Photographing funerals


For most folks, using their cameras at a funeral is the furthest thing in their minds.

When you work in the news business, covering a funeral is without question everyone’s least favorite assignment.

It matters not who the deceased is. Whether it’s a former president, a beloved community leader, a firefighter or police officer.

It is seldom a pleasant experience.
It doesn’t matter how many funerals you cover over your career, it never gets easier.

I was always caught between wanting to be there as a participant in mourning if it was someone I knew and being there and working to document the event for those unable to attend.

The city of Riverside recently lost one of it’s police officers, Ryan Bonaminio. The details are in this Los Angeles Times news story.

I thought about attending this myself but it was conflicted with my class time. Fortunately I had a friend Officer Greg Matthews who worked it and was very gracious in sharing what he say with us.

Thinking ahead

Access is always the number 1 battle.

In the case of Riverside Police officer Ryan Bonaminio’s funeral, thousands were expected. So the logistics of having to be at 2 different locations is daunting.

Needless to say it is impossible to be at the church and then beat the crowd to where this hero was to be interned at the Riverside National Cemetery?

That usually means more than one photographer has to be assigned.


The more news organizations covering the event, the crazier it gets with everyone trying to outdo the other by trying a different angle for a different shot.

You can see where this is headed, can’t you?

All it takes is for one overzealous videographer/photographer to disregard the guidelines of where they can be and then all bets are off and all hell breaks loose.

Thanks to Officer Greg Matthews for sharing his very poignant and wonderful images from this Tuesday’s funeral.

Officer Bonaminio, I thank you for your service to our country and our community.

4 thoughts on “Photographing funerals”

  1. Sadly Jim, there a assignments like these which are gut wrenching, but they needs to be done. A hero’s farewell can only be witnessed by only so many people, so it’s still up to a photographer to do document such an event.

  2. Paul, your 3 suggestions are excellent. I always dreaded drawing the funeral assignment, but it is part of the job.

    What makes this assignment even harder is that, news photographers have to go up to the people they photograph and ask their subjects who they are and how they’re related to the deceased.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Pete.

    I too have covered many a funeral. My first was a firefighter in Ogden, Utah. She died when a log hit her truck after it rolled down the mountainside from being cut without restraints.

    It was not fun. But I captured some memorable shots.

    Thee are three things I always tell people when they have to cover their first:
    1. Read the program and ask questions. You’ll be surprised what special things the family may have.
    2. Dress nice. You’re going to a memorial//funeral.
    3. Be respectful. The quiet photogs get the best images. They’re respectful of the family and others so they get the best images because they’re not intrusive.

    Just my 2 centavos.

    Thanks Pete.

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