Funeral Planning: Producing a Photographic Tribute

Planning a funeral can be complicated and wrought with emotion. Anger, despair, depression, confusion combine into a turbulent cocktail in the mind through which some fairly important decisions need to be made. What type of funeral? Religious or non-religious? Which funeral director? Which cemetery? These are just a few of the considerations involved.

What I’m going to look at today is one part of all that, a tiny part to be sure, but at the same time, something that can help ease some of the emotional strain of the upcoming funeral.

A photographic tribute in the form of a single, double-sided A4 program that guests can take home with them not only helps the healing process of the immediate family, but reaches out to friends and other family with fond memories and emotive words.

The program can be entirely put together by the family or an outside person such as a close friend can be inveigled into production. Whoever does it, whether close or paid designer, the end product will be something to treasure.

Find the right photographs

Go through the photo albums and boxes for images that depict your loved one doing the things that made them happy, the things that made them “them”. A contemplative moment or two is always nice to include as well as photos that include close family and/or friends, beloved pets, favourite cars or boats. Choose photographs also that cover the range of the deceased’s life, a mix of black and white, and colour shows the passage of time clearly and adds interest to the layout.

The photographs will need to be of reasonably good quality, not blurry or overexposed, faces in the light rather than shadowed, but if the most emotive ones are damaged in some way, then keep them aside. A clever graphic artist [or digitally artistic contact] might be able to perform a miracle or two.

Keep layout simple yet varied. If the images are different shapes and sizes than you could turn some at opposite angles and have large near small. If they are similar sizes then use a pattern that flows and still allows differentiation between the images. You want a seamless and unjarring final layout. A block of images all the same size will draw the eye and detract from the other photos. Layout is important, so double-check before having the program printed.


An appropriate background will link the photographs and should also be an image or pattern of something that brings the deceased to mind. For instance, for an avid fisherman, a simple image of water or an empty beach. For someone who had regularly enjoyed the great outdoors a transparent image of trees or an oft-used walking track. The background image should not over-take [visually] the photographs but be an adjunct to them, a suitable setting for the memories the pictures evoke.


The cover can be a repetition of the inside background or your most evocative image enlarged [it will definitely need to be of good quality to avoid graininess and pixelation]. Choose a pleasant, easy-to-read font and a colour that stands out from the background for name and years of life on the front. On the back cover, include a few lines of a poem, a quote or song.


Although I have called this project a program, it isn’t really. It is a piece of memorabilia that you can share with family and friends, a visual reminder of what the deceased person’s life meant to everyone they were connected with. Of course, you could include it as part of an overall program, especially if the funeral is a formal affair with certain religious procedures to follow, but that would take up far more than this one article.

The words I’m referring to should, as will the images, bring the deceased back to mind. It doesn’t have to be complicated or great literature. Choose either your loved one’s favourite song or poem, or a piece that evokes that person’s memory. It may be a song that can also be played during the funeral, therefore, strengthening the connection and the recollection of the day as sad yet fond; a fitting tribute and farewell to someone cared for. Keep it reasonably short however so that you can keep the font large enough to be easily read.

This photographic “program” will trigger the healing process in the family, through the collection of photographs, discussion of happy times and sharing of amusing stories. Guests at the funeral can hold the program in their hands and look at the pictures while listening to speakers or music and, in so doing, also remember happy times with the deceased.

A funeral is a time for letting go and saying goodbye, for remembering and understanding. It is a celebration of a life lived and of connections made, of stories and images that enable that person to live on in the hearts and minds of those that loved them. Your visual program allows bridges to be crossed, happier times to be recalled and memories to be strengthened. You and your guests will leave the funeral, program in hand, ready to move on knowing that you [and they] still have a physical connection to a loved one and friend now gone.

funeral program

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