People are divided on this area of photography. Is it morbid to take photographs at a funeral or is it worth it to document the last tangible moments the family has with their loved one?
Over the last two days, my family has been working diligently to support my stepbrother in the loss of his mother. A woman who loved Harley Davidson's and would take off for a ride at the drop of a hat. Because of her enthusiasm and love of motorcycles her son, with the help of the funeral director, created a Harley Davidson-themed funeral.
Items from her home (all Harley Davidson, of course) adorned a table of photographs of Carol on her motorcycle. The family purchased a black and silver casket and had the Harley Davidson logo placed on top.
Also, for her final ride, the deceased was taken to the funeral home in a motorcycle trike hearse by Black Stallion Motorcycle Hearse. This company is doing a wonderful thing for families of motorcycle enthusiasts, and I recommend them to anyone in North/South Carolina or Georgia, who wish to have them help their loved one take their last ride.
As a photographer, I naturally wanted to take photographs to document this unique day of remembrance. I had to weigh the consequences of making some people feel uncomfortable, especially the family.
If you've decided that your main concern is how the family feels rather than any additional guests at the funeral, then take a moment to ask them if it would be okay for you to document the event. If they agree, I would offer to get them digital copies of the photographs that you take. Respect the family's wishes if the answer is no because some memories are just too painful to look back on through photographs.
The next question you have to ask yourself is whether or not it would be beneficial to take photographs of the deceased if the casket is open. My experiences have been that some people from older generations will do this, but everyone is different. If you choose to do this, please know that the family may not want a copy, so do not send them one without checking first.
Most importantly, only decide to take photographs if the funeral you are attending is family or someone close to you. Under no circumstances (unless approached by the family) attend funerals of people you do not know at all and start snapping photographs. You are more than likely going to evoke some negative feelings during this time of sadness.
Cover all the bases by checking with the family on appropriateness of taking photographs and what special photographs they would like (family photographs can be taken here as well.) Make your photographs tasteful and capture the tender moments of sadness and laughter that signals remembrance.