerals prohibit photography at the service.
  • Inappropriate motive – People may suspect you are taking photos for morbid or sensationalist reasons.

Exceptions Where Photos May Be Acceptable

  • With permission – If you have explicit permission from the immediate family, taking some photos may be okay.
  • To capture funeral displays – Photographing flower arrangements, memory boards, or programs can be a keepsake.
  • Discreet photos of the casket – If done discreetly and tastefully, some photos may be permissible.
  • For relatives – Photos may be appreciated by relatives who could not attend the funeral.
  • From a distance – Unobtrusive wide shots from the back may capture the scene respectfully.

So in limited circumstances, photography may be tolerated if done discreetly and with sensitivity. But in general, it is safest to avoid taking photos during the funeral service itself.

Why Do People Want to Take Photos at Funerals?

Here are some reasons why people may feel an urge to take photographs at a funeral, even though it is generally frowned upon:

  • To have a memento of the funeral and commemorate the deceased.
  • To share on social media and notify online connections about the death.
  • To document something they have never experienced before, like a curiosity.
  • To get images for a documentary, news story, or research project about funerals.
  • To capture memories for relatives who could not attend the funeral in person.
  • For scrapbooking or ancestry records to preserve family history.
  • For morbid personal interest or potentially to share content online that some may find sensationalistic.

While some motivations are more respectful than others, taking photos should always be secondary to the solemnity and dignity of the funeral service. Other options like an order of service program can serve as a keepsake. If photos are taken, it should only be with the permission of the immediate family.

How Can You Take Photos Discreetly and Respectfully?

If you do wish to take some photographs with the permission of the immediate family, here are some tips for doing so in a discreet, unobtrusive and respectful manner:

  • Ask for permission beforehand from the deceased’s next of kin and explain your motivations.
  • Turn off flash to be discreet and avoid disruption.
  • Stand at a distance or off to the side so you are not blocking mourners’ views.
  • Avoid close-up shots of grieving or emotional faces.
  • Only take a few photos briefly then put the camera away.
  • Capture wide scenic shots of the surroundings, flowers, displays instead of mourners.
  • Use a small, quiet, and non-intrusive camera or smartphone.
  • Print photos to share privately with consent rather than posting online.
  • Take photos before or after the service rather than during solemn moments.
  • Be prepared to stop photographing at any time if deemed inappropriate or disruptive.

With the right motivations and techniques, a few respectful photographs may be acceptable in moderation. However, restraint and sensitivity to the bereaved should always be the priority when considering photography at funerals.

What Are Good Alternatives to Photography at Funerals?

If you want to remember and commemorate the funeral without taking photos, here are some good alternatives to consider instead:

  • Keep the funeral program, mass cards, or prayer cards as a keepsake.
  • Write down your memories and thoughts in a journal or condolence card.
  • Record the funeral audio only to listen to later as a recollection.
  • Sketch a drawing of the church, casket, flowers, or other displays.
  • Save and frame the memorial death notice from the newspaper.
  • Ask the officiant or funeral director for an order of service paper.
  • Request a recording of the eulogy or service from the family.
  • Keep items like the funeral ribbon pins, bookmarks, or memorial cards.
  • Ask a trusted friend to take some photos discretely for you to keep privately.
  • Reflect on your memories to retell details of the service.

Considering these alternatives can help satisfy the desire to remember without being perceived as inappropriate or disrespectful during the funeral service.

How Can You Explain Politely That You Prefer Not to Be Photographed?

If someone tries to take photographs at a funeral against your wishes, here are some polite ways to ask them to refrain or avoid being in the shots:

  • “I’m sorry, I’d prefer not to be photographed today. Thank you for understanding.”
  • “Please don’t take any pictures with me in them. Today is very difficult for me.”
  • “Could you please not take photos of me and my family? We are not comfortable with it.”
  • “I would appreciate it if you didn’t use a camera around me. Thank you.”
  • Walk away and take a seat out of the camera’s view.
  • Put your hand up to cover your face and block the camera’s view.
  • Tell a funeral official or usher that someone is photographing against your wishes.
  • Politely confront the person with a calm explanation of why it is inappropriate.
  • Ask others to intervene and speak to the person taking photos on your behalf.

Be courteous yet firm when making your preferences known. Most well-meaning photographers will respect your wishes and stop taking pictures if you clearly object.

Is Taking Photos at Funerals Illegal?

In most cases, taking photographs at a funeral is not outright illegal, but it may be against the policies of the church, cemetery, or funeral home. The legality would only come into play under certain circumstances:

  • If the photos infringe on copyright, like reprinting funeral programs, prayers, or songs.
  • If the photos violate the privacy rights or image rights of those portrayed.
  • If the photos are used commercially by the photographer for profit without releases.
  • If the photos involve trespassing to gain access to the funeral location.
  • If the photos directly disturb the peace at the funeral or violate local ordinances.

So while generally not illegal by itself, taking unwanted photos at funerals could potentially lead to civil lawsuits or criminal charges related to matters like trespassing, privacy violations, disorderly conduct etc. Most funeral photography issues tend to be dealt with as matters of etiquette and policy. But egregious or intrusive cases could potentially prompt legal action.


Photographing funerals can be perceived as inappropriate and offensive to mourners. If photos are taken, it should only be with the advance permission of immediate family, done discretely and for legitimate reasons. In general, photography is discouraged since it can be distracting and disrespectful during such a solemn event. There are better options for capturing memories of the funeral than taking photos during the service. With sensitivity to the bereaved, photographs may be acceptable in moderation, but the priority should be honoring the deceased and comforting those in grief.

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