The Importance of Photography : Now and in the Afterlife

Photography is one of the most important things you can do in documenting a family’s history – even in the afterlife. Photographs provide a priceless legacy that can be passed generation to generation. Here’s why.

Recently, a relative suddenly and unexpectedly became very ill, a precursor to his passing shortly thereafter. The body was taken to a local funeral home in preparation for last rites. Once the embalming takes place and the body is put in presentable form many communities have what is known as “Visitation.” This is a special time for those who wish to pay last respects. The body and coffin are placed in public view. It can be a mournful time. However, there are ways to make this more meaningful.

When going over arrangements the funeral director suggested that that a DVD slideshow be created containing pictures of the relative. He said that these were very popular during visitation. Visitors could reflect on all the good times they had and it often brought closure. He also had advice to give. “When making your slideshow remember that it is about the deceased and not necessarily on anyone else,” he observed. What this meant was that you would present a variety of photos of the deceased through several stages of his/her life.

Slideshows can be created either by the funeral home or by family members. Our decision was to do the later. A folder was created on the computer desktop to collect images. About 70% of those we had were all digital captures. The remaining 30% were prints that were scanned. All were then edited down to around 46 images each selected based upon the suggestion of the funeral director.

Next, images were imported into iMovie, although any similar software will do. A chronological order was followed from the oldest to the most recent. Transitions were tastefully added so that these did not distract from the message. Background instrumental music was chosen to convey a specific mood.

“Auto-start” was activated so that the DVD would begin to play when inserted in a player. “Loop” was also chosen so that the slideshow would play endlessly over and over. As an alternative, the replay/loop feature on the DVD player could also be used. Playback time was kept at 4 minutes, not so long as to overwhelm.

The finished DVD played for the scheduled two hours. Surprisingly, some people would watch the slideshow several times before they said their goodbyes. It played from beginning to end for a total duration of 4:12 (four minutes and 12 seconds making it not too short or too long. Frequently questions were asked since people wanted to know when and where the images were taken. There were also numerous requests from people wanting their own copy of the DVD.

Just before the casket was closed a copy of the slideshow was placed in the flag draped casket. If photography is one of our best ways of remembering for the living it may be equally as important in the afterlife. Photography lives forever.