Designing Nice Funerals Programs

October 28, 2017

On the average, there are about 360,000 births daily while the world death rate tallies around 150,000+ on a daily basis.  In the United States, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama lead the nation per capita with over 1000 deaths per 100,000 in population stats.  The three states are followed by Washington DC, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  All do not fall too far behind with over 950 deaths per 100,000.  Creating hundreds of funeral programs during a lifetime can sometimes be dreary and sad, but in the end, it becomes a smile for all to cherish the many memories of people.  One of the most significant hiccups of funeral programs is not the information that goes in it; however, it is the pictures that are sought after to be quickly utilized in the program.  

After a person dies, it can be anywhere from two days to a week or so before the actual funeral.  Many times people will give a chance for other family members to make preparations to travel from out of town to make the funeral.  Many different issues may come up that may extend the funeral out for days.  Those problems can range from insurance filings to finances to cover the funeral to getting enough and the proper pictures and information to create the obituary.  As this is an emotional time for families, the process can cause havoc.

One of the most prominent solutions to funeral programs can be ensuring that family members take great photos.  On the program cover, you most always place a beautiful upper body or headshot photo of your loved one.  This is usually the best picture that you may have found of the person.  The problem that many run into is that they do not have up-to-date photos, especially if the person is elderly.  Some pictures showed people 20, 30, and 40 years ago, and they do not resemble the person that people in modern time even recognize.  Poorly taken photographs and pictures with lower resolutions do not look suitable for high-quality programs.  Scanning in smaller photos also does not work in most instances.  What do you do?  Below are some tips on having lovely obituaries to honor your loved ones.

  1. Take happy photos very often.  This is the #1 tip for remembering your loved ones.  Take some lovely happy pictures with your loved ones smiling and having fun at events and with other people.  Most obituaries that display photos show their loved ones with their kids, grandchildren, best friends, and the other important people in their lives.  Take pictures that create happy moments today, tomorrow, and forever.
  2. Print Your Pictures Out.  Prints last longer than digitals.  With digitals you are a hard drive crash away, a cloud service not available anymore, or caught in the middle of technological changes to whereas the pictures are no longer to be viewed.  Think about the audio industry with the shift from 33s and 45s to cassette tapes.  These later transitioned to CDs, and in modern day we have digital MP3s and cloud-based subscriptions to hear songs at any time.  Even today, many computers and cars no longer are offering CD players.  You need to be able to plug into a USB port or listen via Bluetooth/Wi-Fi to hear your stored music.  Pictures are in the midst of the same transitions due to technological changes.  A printout of your image gets around the technical issues.  They can always be scanned in to recreate the photo (although not at the resolution and clarity of the original photo).  A scanned in picture is better than none.
  3. Backup Photos.  Technology changes.  Those pictures taken in the year 2000 now appear as low-resolution thumbnails that no one can enjoy.  But still, make it a habit of backing up your photos.  The preferred way is to invest in some thumb drives and external hard drives.  The prices for larger sizes have dropped drastically over the years.  Take the time and backup your photos.  A digital version is the preferred image to provide for an obituary (if it is taken at the proper resolution and with proper focus).  Store your backups in a safe place to where you will always have access to it.  Cloud backups are OK, but one day you will not have a subscription to that service.  As technology changes and new products come out, you will be tempted to jump ship to those technologies.  A result of that jump usually means lost files as many people do not back up their devices.  Take the time and create quality backups.
  4. Have a person in the family responsible for your family genealogy.  Every family needs to know their family genealogy.  This creates a historical archive of your family.  Those who use Ancestry.com may see the value of tracing your family history.  But find that one person in the family who loves to do this type of work.  Have them to post your pictures, create directories, and handle important information and facts about your family members.  This is often done today with Ancestry.com, Facebook, and other social media platforms.  Ensure that they have digital copies of all family members.  When a new baby is born in the family, this person should know about it.  This person can be the number one source for info that may be needed in obituaries such as spellings of names and family relationships.
  5. Focus on the facts in people's lives.  An obituary is a tribute to a person's life.  It is not an opinionated program.  Help people to remember the good times in your loved one's lives.  Always write obituaries in 3rd person.  Life in itself is not always fair to all people, but many useful facts can tell a story of someone's life.
  6. Treat every day as your last day on Earth.  We all know that we are born into this world, and we will one day die.  Those are two definite life events.  There is an excellent poem that talks about the dash (-).  What's in your dash?  How will you be remembered?  What will your dash consist of from birth to death?  Fill your dash with love and happiness.
  7. Your funeral is not all about you.  Trust that when you are gone, your family and friends are left to celebrate your life's good moments.  No matter how much you may want to say how big or small you want your funeral to be, your loved ones left here on Earth will make those decisions.  Regardless of your dash, no one wants to focus on the horrors of life or the unpleasant times.  Their task is to seek to find the good times that you had while living and memorialize you in a good positive way.  Help them out by taking some good photos of you.  Help them to find resolve in losing a loved one with pictures that help them to smile.  When you are gone, they still have to live life forward.
  8. Trust in a good portrait studio.  A good portrait studio can help you resolve a lot of your photo problems.  Most photographers never really get rid of photos.  Some of the more seasoned photographers still have negatives from the film days of people.  A good studio will have a backup option for your photos taken that is both locally and online.  Many will also give you a CD of your photos (lowered resolution usually) as an immediate backup for you to have.  In the end, when you cannot find that good picture, try to contact your portrait studio.  They may just have that great photo that your loved one took.  It may be a higher quality file than what you have.  This may be needed if you are printing high-quality obituaries.  So always ask your photo studio if they have any backup solutions for their photos taken at the studio.  
  9. Create great looking obituaries.  There are many options today that were not available yesteryear.  If you are remotely familiar with Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Publisher, or Adobe InDesign, then there are many solutions to create professional looking obituaries.  Your loved one deserves it.  Obituaries today resemble the look of magazines without the expensive cost.
  10. Get your obituaries printed professionally vs. just copied on standard copy paper.  This is just another funeral expense.  Publishing the obituaries professionally also depends upon your budget.  However, many times you may be able to get your obituaries printed at a professional printer with an actual press vs. going to the neighborhood copy store and getting them published.  It also depends on the time of the death of your loved one and the funeral or memorial date.  Some one-day services can have your obituaries back the next day or two with some additional shipping costs.  Check with your portrait studios and photographers for solutions as many have relationships with local and remote vendors that may have your obituaries printed economically with excellent quality.

As a photographer who has done hundreds of obituaries since the mid-90s, I have seen a lot.  One of the most significant problems that families run into is the ability to come up with a good, high-quality picture to go on the front of the obituary.  Even those who put photos on the inside of the program as well often struggle with finding pictures.  Many images do not fit the resolution quality to be printed professionally.  Many of those who choose to use a copy machine end up wishing that they would have gotten it done professionally from a printer with an actual press.  The obituaries are very important in remembering your loved ones and archiving your family's history.  Good pictures and facts help families to cherish their loved ones.

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