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NotDadsW41 Jan 8, 2009 7:24 PM

I have been asked to take photos during the burial ceremony and dinner afterward for a relative. This will be a full military ceremony, 21 gun salute, etc. I have never taken photos at such an event and I am not sure I will even be able to through the tears.

My gear = Nikon D40 with the 18-55mm kit lens, a 55-200mm AF-S VR, 600 Speedlight and a polarizing filter.

My plan is obviously to stay as unobtrusive as possible. But I have a feeling that will be difficult while trying to get some good angles of all the proceedings. Right now I see the 55-200 being the only lens I use at this point with the filter on outside and off indoors.

So please if you have any suggestions I want to hear them.


VTphotog Jan 8, 2009 9:42 PM

Sorry for your loss. I haven't ever been both photographer and party at a funeral, so I can only guess what you will be going though.

I would suggest that during the outside part, you stay somewhat outside the circle of mourners, if possible. This should be the least intrusive way to do it. Your 55-200 should be just the lens for this.

At the dinner, I think you may want to use the wider angle zoom. You will likely need the flash indoors, and hopefully you will be able to bounce it from a ceiling instead of using it direct. If necessary, a diffuser will be somewhat less of a distraction than direct flash.


NotDadsW41 Jan 8, 2009 10:20 PM

Thanks VT! I am going to take tomorrow off from work and take a drive to a camera shop that rents lens. I am considering renting a 300mm f4 just to let me be back and out of the way as much as possible. For $60 for the weekend I think it might be worth it.

TCav Jan 8, 2009 10:56 PM

There are four elements of a military funeral that are different from a conventional funeral.
  • Honor Guard - If the Honor Guard is made up of active duty servicemen and women, they will be picturesque and their image will be worth preserving. Often, however, the Honor Guard will be members of a local American Legion post or something similiar, and so won't be quite so memorable. They and the chaplain will be close to the other proceedings, and will be easy to capture. [/*]
  • Folding and Presentation of the Flag - This is memorable, but I think there is almost no way to capture any of it without being obtrusive. [/*]
  • The Three Volley Salute - Seven rounds fired three times by a rifle detail, some distance from the other proceedings. You might be able to get a shot of the proceedings with the rifle detail in the background. [/*]
  • Taps - Unfortunately, bugle players are getting harder and harder to find, so most military funerals only get a recording of Taps. But if there is a bugler, he or she will also be some distance from the other proceedings, and you might be able to capture an image with the bugler in the background.
Not every military funeral has all of these, but they are offered and sometimes the family chooses not to have one or more.

You should explain to the funeral director that the family has requested that you record the proceedings, and try to get as much advanced info as you can about the actual proceedings, and the position of the rifle detail and the bugler.

One thing that happens at every military funeral I've ever been to is that even the most stern, straight-faced family member will openly cry at the first rifle volley. Do with that whatever you feel is appropriate.

Good luck with this, and if you can, I'd be pleased to see the results of your efforts.

Photo 5 Jan 8, 2009 11:19 PM

Sorry to hear of your lose. The miltary people are so under appreciated and I hope you are able to get through the event and still get all the images you and the family want.

One thing I would suggest from attending one military funeral(at Quanico 3 years ago) is if you can get up front (in front of the chairs were the people will sitis to stay low to the ground like on your knees so you do not block the view of others in the crowd.

For the outside shots I would use the 55-200, a 300mm fixed lense maybe too long if the action gets close to you (unless ou can quickly change lenses). Now if you were brhind the seated crowd and up higher than their heads a 300mm might be a good choice butI'd suggest a variable zoom like 100 - 300mm so you can widen out as needed to inculde the crows and closer things in some of the images. For indoor shots the wider lense will be good for 80% of the images and if you want to get closeups of faceial expersions etc you can use the 55-200. Like the others have said bounce your flash off the cieling in the reception/dinner hall.......

I would try to talk to the funerla director and if you see the offical military there ask one of the guys or gals where they plan to march, they are usually very helpful and will explain what will happen to you (just make sure you tell them that you are taking pictures for the family)

I would try to get the flag/honor guard marching and also at attention. As for the gun shots getting it head on may not be an option. So try to shoot at an angle so you can capture sevral of the gunners in the same picture. Also I would try to shoot at an fstop where the background is blurred a little to focus attention on the gunners or the honor guard.

As for the flag being handed over. Try to shoot at a slight angle and fron the side and zoom on just the miltary person and widow in portait orination and fire off several frames to make sure you get a good sharp one of this.

Also don't forget to capture the audience and the widow/family members from time to time many people I know capture the promp and circumstance and forget about the family especially when all the distant relatives are all in one place at one time etc. So be sure to turn the camera around and capture the emotion of the audience as well.

In the emtion of the event don't forget to pack extra memory cards and an extra charged battery

One last tip that never fails, you can never shoot too many images because you never know what will happen and you start to cry or whatever and you loose a few images you have other to fall back on.

Sorry for your lose. God bless our military past and present


NotDadsW41 Jan 9, 2009 6:58 AM


Thank you for your comments and suggestions they have been most helpful. I hope I can remember all of them tomorrow!

rinniethehun Jan 9, 2009 12:25 PM

The last one I went to contained all of the 4 elements described by TCav. The bugler stood off to one side, the honor guard was located considerably to the rear, and everything else was crowded around the center...a photographic challenge. If possible, I would recommend visiting the cemetery, the day before, and shooting a ton of pics. This would be a good time to get pictures of the entrance, road, surrounding countryside, etc. The day of the actual ceremony may be somewhat disorganized and hectic, depending on the number of events planned for that day. By doing this, you can get your lenses prepared, your settings down, and understand how the ceremonies are choreographed.

My sympathies,

the Hun

NotDadsW41 Jan 9, 2009 4:28 PM

A last minute change of plans. A pro has been hired. I have been told to go ahead and take as many pictures as I desire as well. That's quite a relief I have to admit.

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